Howard travels to Mt. Hebron for a Howard County softball game on Thursday, May 5.
Almost exactly a month after suffering one of the program's most lopsided losses in the last four years at the hands of Howard, Mt. Hebron's softball team came out on Thursday and returned the favor.
The Vikings jumped ahead early against the first-place Lions and never slowed down, rolling to a 9-1 victory that marks the team's sixth straight win overall.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it, this was a really important game for us," Mt. Hebron coach Chuck Struhar said. "We talked about it as a team, how we aren't the team we were when they slaughter-ruled us. Not even close. That game got out of hand and I think it carried over with us over the next couple games when we lost to Reservoir and Marriotts Ridge. But, in my heart, I have never stopped believing that we are the best team in the county.
"We went through a rough spot for a week there … but as we showed out there today, we have come a long way and are a really good softball team that is playing extremely well right now."
Mt. Hebron (10-3, 10-4) ended up getting a huge all-around game from Evvie Buehlman, who struck out 8 in the complete-game victory at pitcher and also went 4-5 at the plate with a RBI and a couple runs scored. Other big efforts came from Rachel Cadigan (3-4, 2 runs, RBI), Megan Holquist (2-4, run, RBI), Rylee Kinsella (1-3, RBI double) and Steph Bluhm (2-RBI single).
Afterward, Buehlman said the performance was confirmation that the team is indeed peaking at the perfect time.
"This is what we want going into playoffs, like this feeling is what is going to carry us through the postseason," she said. "Like Rylee says, when you're hot, you're hot. And we're hot right now."
On the other side, the loss was the first in county play for Howard (13-1, 14-3), which scored its lone run in the top of the seventh on a RBI double from Emma Braswell (3-4, 3 doubles).
The Lions had plenty of chances, putting at least one runner on base in six out of seven innings, but simply struggled to muster the big hits in timely situations. Defensively, five errors also hurt the team's cause.
"No timely hits and making errors opens doors. We had an off day today," Howard coach Chuck Rice said. "For us now, it's all about how do we rebound off of this. We can't lose two straight or three straight, certainly not at this time of the year. I know there are going to be hiccups, that's natural … so all I care about it how we play after this."
Howard had put runners on first and third with two outs in the top of the first, sparked by a leadoff single by Shanya Gordon (2-4), but Buehlman delivered an inning-ending strikeout to keep the game scoreless.
Then Mt. Hebron countered in the bottom half of the frame by having the first four batters — Buehlman (single), Cadigan (RBI single), Kinsella (walk) and Holquist (RBI single) — reach base and make it a 2-0 game.
The Vikings then took advantage of a couple Howard errors in the third inning to increase the team's lead to 3-0.
On the other side, Buehlman continually made the big pitches she needed to in order to protect the lead. After walking double-digit batters in the 11-1 loss against Howard in April, the senior scattered her free passes this time around and was thus able to end the Lions' rallies before they began.
"She walked a few again today, but she is back to the point where she has that innate ability to get out of trouble," Struhar said. "She's putting that ball over the plate and either getting strikeouts or trusting her defense to make plays, which they did today."
Howard left runners in scoring position in the first, second, third and fifth innings. And in the fifth, the Lions left the bases loaded without scoring a run.
"Evvie was on her game and the biggest difference today was that she was getting up in the count, so that helped her and put us in a position where maybe we are swinging at balls we didn't have to last time," Rice said.
The score was still 3-0 going to the bottom of the sixth and that's when the Vikings broke things wide open. Mt. Hebron sent 11 batters to the plate, smacking seven hits and scoring six runs along the way. Buehlman and Cadigan each had multiple hits in the inning.
"We always talk about how hitting is contagious, just like how errors are contagious. If we get rolling with hits, we talked about how we want to go up there with the mentality that we are going to hit the ball every time," Buehlman said. "When you hit the ball hard, good things happen."
Howard broke up the shutout in the seventh and was threatening for more with the bases loaded. But, like she did all afternoon, Buehlman came through with a big strikeout to halt the rally and end the game.
Afterward, Struhar said the team's focus is on the same thing that it has been from Day 1 — playoffs.
"We have been in the position to get to Bachman (for the state semifinals) the last three years — now we got beat two of those times in the region final — but that's all you can ask is to give yourself a chance. And so yeah, this year all we've been focused on is winning our section and then getting back to that game and seeing what happens," Struhar said. "Right now, I would put this team up against anyone."
The Mustangs held off a spirited rally by the Gators, getting what ended up being the game-winning hit by Makenzie Hockensmith (2-4) in the top of the seventh to score Mikayla Barnard (3-4, double, triple).
Milly Nies and Samantha Miller also added RBI hits on the day. Romy Lindahl and Barnard split the pitching duties.
Reservoir got multi-hit days from Carly Clarke (2-4, double), Emily Lloyd (2-4) and Katy Wnuk-Fink (2-3, double, RBI, run). Abby Wang (double, RBI, run) and Emma Bailey (double, run) also added big hits.
123 456 7 R-H-E
MR 400 012 1 8-8-4
Re 002 302 0 7-10-2
Glenelg 13, Wilde Lake 2
The Gladiators stretched their winning streak to six straight games, with Katie Mcintyre staying hot with her third home run in the last two games. Gabrielle Browne and Emily Michalski also added extra-base hits as part of a 14-hit attack for Glenelg.
Amy Stetser pitched and picked up the victory.
Wilde Lake was led by Faith Leslie (2-3, double, run), Stella Johnson (1-2, RBI) and Adanya Koger-Hobson (1-2, RBI). Sydney McNamara, Kasey Baird, Avery Haigh and Kayleigh Gladden also picked up hits.
123 45 R-H-E
WL 010 01 2-8-4
G 117 4x 13-14-0
Atholton 16, Hammond 6
The Raiders scored at least once in every inning, spearheaded by a 4-4 day from Patty Drumheller (triple, stolen base) at the plate and a complete game from her on the mound as well.
Allison Orlosky and Sydnee Ruley (2 doubles) each went 3-4 with a RBI, while Bethy Medina (double) and Caitlyn Burmester (double) each added two hits and 3 RBI.
Hammond's offensive leaders were Taylor Liguori (3-4, double, RBI), Amanda Weirich (2-3, double) and Brittany Brewer (2-4, 3 RBI).
123 456 R-H-E
Ha 120 003 6-10-5
A 221 524 16-18-1
Long Reach 8, Oakland Mills 4
Rachel Jacavage delivered at the plate (triple, 2 walks, 2 runs) and in the pitching circle (four strikeouts, no walks) to help lead the Lightning to the win. Isa Carunungan also had a big game with a 2-4 day that including a 3-run home run and a double. She scored two runs as well.
Kamryn Walker added a 3-4 day that included a double.
Emily Yarn was the leader for Oakland Mills, pitching and also added a 2-4 day at the plate. Megan Threatte also went 2-4 with a run scored.
123 456 7 R
OM 001 120 0 4
LR 303 002 x 8
St. Paul's 12, Chapelgate 10
The Yellowjackets fell behind by as many as eight runs, 12-4, by the end of the fifth inning before battling back. Ultimately the rally, which included a five-run sixth inning, fell short and the team saw its winning streak snapped at six.
Sidney Hobbs paced the St. Paul's offense with a 3-RBI day, while Emily Issing had two hits. Hobbs also pitched and struck out eight in seven innings.
Chapelgate got solid offensive efforts in the loss from Jennifer Wolinski (3 hits), Grace Edwards (2 hits) and Tiffany Tharp (2 RBI). Edwards pitched for the Yellowjackets and struck out eight in six innings of work.