Glenelg freshman Emmy Piwowarski was honest after the Gladiators’ 12-11 extra-inning win over River Hill in the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association Class 2A South region semifinals Wednesday afternoon.
Late in the game, her confidence was wavering.
Sitting at 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on the day, Piwowarski stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh in a must-hit situation with her team trailing 11-9, two outs and runners on second and third.
“My teammates were all cheering, and my coach said she believed in me 100 percent, and that totally helped,” Piwowarski said. “It made me be able to go up there and block out everything else and just swing.”
Fueled by her team’s reassurance, Piwowarski smashed the 10th pitch of the at-bat for a double off the left-center field fence to tie the score and send the game to extras, setting the stage for an eventual nine-inning Gladiators’ victory.
Glenelg head coach Shannon Riley said Piwowarski has often “come up big” in clutch situations.
“Emmy has done that all year,” Riley said. “She has been inches from a home run all year long. I thought that was it, but I’ll take that hit all day long.”
Glenelg (14-7) came out swinging at River Hill High School. After upsetting top-seeded Hammond on Tuesday, the Gladiators scored three unearned runs in the top of the first inning against the Hawks. Their three runs scored on an error, a groundout by Jordyn Woodling and a single by Amy Stetser.
River Hill then scored 11 unanswered runs over the next five innings. Delanie Vintz had an RBI groundout in the first inning, and the Hawks (14-5) scored a second run after a Glenelg error.
Sara Emig tied the game in the third inning with an RBI groundout. The Hawks added three more runs in the fourth and five (two earned) in the fifth.
The fourth-inning runs scored on an Ella Wood single and a two-run double by Vintz.
River Hill extended its lead to 11-3 in the fifth with runs scoring off an error, an Annabel McCullough single, a single by Brooke Gettier (4-for-5, triple) and another Vintz two-run double.
Down 11-3 with only six outs left to play with, Riley said she still had confidence in her team — referencing the team’s 11-run comeback against Howard in the regular season.
“I had 100 percent belief in them,” Riley said.
The comeback started with a five-run sixth inning. Woodling reached base and then scored on two separate outfield errors. Madi Wingert had an RBI single, and Sage Huber drove home two with a bloop double. The final run of the inning scored on a single by Lily Dustin.
“I think we had some walks, some hit by pitches and errors,” said River Hill head coach Marni Rosenbaum. “It was just one thing after the next. As much as I tried to go out there and calm them down and change pitchers, it didn’t work.”
Shanoy Vassel hit a sacrifice fly to score Woodling before Piwowarski’s game-tying double in the seventh.
Glenelg didn’t score in the top of the eighth with the international tiebreaker in place, which places a runner on second to start the frame.
Vintz, who was 5-for-7 with three doubles, a home run and eight RBIs in the playoffs, led off the bottom half of the eighth. Rosenbaum had the senior sac bunt, and the Hawks didn’t score in the inning after a successful 5-2 putout by Glenelg.
“I would say the majority of coaches would bunt there,” Rosenbaum said. “As much as Delanie has been hitting the ball, we wanted to give our hitters the opportunity with a runner on third and one out.”
Contrastingly, Stetser led off the top of the ninth, and Riley gave her the green light. She singled, and her courtesy runner later scored the Gladiators’ game-winning run after Kathryn Hoffman’s two-out, bases-loaded walk.
While Stetser’s contributions at the plate helped the Gladiators come back, her pitching in the circle was what gave the offense a chance. The senior southpaw allowed three unearned runs in the fifth inning and then threw four straight scoreless innings for the win.
“She wasn’t going to go down without a fight,” Riley said.
The section-champion Gladiators will play in the South region finals on Friday at La Plata.