Before Saturday's regional final against Frederick Douglass, three-time defending champ Northeast's attitude resembled ex-heavyweight boxing champion Buster Douglas stepping into the ring to face a superiorEvander Holyfield.
The Eagles knew from scouting reports that thetop-seeded team from Prince George's County had gone through their season with a 19-0 record, and had just come off of a 9-3 pounding of Fairmont Heights in the region semifinal.
They had also heard through scouting reports that their opponentsplayed an all-out style of softball, backed by hard-throwing pitcherKristin Wallace.
All of these rumblings apparently brought out the Iron Mike Tyson in Northeast, as they KO'ed their gracious hosts 6-0 in the Class 2A Region III championship for the second year in a row.
Northeast (17-3), registered the only run it would need during the second inning, when Nicole Meister scored on a wild pitch.
Thesenior left fielder had reached third base on a two-out error by third baseman Sonya Selbert, who dropped an infield pop-up, then fired the throw to first over the head of the first baseman Katie Wallace.
Douglass (19-1) would go on to commit a total of six errors during the entire game.
"We heard that coach (Lynn Pitonzo) had scouted them recently, and what she told us about them made us kind of nervous," said center fielder Erica Shade, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
"We acted like we weren't nervous, but we really were," she said. "Wejust kept telling ourselves that we could do it, over and over again. I think that got us really psyched."
Douglass threatened to tie the contest in the ensuing at bat, when Kristin Wallace lined a one-out single and advanced to second on Shade's error. She then moved to third on a passed ball.
Winning pitcher Kristy Zulka (9-2, five strikeouts in a two hit performance) proceeded to fan Selbert, then forced Katie Wallace to ground out.
Northeast held onto their slim margin into the fifth inning, when it erupted for four runs on three singles by Shade, Stacy Reynolds and Stephanie Lazor, and a sacrifice fly by Kelly Tibbs to take a commanding 5-0 lead. Shade's RBI single gave the winners an insurance run in the sixth frame.
"The kids dida super job, they played with a lot of confidence, and they were ready for anything they (Douglass) had," said Pitonzo.
The 13-year coaching veteran was visibly pleased by her squad's offense, which sputtered in its 1-0 semi-final triumph over Chopticon of St. Mary's County two days earlier.
"I think we did a very good job of hitting.
When we had scouted Douglass, we noticed that their pitcher had thrown over 150 pitches in a single game. So we knew that if we waited her out and kept our patience, we'd eventually get to her." Kristin Wallace (15-1) threw a total of 140 pitches against Northeast, including eight walks and four wild deliveries.
"I guess you could say that every horrible error you could think of happened to us today," saidDouglass coach Kathy Hyde. "Our defense was not as sharp as it usually is, and I think we got down on ourselves after the first couple oferrors. But you can't take anything away from Northeast. They play heads up ball, and they just took advantage of everything.
"We thought that they would be beatable, especially when we heard about them losing to Glen Burnie. We just didn't act like we wanted to win it," Hyde added.
Northeast will play Stephen Decatur of Worcester County at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Upton Park, while Damascus of Montgomery County will play Howard County's Mt. Hebron in a 5:30 semifinal tilt.