Gophers deal blow to faltering Falcons' playoff hopes Glen Burnie sends veteran Severna Park squad to eighth loss, 8-2


Severna Park softball coach Wayne Mook has seen the same mistakes and blown opportunities many times this season, so dissecting yesterday's 8-2 loss to Glen Burnie didn't take much effort.

"The last three innings, we left eight runners on with no outs. You don't get clutch hitting, you're going to have a difficult time winning games," he said, after his Falcons (7-8 overall, 3-5 in the Friendship Division) saw their two-game winning streak -- and most likely, their playoff hopes -- come to an end.

"It drives you crazy."

It wasn't supposed to be this way, of course, not with a veteran team that lost just one starter from last spring. Before the season began, Mook said he would be surprised if the Falcons didn't do "very, very well," but they haven't won more than two straight games and never rose above .500.

"We've tried to sit back and analyze things," said Mook, a former Severna Park assistant coach who replaced Paul Yannuzzi over the winter. "We're not doing anything different than we did the last two years, in terms of practices or the way we coach. Things haven't changed -- same drills, same work ethic. What went wrong? It's difficult to say. We could sit here all night and come up with a hundred reasons."

Yesterday, it was a lack of timely hitting, some defensive and base-running blunders, and a rejuvenated Glen Burnie squad that proved the Falcons' undoing.

The Gophers (7-7, 4-3) trail only Arundel for the last spot in the four-team playoffs. If the Wildcats lose one more game than Glen Burnie the rest of the way, the Gophers are in.

And that's as unexpected as Severna Park's decline from a 14-5 record and regional playoff berth last season.

Glen Burnie had dropped three straight before upsetting then-No. 1 Old Mill, 13-3, last Friday.

Interestingly, Gophers coach Bob Broccolino, who started five freshmen and one sophomore yesterday, thinks his team turned the corner after an 8-7 loss to unheralded Meade last week.

"It was so devastating to them, maybe that caused them to come together," he said. "They're hitting the ball real well now. Maybe it's just a matter of them relaxing a little bit. Maybe it was the fact they thought their playoff chances were gone and they relaxed."

Glen Burnie, which has beaten Severna Park three times this season, fell behind by two runs in the opening inning yesterday. Jill Natwick was hit by a pitch, and Jen Spampinato laid down a bunt that freshman pitcher Samantha Miller bobbled, then threw into right field. A slow relay allowed Natwick to score, and a Wendy Snyder single and Kerri Schmale grounder gave the Falcons a 2-0 lead.

The advantage was short-lived. Glen Burnie scored twice in the bottom of the second on a single and steal by Erin Sutton and a Denise Warren triple to left-center field. A poor throw on the relay allowed Warren to score the tying run.

The Gophers broke the game open in the third inning. Nine batters came to the plate, with Crystal Ford singling in two runs, a wild pitch bringing home another, and Miller tripling in two more to give Glen Burnie a 7-2 lead.

The Gophers added another run in the fifth on singles by Coral Brandenburg and Miller and a passed ball.

Miller (6-1) pitched out of bases-loaded, no-out jams in the fifth and sixth innings. The Falcons put runners on second and third with nobody out in the seventh, but again failed to score.

"I was getting really upset, but my teammates did a real good job of keeping me calm," said Miller, who gave up four hits and one earned run. She also went 3-for-3.

Broccolino said his young hurler "doesn't look like a freshman."

"She gets nervous before a game, but she stays focused. She's not throwing all that hard, but she changes speeds really well, and she moves the ball around. She hardly ever throws it in the same place twice."

Spampinato (7-8) isn't throwing with the same results as last year, when she was 11-5 and a second-team All-County selection as a freshman. Yesterday, the slender southpaw allowed 11 hits and walked three while unleashing 119 pitches.

"She's averaging almost four walks a game and giving up four to five hits a game, which is not as good as last year. Why? There are a lot of questions there," Mook said.

"She didn't play summer ball, which hurt a little bit. That, plus pitching clinics in the fall -- every pitcher, if you want to be good, has to go to those. I think she's learned that."

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