Known for her tape-measure home runs, Glenelg junior Jodi Kielman used her base-running smarts to steal a victory from fifth-ranked Centennial (8-3, 4 -2) yesterday as the eighth-ranked Gladiators split two games with the Eagles.
Having lost the first game to host Centennial, 2-1, Glenelg (8-4, 6-3) was a strike away from dropping out of the county title race with a second defeat by one run.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning of the completion of a suspended game, Kielman (1-for-2, 2 runs) led off with an infield single. Robin Ruppalt advanced Kielman to second base with a sacrifice bunt.
But when Eagles pitcher Kim May struck out Lauren Doyle for the second out, it appeared Glenelg's title hopes would be stranded at second base with Kielman as May threw two quick strikes to No. 8 hitter Diana Rolfs.
"It was a gamble sending Jodi on that play because she's not the fastest runner," Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar said, "but you have to know what's coming. She made it look like a great call."
Kielman, running after May's delivery, beat Centennial shortstop Kelly Butler to the third base bag, and when Eagles catcher Keri Chinchester's throw sailed over Butler's head into left field, Kielman quickly bounced to her feet and raced home ahead of the throw to tie the score at 4-4.
Kielman scored the Gladiators' winning run in the bottom of the 12th as May walked Jill Younce with the bases loaded. Glenelg junior pitcher Lyndsay Smyth, who lost the first game despite yielding just six hits, picked up the victory.
"We really wanted to win the first game, but we needed the second after losing the first," said Kielman, a junior who is hitting .401 with three home runs and 14 RBI.
"There's no doubt she's the best player in the county," Struhar said of Kielman. "I don't care what others think. They can say these pitchers [May, Smyth and Atholton's Kim Ruprecht] are good, but she crushes the ball like no one I've ever seen. She absolutely kills it."
May was nearly perfect in earning the first-game victory for Centennial, retiring the first 12 Glenelg batters before Kielman (2-for-3) led off the fifth with a hard-hit single into center field.
May (6-3, 81 strikeouts) allowed just three hits, struck out six, walked one while giving up just one unearned run in seven innings.
Yesterday's split left Centennial two games behind front-running Atholton and one ahead of preseason favorite Glenelg.
"We weren't ready to play early in the season. We lost two games we shouldn't have to Atholton and Hammond," Struhar said. "But we have to play Atholton once more and Centennial has them twice, so I think Atholton's going to come away with two or three losses."
Centennial coach Dale Huting foresees a similar scenario to 1990, when the Eagles, Howard and Glenelg were bunched at the top with Centennial and Howard sharing the title by season's end.
"Next week, when we square off with Atholton, should decide a lot and that's how it should be," Huting said.