Chesapeake sophomore Michele Singer thought she would spend most of her time cheering from the Cougars' bench this year.
But that was before various injuries and illnesses forced coach Dennis Thiele to move some of his players to different positions. And to call on his reserves for immediate help.
Singer, 16, has answered the call, and she may have found a permanent place in the starting lineup.
Her two-strike, run-scoring triple in the second inning was the key hit yesterday in No. 1 Chesapeake's 2-0 win over visiting No. 11 Glen Burnie. The Cougars (12-0) have won 31 straight games.
The inning began with Lori Congdon reaching on an error. She was sacrificed to second by Laurie Mike, and, after a groundout, Singer lined a pitch from Glen Burnie sophomore Samantha Miller into right-center field.
"I was just looking for a hit," said Singer, who was called up from the junior varsity for last year's playoffs. "I've been in a slump for a while."
A slump? She came into the game batting .333 (10-for-30) with 11 runs scored, nine RBI, five steals and three walks. Not bad for a player who was supposed to wait her turn, while Chesapeake's veterans tried to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive 4A state championship.
And not bad for someone batting in the ninth spot.
"I knew she was going to be a contributor, but I thought it would be to a much lesser degree," Thiele said. "She's turned out to be an every day player, and I'm thrilled to see a 10th- grader do that for me because I have so many seniors who are going to graduate.
"This is the kind of kid I like to build a team around for the future."
The Cougars scored another run in the third inning.
Stacey Necessary singled and stole second, moved to third on a bunt single by Michelle Manner and scored on a wild pitch.
The lead was safe with Congdon (6-0), who finished with a two-hitter and 12 strikeouts.
She gave up a single to Miller and a walk to Sherri Witt with two outs in the second inning, then retired 11 in a row -- mostly using her riser. Catcher Lori Lynch, who came into the game batting .516, singled with one out in the sixth and stole second, but a strikeout and fly ball ended the inning.
Miller (4-2) gave up seven hits, including two singles by Necessary. She struck out two and did not give up a walk.
Chesapeake stranded seven runners, but Thiele didn't seem to mind.
"Throw enough mud on the wall and something's got to stick. You get some runs out of it," he said.
It's the opposition that is having trouble scoring runs against Chesapeake. The Cougars have 10 shutouts in 12 games.
"I know we can beat this team; they're not invincible, but they don't make mistakes, either. You've got to play a perfect game to beat them," said Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolino, whose squad is 8-3.
From the looks of things, Michele Singer will be staying off the bench.
"Chesapeake has a strong lineup," she said, "so I'm just expected to do what everybody else does -- drive in the runs."