Talent is the primary ingredient that marks a good team, but a little creativity never hurt. And in yesterday's important 2-1 victory over visiting Atholton, No. 8 Glenelg showed the resourcefulness that has helped make it one of the county's top softball programs over the past five years.
Atholton outhit the Gladiators, 7-3. The Raiders had at least one base runner in every inning but one. And they turned several outstanding defensive plays.
Yet, Glenelg (11-5, 8-3) won its 11th game in the past 12 and moved into a second-place tie with the Raiders (9-7, 8-3) in
the county standings with patience at the plate, efficiency in the field and the perseverance of pitcher Lyndsay Smyth.
The Gladiators took a 2-0 lead in the first inning by barely swinging the bat. Atholton starter Kim Ruprecht struggled briefly with her control, and Glenelg made her pay by drawing four walks around its only hit of the inning, an RBI single by Donna Snyder.
Ruprecht regrouped impressively to shut down the Gladiators on two hits. But it wasn't enough to keep Atholton from suffering its third consecutive defeat.
The Raiders came painfully close to victory. After going down in order in the first inning, they put runners on board in every subsequent inning. Still, besides scoring an unearned run in the fourth, all the Raiders could do was wonder about the other seven runners they stranded.
Smyth and the Glenelg defense had plenty to do with that. Smyth occasionally walked a tightrope, but when it counted the most, she made the right pitch, and the Gladiators -- who have committed just 18 errors in 16 games -- made the plays.
"We make the simple plays and that's it. Lyndsay throws enough junk up there and a little bit of heat, and she's not afraid to let them hit it," Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar said. "And our kids have patience [at the plate]," he added. "They're willing to take a pitch, forget about batting averages and believe that a walk is as good as a hit. They have to believe that we're going to win games like this."
Besides giving up seven hits, Smyth walked one and struck out four. Her finest moments came in the fourth and fifth innings.
In the fourth, she started her own trouble by overthrowing first baseman Jodi Kielman on a leadoff bunt by Stacey Williams, then gave up a single to Carrie Rowe. One out later, Ruprecht singled to load the bases. Leah Nichols followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Williams. Smyth then got Kelly Stewart to ground into a force play.
Things got stickier in the fifth, when Nikki Blankenship singled and Williams doubled to put runners on second and third with two out. But Rowe bounced out to shortstop Lory Wineman to end the inning. The Raiders stranded a runner in the final two innings, as well.
"We played a good defensive game and we hit the ball hard. After the first inning, we played Atholton softball," said Ruprecht, who blamed allergy problems on her rough start. "I got over pre-game jitters a year ago. The heat got to me a little in the beginning. I don't think we're too down. We've got to keep working to pull out of it [the losing streak]."