Coach Dennis Thiele's only concern before yesterday's playoff game was whether his Chesapeake softball team was looking past visiting Arundel.
He didn't expect his top-seeded Cougars to be looking at a scoreless game through four innings. And he never thought he'd see the Wildcats come so close to pushing across the first run.
But fourth-seeded Arundel stranded 12 runners and became Chesapeake's 38th victim in a row.
Stacey Necessary lined a two-out single to score courtesy runner Melissa Wagner in the fifth inning, and top-ranked Chesapeake prevailed, 3-0, over No. 9 Arundel in the Class 4A, Region IV semifinals.
"That's not the first time that Stacey has done something like that," Thiele said. "She's played superb ball this season. I can always count on her."
Chesapeake (19-0), winner of the past three 4A state championships, will play host to No. 6 Severna Park in today's 1 p.m. final. The second-seeded Falcons defeated third-seeded Patterson, 11-0, in the other semifinal on Thursday.
Chesapeake senior Lori Congdon struck out 17 yesterday, but also allowed 10 hits and put at least one runner in scoring position in every inning except the second.
The Wildcats loaded the bases twice, and had the go-ahead run at the plate in the seventh inning. But Congdon (11-0) struck out Kara Kitchen to end the game.
Earlier in the inning, she struck out Arundel catcher Heather Daffin (2-for-4) with two on and one out. It was Daffin's first strikeout this season.
"Arundel's a scrappy bunch, and they have a lot of heart," said Thiele, who isn't sure if Congdon will be able to pitch again today. If she can't go, senior shortstop Jaime Long (8-0) will take her place.
In the fourth inning, Arundel (13-7) put runners on first and second with two out. Heidi Motzer singled to center, but Wildcats assistant coach Barry Kitchen held Kim Humelsine at third, rather than test Necessary's throwing arm. Shannon New then struck out, and another threat was over.
"She threw a strike to home plate,so the girl would have been out anyway," Thiele said. "Our defense has their respect. We did the job when we had to do it."
Chesapeake added two unearned runs in the sixth off Arundel senior Traci Koenig (11-6). Michelle Manner, Congdon and Nancy Yeager each singled, the Wildcats made their only two errors of the game, and Koenig threw a wild pitch.
"We outhit them today, but we didn't hit them when it counted," said Kitchen, who was filling in for head coach Don Banks. Banks had a prior commitment.