Entering yesterday's Class 3A, Region III championship game, momentum certainly belonged to host and second-seeded Centennial, with the Eagles' bats having produced 52 runs in the past two games while sophomore pitcher Kim May yielded no runs.
Howard County champion Centennial (18-4) continued to mix hot hitting and solid pitching against fourth-seeded Atholton (11-8) as the Eagles defeated the Raiders for the third straight time this season, 8-0.
May (143 strikeouts, 122 innings) fired a complete-game two-hitter.
Centennial, seeking its first state softball title, advances for the second straight year to the Class 3A state semifinal game, to be played Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Randazzo Park in Glen Burnie.
"Everything's just come together for us and it's a reflection of the hard work the girls have put in and the tenacity they have brought to the field this season," Centennial coach Dale Huting said.
Huting received another outstanding performance from May (14-4), who hurled her fourth straight shutout and increased her consecutive scoreless innings streak to 24 while striking out seven.
"Kim has just improved 100 percent since the beginning of the season," Huting said. "She has matured not just physically, but intellectually. She's now a pitcher out there and she's working real well with catcher Kari Chichester."
May, who pitched in just two games last year, said her improvement could be attributed to becoming more familiar with Chichester and learning to relax.
"Of course the offense's ability to score a lot of runs makes it much better," she said.
Centennial's offense quickly eased May's jitters in the bottom of the first inning as the Eagles took advantage of three Atholton errors to score three runs on just one hit, Kelly Butler's leadoff single.
Centennial tallied another run in the bottom of the second as Eagles sophomore Michelle Dugan (2-for-3) scored on a wild pitch by Kim Ruprecht (11-8).
Centennial bunched six singles in the bottom of the fourth to score four more runs for the 8-0 advantage. Sophomore third baseman Marcia Kunkel, junior left fielder Kathy Gallagher, and junior second baseman Jeanine Lee drove in three of the four runs.