Last year, Towson advanced to the Class 2A, Region II semifinals before a loss to Loch Raven -- a team the Generals already had beaten twice -- ended their year.
This year, the Generals again defeated Loch Raven (15-4) twice in the regular season, but ace Jessica Owens made sure that not everything stayed the same.
Owens, a junior, threw a complete-game four-hitter and struck out six yesterday to lead the Generals (15-2) to a 4-2 win and their first trip to the state semifinals.
"Most of the girls were on the team last season and they told me that they weren't going to let it happen again," said Towson coach Paul Becker, who won his first regional title in 12 years at the school. "I just wish I was as confident about the outcome as they were."
As it turned out, he shouldn't have worried. The Generals wasted little time getting on the board.
In the first inning, leadoff batter Nicole Walker was hit by a pitch and stole second. Owens then bunted, but first baseman Darlene March's throw to second baseman Gina Surock at first got away, allowing Owens to go to second and Walker to just beat a throw to catcher Rachel Widdowson to give Towson a 1-0 lead. Two pitches later, Erica Hurtt doubled to score Owens and extend the lead to 2-0.
Loch Raven cut the lead to one in the top of the second. Pitcher Becky Sutton led off with a walk and advanced to second on a ground out by Heather Stevenson. A double by March scored Sutton.
Both pitchers settled down after that as Sutton retired 10 of the next 11 batters and Owens retired 11 of 13.
Towson added to its lead in the bottom of the sixth, taking advantage of several Raiders mistakes.
Owens bunted, but Sutton's overthrow down the right-field line allowed her to advance to third. Hurtt then laid down another bunt and beat the throw. A wild pitch allowed Hurtt to move to second. Chrissy Burke singled to left field, but the throw home got away from the catcher, allowing Owens and Hurtt to score before Burke was thrown out at third.
Owens allowed a run in the bottom of the seventh on singles by Stacey Bowersock and Dawn Hudson, before striking out Surock with runners on first and second to end the game.
"I was a little antsy," said Becker of the seventh, "but we haven't given up the big inning all year and with Jessica on the mound I felt real confident."
Owens said: "My ball was up in the seventh and they took advantage of that. I didn't seem like I had any grip on the ball."