The last time Dundalk appeared in the state softball semifinals, members of the current team probably were in kindergarten, and Cal Ripken Jr. was a rookie third baseman.
But the wait is over.
Sophomore right-hander Katie Marsheck pitched a two-hitter and struck out 11 to lead the host and top-seeded Owls (14-2) to an 8-0 victory over third-seeded Bel Air (14-4) in yesterday's Class 3A, Region II final.
Dundalk will make its first trip to the state semifinals since 1982 on Tuesday at Randazzo Park at 5:30 p.m. against an opponent to be determined.
Before the season began, Dundalk coach Pat Mongan knew she had the pitcher that could lead the Owls to the region championship. Her main concern was her infield.
"I knew Katie would be there, but my infield's all new except for the shortstop," Mongan said. "I knew if we could get them to play good defense we had a good chance of winning the regionals. As the season went on, they started to jell."
Dundalk's infield handled seven chances yesterday without an error.
And the infielders also contributed at the plate. First baseman Tammy Frado had a single and two RBI and shortstop Kristen Stulich had an RBI triple and scored two runs.
Early in the game, it appeared to be a pitcher's duel between Marsheck and Bel Air right-hander Amy Finlayson.
After the Owls took a 1-0 lead in the first on center fielder Missy Bafitis' RBI single, Finlayson retired seven of the next eight batters.
But the Owls batted around in the fourth, scoring five runs on five hits.
Bafitis led off the inning with a double, Marsheck looped a single to right field and Stulich walked to load the bases. Dundalk then got three straight hits from the last three batters in its order -- an RBI single by Frado, a two-run single by catcher Laura Klug and a two-run double by left fielder Jennifer Middleton.
Dundalk's 7-8-9 hitters combined for four hits and five RBI.
"Their [the last three batters] hitting surprised me," Bel Air coach Valerie Cooper said. "But any team that gets this far gets here by more than just the top of their lineup."
While Finlayson struggled, Marsheck seemed to be getting stronger.
After giving up a single to Danielle Rhode to start the game, Marsheck allowed just two base-runners -- on a single in the third and a walk in the fourth -- the rest of the way. She retired the last 11 in a row and faced just two batters over the minimum.
"My curve and my knuckler were working pretty good today," said Marsheck, who has pitched two no-hitters this season. "And once we got a couple of runs I felt more confident."
Said Cooper: "We're a lot better hitting team than we showed today. She wasn't that overpowering in speed, she just kept us off balance."