Towson permitted a leadoff triple yesterday in its first appearance in the Class 2A state softball semifinals. That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, as the Generals lost to North East of Cecil County, 10-2, at Randazzo Park.
North East (17-1) exploited the Generals' strengths -- solid defense and pitcher Jessica Owens -- in almost every inning. Owens had led third-seeded Towson (15-3) to Saturday's regional victory with a complete four-hitter, but North East figured out the Generals' ace, banging out 13 hits and scoring runs in each of the first five innings.
"They were on top of the ball all day," Towson manager Paul Becker said. "She tried to pitch ahead in the count and they were swinging early."
The second-seeded Indians started strongly in the first inning. Julie Ulmer tripled and scored on pitcher Missy Gamble's sacrifice bunt. Frannie Sheftz followed with a double. One batter later, she came home on Sarah Sobon's single.
"That was disappointing," said Becker, referring to the early deficit. "I've got to give all the credit to North East. They just hit the ball like crazy today. We haven't been hit that hard all year."
Towson rebounded with a run in the top of the second inning. Katie Walker reached on an error and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Katherine Bevans sacrificed Walker to third, and she scored as Jessica Clerkin's grounder was mishandled by second baseman Carrie May.
The Generals would come no closer. North East scored twice in its half of the second inning. Two Towson errors led to another Indians run in the third.
Down 10-1, Towson scored its final run in the sixth inning. Nicolle
Walker walked to open the inning and stole second, colliding with shortstop Erynn Young as she reached the bag. Owens grounded to second and reached safely as May threw home to keep Walker from advancing past third base. Shortstop Erica Hurtt grounded to short, but Walker was tagged out at home. Chrissy Burke then brought in Owens with a single.
"Everybody was trying to get everyone else up but we were really nervous," said Hurtt. "This is the first time we've gotten this far. We really didn't know what to expect."
The Generals' opponent was not a complete mystery. They had defeated North East twice in regular-season meetings the past two years, and Becker thought the past success would favor his team.
"We were happy to draw them," he said. "We thought we had as good a chance against them as anybody."
Said Owens: "I'm happy we won regionals. That's good enough."