To err may be human, but it was disastrous for Owings Mills.
Hancock took advantage of eight errors to score eight unearned runs, and Missy Kesecker struck out 10 while throwing a two-hitter yesterday as the Panthers defeated Owings Mills, 9-0, in a Class 1A state softball semifinal at Randazzo Park.
Second-seeded Hancock (17-4) advanced to the state final tomorrow at 5 p.m. against top-seeded Colonel Richardson of Caroline County, which beat No. 4 Easton, 16-1.
Owings Mills (13-8) made its errors in bunches, which led to bunches of runs for Hancock of Washington County. The Eagles made two errors in the first, and Hancock scored twice. They had two more miscues in the fourth when the Panthers added two, and a four-error fifth led to five Hancock runs.
"Our downfall [all season] has been defense," said Owings Mills coach Lisa Meyer, whose team also lost in last year's state semifinal. "At one point in the season we were averaging eight xTC errors per game."
The errors repeatedly gave Hancock extra chances. Ziomek threw well, but something always happened to hurt her.
"[We made] Jen pitch four-plus outs per inning," said Meyer.
Owings Mills ran into trouble right away. Laurie Fleming walked to lead off the bottom of the first for Hancock. She stole second when the ball was dropped on the tag. Fleming stole third moments later.
Heather Swain, the second batter, grounded to third baseman Julia Moretti, who ran right at Fleming. Moretti fell, however, and Fleming beat her throw home for the first run. Swain wound up at second.
Swain stole third, and Wendy Hensley walked. Hensley then took off for second the moment she reached first. Owings Mills pitcher Jen Ziomek threw her out at second, but Swain stole home for a 2-0 lead.
Final count: three steals, two errors, two runs.
"The whole first inning frustrated us," said Owings Mills catcher Nikki Winik. "They were doing things we've never seen before."
The other big frustration was Kesecker. Her first-inning numbers told the story: 10 pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. "It gave [me] a lot of confidence," she said.
Kesecker used a good fastball, riser and changeup to silence Owings Mills. The Eagles did not get a hit until the sixth -- Jen Styar's infield single -- and did not hit a ball out of the infield until the seventh.
Hancock's aggressive running also aided in the Eagles' downfall. The Panthers ran at every opportunity, stealing 10 bases and repeatedly putting runners in scoring position.
"When we get a girl on, we're going to get them around," said Bill Sterner, who coaches Hancock with Bill Creek.
The problem was that Owings Mills often helped get them around. Meyer said she felt proud of her team, but knew exactly why it lost.
"We didn't have our best defensive effort," said Meyer. "Basically, that's the bottom line."