It was a classic case of an experienced team teaching a younger one a good old-fashioned lesson, as defending state champ Damascus handed North Carroll an 11-3 loss in the Class 2A state softball semifinals last night at Randazzo Park.
It was the second straight year the Hornets ended the Panthers' season in the state semifinals. The Panthers finish the year with a 13-7 mark and their fifth straight region title.
Damascus (17-0), 3-1 winners over North Carroll in last year's semis, will try to defend its state title Friday against North East of Cecil County.
The experienced Hornets -- with just about everyone back from last year's team except pitcher Marci Whitehead -- did little wrong and, just as important, made the younger Panthers (starting only two seniors) pay for their miscues.
A five-run third with three Panthers errors and some aggressive Damascus running was the final undoing. The Hornets got a solid effort from pitcher Christine Trunnell, who allowed three runs on seven hits. Melissa Bailey drove in two runs and scored three times to lead the offense.
After the game, North Carroll coach Phil Bonnell announced he would not return next season. Bonnell was part of three state title teams at North Carroll -- two as a head coach in his seven years and another as an assistant.
"That's really minor compared to what these kids accomplished this year," Bonnell said of his resignation.
"We made some mistakes both mechanically and mentally, and as the old cliche goes, 'A good team will take advantage.' But our girls hung tough and did the best they could against a good ballclub."
Damascus jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first with all runs being scored after two outs.
Bailey hit a double between left and center that scored two. Laura Emery followed with a bunt single to score Bailey.
The Hornets broke it open with the big third inning -- capitalizing on three Panthers errors to go along with aggressive base running and effective bunting. They would finish the day with five bunt singles, two driving in runs and two more scoring.
With one run already in and Bailey on second, Emery beat out another bunt and Bailey came around to score from second -- never hesitating around third.
"They were very aggressive, but if we do the right things and execute, it could have been a little different," Bonnell said.
The Panthers got two back in the fourth to make it 8-2.
Jenny Baker and Jill Ballard opened with singles and Michele Jeffery followed with a double that scored Baker. Liz Piper added a sacrifice fly that scored Ballard, but Trunnell got out of the inning with two grounders to Emery at second.
Baker and Jeffery led the Panthers with two hits and one RBI apiece.