With two out in ninth inning and the winning run on second, Westminster senior catcher Laura Braun went searching for a pep talk from first-year Owls coach Scott Tobias before she stepped up to the plate.
With eight-plus innings already complete yesterday afternoon, Tobias had to do some searching of his own to find one. Apparently, he was successful.
Braun's sharp grounder had just enough pep to get under the glove of Mount Hebron second baseman Deanne Breithaupt, scoring pinch runner Katie Curtin and leading the No. 13 Owls to a 3-2 win over the visiting Vikings.
"That was a very clutch hit. A lot of girls curl up and shy away in that situation, but Laura stepped up," Tobias said.
Strong pitching and defense on both sides dictated the game. Westminster pitcher Heather Gonzales allowed just six hits -- all singles -- and didn't allow an earned run. Jenny Joyce was almost as tough for the No. 12 Vikings. She gave up seven hits and struck out eight.
The sound efforts pleased both coaches. "It was a pretty solid ballgame," said Mount Hebron coach Eric Aronowsky. "Our defense is coming along and Jenny got better and better as the game went on."
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Westminster senior Beth Lister drilled a two-out liner over center fielder Heather Cole for a home run. Joyce had retired the 10 previous batters.
Westminster's defense put a stop to the Vikings' threat in the fifth.
Joyce opened the inning with a sharp single up the middle. Lauren Abicht followed with another grounder up the middle that Owls shortstop Tara Dorsey got to on the other side of second, forcing Joyce.
After Becky Miller walked to put runners on first and second, Lister handled a grounder at third and got the lead runner. Gonzales then struck out Kate McIntyre.
"We ask Heather to put the ball in play and let our defense come through," Tobias said. "We are fundamentally sound defensively and have the solid pitching."
The Owls ran into some problems in the sixth, though, giving up two unearned runs to fall behind, 2-1.
With one out, Alyson Young mishandled a Breithaupt grounder at second. Sarah Eberhart followed with a single to center. Kathy Kiersarsky hit a grounder to Dorsey at short, whose throw to the plate was too late to get Breithaupt. Joyce hit a grounder to Lister, whose throw to first was low and allowed Eberhart to score. Gonzales struck out Abicht to end the inning.
The Owls tied it in the bottom of the inning when Young opened with a double. Pinch runner Shelley Dinterman reached third on a wild pitch and scored on Lauren Henry's ground out.
Gonzales retired all six batters she faced in the two extra innings.
* North Carroll 22, Hammond 0: Senior Kandi Lippy pitched a three-inning no-hitter, striking out seven and walking four for host North Carroll (2-1). The Panthers' Teresa Mays went 3-for-4, scored two runs, had two RBIs.