So much for easing into a new season.
For No. 4 Chesapeake, the first two weeks bring four ranked opponents and, if yesterday is any indication, plenty of tense moments.
The Cougars needed run-scoring singles by Angie Zittle in the sixth inning and Lauren Watson in the seventh to defeat No. 11 Old Mill, 2-1, beginning a stretch of games that includes No. 3 Severna Park Friday, No. 8 Arundel Monday and No. 1 Glen Burnie next Wednesday.
Yesterday's game appeared to be heading into extra innings after Old Mill sophomore Jen Bernard retired the first two batters in the seventh. But Tami Barrington blooped a single to center, stole second and moved to third when a pitch in the dirt bounced in front of catcher Christi Atchison. Watson, making her first varsity start, then lined a single to right.
"I was thinking that I had to get [Barrington] in, and it was easier on me because she's our best base runner," said Watson, a junior who spent the second half of last season on the junior varsity.
She started at shortstop yesterday, replacing two-time All-Metro selection Jaime Long, and went 2-for-4 in Chesapeake's 11-hit attack.
Watson wasn't the only new face. Coach Dennis Thiele missed the game because of a severe cold, and longtime assistant Lin Sullivan has taken over the JV program. That left last year's JV coach, Chip Lewis, in charge of the varsity.
"I told the girls this was their easy game. The rest will be harder," he said, laughing. "The early part of the schedule is brutal. This was an important game to get us started in the right direction."
Old Mill did little wrong, other than failing to hang on at the end. The defense didn't commit an error and turned two double plays, and the Patriots had at least one hit in every inning, including triples by Holly Shaffer and Jen Mock.
Chesapeake's Katie Ochs pitched the first 3 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and no runs. She was replaced by sophomore Nicole Carpenter, who allowed four hits, including a single by Christina Nutile in the fifth that scored Mock.
Old Mill almost built on its lead in the sixth. An infield hit by Stephanie Bennett and an error put runners on the corners with one out. Laura Newcomb flied to center, and Bennett was called out for leaving third too soon.
"We didn't lose because of that, but it hurts when a call like that takes a run away," said coach Lori Darnall.
It proved costly later, when Maggie Dziuban and Zittle hit consecutive singles with two out in the sixth, scoring Michele Singer with the tying run. Zittle was thrown out at second.
Atchison singled with one out in the Patriots' seventh and moved to second on a groundout, but Cindy Dennsteadt flied to right.
Carpenter and Missy Silvers each grounded out to open the bottom of the inning, but two batters later, the game was over.
"They hung in there, and that's a credit to Mr. Thiele and the way he's coached and gotten them prepared through the years," said Lewis, who started only three seniors.