At the beginning of the season, Glenelg softball coach Chuck Struhar said his young team was a year away from being competitive.
Atholton coach Dave Vitagliano didn't believe that then and he sure didn't believe it yesterday when unranked Glenelg, behind a three-hit performance from sophomore pitcher Marni Brown, rolled over the No. 4-ranked Raiders, 9-1.
"When I read that in the paper, I thought, 'Yeah, right. He's not going to be competitive,'" said Vitagliano. "They did a great job. Clearly, he doesn't have the big hitters he had last year, but for us, the big hitters didn't hit the ball. If we are going to beat the good teams, we have got to hit, because Kim [Ruprecht] can't constantly pitch from behind."
Yesterday, Ruprecht (six strikeouts, two walks) was pitching from behind after the fourth Glenelg batter.
The senior right-hander gave up a lead-off single to Kim Brown followed by a walk to Sheri McGready. Both advanced on Jessie Lombardo's sacrifice bunt. Then Ruprecht was called for throwing an illegal pitch after bringing her pivot foot off the ground. That scored Kim Brown and sent McGready to third.
That pitch would have been a third strike to Marni Brown. Instead, Brown hit the next pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly that scored McGready.
"I think that call took Kim out of her game," said Vitagliano. "It wasn't her best game, but she pitched well enough to beat a good team. When you only get three hits, you're not going to beat anybody."
The Raiders (7-1 overall, 3-1 league) scored their lone run in the first inning when Marni Brown walked three and sent Lea Nichols home on a wild pitch. Then Brown (three strikeouts, six walks) caught Merritt Mauck looking for the third out and Atholton only got two runners to third the rest of the game.
For defending Howard County champion Glenelg (7-1, 4-0), the key was a familiar one -- airtight defense. Despite a starting lineup that includes three freshmen and two sophomores, the Gladiators did not make an error.
Offensively, they had eight hits, all of them singles. Seven of them -- a few in combination with some of Atholton's four errors -- led to runs.
Lombardo drove in two in the third. Suzanne McGarity's single started a fourth-inning rally that resulted in two runs scoring after a wild pitch, an error and Kristen Hooker's ground out.
In the sixth, Shannon Keeny drove in two more. In the seventh, Marni Brown walked and pinch runner Bethany Carroll took second on Bonnie Kessler's sacrifice bunt, stole third and scored on a passed ball.
"We're a good hitting team," said Kim Brown, a senior outfielder. "The young ones have been playing for their entire lives almost."