Centennial senior pitcher Kim May's 4-3 victory over sixth-ranked Glenelg yesterday gave the Eagle senior 17 wins, an area best. But May gave credit to senior teammate Michelle Dugan for the save, even though Dugan never threw a pitch.
The Eagles' right-handed pitcher needed a two-out double from Dugan in the bottom of the sixth inning to rally the fifth-ranked Eagles from a 3-1 deficit to sneak past Glenelg and clinch the county title.
"Dugan absolutely crushed the ball and saved the game," said May, whose five strikeouts also raised her area-leading total to 179.
With one regular-season game remaining for both teams, Centennial (17-2, 12-1) assured itself of the county crown outright by beating Glenelg (15-4, 10-3), who defeated the Eagles a year ago at the same site to earn the county championship.
May dueled Glenelg sophomore pitcher Marni Brown for five innings, each pitcher surrendering just one hit. Glenelg broke a 1-1 deadlock in the top of the sixth with two runs as Gladiator freshman Kristen Hooker scored on junior Sherri McCready's one-out double and junior Jessie Lombardo singled home McCready for a 3-1 advantage.
"We knew Glenelg was going to be tough and we weren't going to get the slaughter rule anymore," said May, referring to a 14-2 triumph over the Gladiators earlier. Centennial struck back in the bottom on the sixth as May worked Brown for a one-out walk. Senior Marci Kunkel followed May's lead with a free four-pitch pass from Brown and junior Brittany Deuchler loaded the bases by reaching on an infield error.
Junior Lindsay Von Paris' RBI ground out to first base set the table for Dugan with the Eagles trailing 3-2.
"You've got to give Michelle credit because she kills us every year," said Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar. "I was going to walk her and put her on first base, but if Marni walked the next batter the tying run scores."
Dugan, a first-ball hitter who was looking for a pitch just a little high and outside, jumped on Brown's first pitch, lining a sharp double down the right-field line that scored Kunkel and Deuchler for a 4-3 Centennial lead.
May retired the Gladiators in order in the top of the seventh, needing just nine pitches to complete a 78-pitch game.
"We're working to reach states, but this was our first goal: winning the county," Dugan said.
Struhar said, "They were just a couple pitches better. May didn't walk a batter and we walked two in that one inning. Marni's young and going to be a great pitcher, but she's got to learn that if you walk people it will come back to haunt you."