Kelly O'Neill is throwing strikes. And we're not talking bowling.

The Howard sophomore, fresh from an 11-strikeout performance last Friday against Mount Hebron, struck out 14 yesterday as the 11th-ranked Lions defeated host Wilde Lake, 6-1.

"I thought she threw better Friday [in a three-hit, 9-2 decision]," said Howard coach Dave Vezzi. "But in both games, she's thrown very well."

O'Neill was touched for six hits, including a fourth-inning triple to Brooke Silverberg, and walked three.

But she struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, and in the sixth and seventh innings, with runners in scoring position, O'Neill got third-out strikeouts.

"Once we started striking out, I think we got intimidated by her," said Silverberg, who struck out twice.

Wilde Lake assistant Sal Milio coached yesterday's game for Kelly Storr, who was taking care of her ill daughter. Milio was impressed with O'Neill.

"She was outstanding," Milio said. "She's the best I've seen [this season]."

Howard (10-1 overall, 10-1 county) got all the runs it needed in the first. Rachel Grantham had a one-out single and scored from second on Sarah Berg's two-out double. Berg moved to third on a Amanda Hubitsky single, then scored when a pickoff throw to third rolled past the left fielder.

"Getting ahead early was important in the game," said Vezzi, whose team leads Glenelg (10-2, 8-2) and Wilde Lake (9-4, 8-3). "It set the tone."

O'Neill struck out the first two batters in the third before giving up a single to Mai Tran, who had four hits. Following a walk, Wilde Lake pitcher Jen Babish singled to left, scoring Tran.

Howard took a 3-1 lead in the fourth after a leadoff triple by Lisa Foster and a groundout to second by O'Neill.

After Wilde Lake stranded the tying runs in the sixth, Howard took advantage of three errors to score three runs in the seventh. The Wildecats loaded the bases with none out, but Becky Ransom lined out to second baseman Grantham, who doubled up Tran at first. Babish, who struck out the side herself in the second, struck out to end the game.

In the first meeting between these teams, Howard needed two runs in the sixth and a run in the seventh for a 3-2 win. Yesterday, the Lions clearly were better.

"Howard's a smart team, and that hurt us today," Silverberg said. "They knew where to throw the ball, they made the right plays, and we didn't."

Said Milio: "Howard just outplayed us in every aspect of the game."

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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