When two outstanding pitchers square off, every base runner is a valuable commodity. The ability to move those runners along and to make the most of any scoring opportunity can be the difference in the game.
That was the case at Northeast yesterday, as No. 4-ranked Chesapeake stitched together a run in the third inning and held on for a 1-0 win over No. 3 Northeast.
Chesapeake's Erin Taylor scattered four hits to earn the win, overshadowing a two-hitter by Northeast's Rachel Herrick, who struck out five. Neither pitcher walked a batter.
The Eagles (4-1), though, gave Herrick no run support. Two Northeast scoring threats fizzled after failed bunt attempts, and in the seventh inning, the Eagles left the tying run at second base.
"We just couldn't execute on that bunt scenario," Northeast coach Marianne Shultz said. "You are limited on the number of base runners you get, and you try to take advantage when you have them."
Chesapeake (5-0) did precisely that in the third inning.
Taylor reached on an error to lead off the inning and advanced to third base on consecutive sacrifice bunts by Heather Spoon and Courtney Taylor, Erin's sister. A two-out single to left scored Taylor. It was the Cougars' only hit until the seventh inning.
Northeast's Dawn Vacek led off the bottom of the third inning with a single, but Stephanie Baber's bunt attempt popped up in front of the plate, Chesapeake first baseman Justine Wagner made a diving catch, turned, and doubled Vacek off first.
Northeast threatened again in the sixth, when Vacek reached on a two-base error to lead off the inning. But another popped-up bunt followed, and Taylor worked out of the inning by inducing back-to-back fly outs.
"We mixed the ball up well," Taylor said. "The off-speed was really working. We had them off balance the whole game."
The defending Class 3A champion Eagles weren't ready to surrender, though. With two outs in the seventh, Erin Hart and Melissa Tewey stroked consecutive singles to put the tying run in scoring position.
But in a matchup of the two pitchers, Taylor got Herrick to pop out behind the mound to end the game.
"We felt it would be a one-run game. We knew both pitchers were outstanding," Chesapeake coach Don Bishoff said. "We were fortunate. We got a runner on base, got two bunts down, and then got a key hit with two outs. We were fortunate to get that one run across."