The roost atop the Central Maryland Conference softball standings just got a bit more crowded.
In a matchup between the top two teams in the conference, senior shortstop JoAnnah Jennings' sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh inning was all visiting Westminster needed to upend ninth-ranked North Carroll, 2-1, yesterday in Hampstead.
With the victory, the Owls (6-2 overall, 5-1 conference) moved up to share the conference lead with the Panthers (7-1, 5-1). The loss also prevented North Carroll from winning its eighth consecutive game.
"This is great," said sophomore pitcher Nichol Moeller, who went the distance and struck out three. "They're the No. 1 team in the conference and here we are beating them. This means everything in the world."
In a contest marked by spark- ling defensive plays by both teams, Jennings' sacrifice fly to left field proved to be the difference. After Moeller led off the seventh by lining out, sophomore catcher Casey Brengle reached first safely on an infield single.
Junior second baseman Stephanie Taylor followed with a single to left, and junior first baseman Kasey Owings beat a throw from junior third baseman Angie Springer, who bobbled the grounder before firing to first base.
With the bases loaded, Jennings took the first pitch from North Carroll senior right-hander Lisa Tunney deep to left, and Brengle walked in from third with the game-winning run.
Jennings, who said none of the Westminster teams she has played on in her four years had defeated the Panthers, said she was surprisingly calm at the plate.
"I said to myself, 'This is the time to beat them with a runner on third. She has to come in,'" Jennings said.
Owls coach Lisa Harford said she gave Jennings some words of wisdom before her at-bat.
"I told her, 'We can all pop up. This is a good time for it,'" Harford said.
North Carroll took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Junior second baseman Trisha Brown, who has reached base safely in her past seven plate appearances, led off with a double to left, and later scored on Lisa Worden's single over a drawn-in Westminster infield.
The Owls tied it up in the top of the fourth on a throwing error.
North Carroll coach Lloyd Ford said he wasn't displeased with his team's performance.
"A 2-1 game is a hard-fought game," Ford said. "We had some opportunities. We just didn't execute at the plate when we needed to."