Atholton stole a Class 2A state semifinal from Catonsville yesterday at Randazzo Park, but not before Raiders second baseman Karen "Scrappy" Lee lived up to her nickname with the defensive play of the game.
With two outs in the top of the seventh and the tying run on third, Catonsville's Melissa Junker hit a low line drive toward Lee's right side. The sophomore slid on one knee and made the catch just inches off the ground, preserving the 1-0 victory and sending the Raiders to their first championship game since 1994.
Seventh-ranked Atholton (22-3) will play Easton (20-2), a 2-0 winner over Urbana, at 6 p.m. Friday in the championship. No Howard County team has won a softball state title in seven tries.
The Raiders stole six bases against the Comets (13-7), three by center fielder Tiffany Mathis, who has seven in the playoffs and 14 this season. Two of Mathis' steals came in the third inning and led to the game's lone run.
Mathis singled off Sara Burns (five hits, five strikeouts, two walks) with one out. With leading hitter Katie Zitnay at bat, coach John Zikto signaled Mathis to steal second. Mathis did so, then stole third on her own."That's her call," Zitko said. "She's very smart on the bases."
At that point, Zitnay knew what she had to do. "I was trying to get a sacrifice fly, ground ball, anything to get the run in. The first run of the game is so important."
With two strikes, Zitnay brought Mathis home when she golfed a low pitch to center field for the sacrifice fly. The Raiders then loaded the bases with two outs, but failed to score.
Atholton stranded eight runners, but Zitnay (three hits, five strikeouts, no walks) and her defense made it a moot point.
Catonsville opened the game with back-to-back singles, but Kara Macleod's sharp grounder was stabbed by Lee, who tagged Chrissy Blake and threw to first for a double play. Zitnay allowed a fourth-inning single, then retired nine in a row before Stacey Christie's one-out shot to right field went off Aubrey Barrett for a two-base error.
Catonsville's Ashley Liggett, who took over catching duties for the injured Deb Bosworth in the fourth, grounded out to third, with first baseman Kelly Kemp making a nice, one-hop scoop. Christie moved to third, setting up Lee's dramatic game-ending catch."I knew Scrappy was there and I knew it would be all right," said Atholton catcher Sarah Costa."I thought we had it, but that second baseman made a great play," Burns said."It's tough to lose 1-0, but we tried as hard as we could."
Eleanor Roosevelt 4, Parkville 0: Pitcher Mandy Leachman tossed a one-hitter to lead the Raiders of Prince George's County over Parkville in a state semifinals.
Sherri Ravenzahn had the hit, a single, for Parkville which closed its season with an 11-10 mark.
Thomas Stone 10, Franklin 0: Thomas Stone scored eight runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by Ashley Blandford's grand slam, and defeated Franklin (17-4) in five innings in a state semifinal.
E. Roosevelt 4, Parkville 0 North County 2, Springbrook 1
Thomas Stone 10, Franklin 0 Damascus 3, Northeast-AA 1
Atholton 1, Catonsville 0 Easton 2, Urbana 0
Rising Sun 3, Catoctin 1 Southern-G 6, St. Michael's 0
(At Randazzo Park, Severn)
Class 3A, 6 p.m.
Class 4A, 6 p.m.
Class 1A, 6 p.m.
Class 2A, 6 p.m.