Third-ranked Atholton clinched its third straight Howard County softball title yesterday with a championship-like performance.
Playing their best game of the season, the Raiders combined Katie Zitnay's one-hitter and a 12-hit attack that included four doubles to rout 10th-ranked Howard, 7-0, at Atholton.
"The mental game, the physical game, hitting and defense, it was all there," said Atholton catcher Sarah Costa, the Raiders' only senior. "We were focused and ready to play."
Added Atholton coach John Zitko: "That's the best I've ever seen their attitude. They were tough today."
Especially Zitnay. Although she didn't hit the ball out of the infield in an uncharacteristic 0-for-4 showing at the plate, Zitnay was at her best on the mound. After giving up a two-out double to Tee Dronenburg in the first inning, the All-Metro junior retired 19 in a row.
"She didn't hit the ball as well as she wanted to," said Costa, "but she came back every inning and made sure she did it on the defensive end. And that was key."
Said Zitnay: "I felt really strong [in] this game for some reason. We were so pumped. We were so ready to play this game."
Atholton (17-1, 15-1 league) put runners on base in every inning except in the sixth, and had four-hit innings in the first and fifth when it scored two and three runs, respectively.
Third baseman Stacy DeFino returned from a nine-game absence to go 3-for-3, including a double. First baseman Kelly Kemp and designated hitter Michelle McDonagh each had two hits, including two of Atholton's three fifth-inning doubles. Costa had the other two-base hit.
Howard (13-3, 13-3) was missing four players, including its starting shortstop and first baseman. That caused coach Dave Vezzi to shuffle his defense, and he ended up moving all but his pitcher, second baseman and right fielder to other positions during the game.
"Not having our two infield starters threw us off a little bit," said Howard junior pitcher Kristin Gormus, who limited the Raiders to five hits earlier in the season in a 2-0 Atholton victory.
Vezzi agreed with his pitcher, but acknowledged Zitnay's nine-strikeout, no walk outing.
"Zitnay was Zitnay," Vezzi said. "She's a good pitcher."