Yesterday afternoon was quickly going by without a clutch hit at Chesapeake.
It turned out for sophomore pitcher Lindsay Ettinger and the No. 6 Cougars that all that was needed against visiting Severna Park was some contact.
Ettinger got the outs when she needed to most and freshman pinch hitter Christina Bales hit a bases-loaded grounder to second that scored the game's only run in a 1-0 Chesapeake win that took eight innings.
The Cougars closed out the regular season at 14-5 overall and 13-4 in Anne Arundel. More importantly, they go into the Class 4A East region playoffs, set to begin on Friday, with the confidence that they can go up against an upper- echelon team and come away with a win.
"We talked about that going in, wanting to end the regular season with a win to show we can play against the better teams. Now, we go into the playoffs on a positive, which we needed," said Chesapeake coach Don Bishoff.
The No. 5 Falcons (16-3, 14-2 in the county) had seven runners in scoring position stranded by Ettinger, who mostly relied on her rising fastball and some good defense to work her way out of jams.
Severna Park pitcher Laura Gibson was also effective, scattering six hits and pitching seven shutout innings before the Cougars finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth.
Playing under international rules that puts a runner on second base at the start of every extra inning, the Cougars loaded the bases on bunts from Danielle Gibson and Cindy Miller before Bishoff called on Bales with one out.
On a 3-2 pitch, she hit a sharp grounder to second to force in the game-winner.
"That's a lot to ask a ninth-grader, but she had an understanding of what we wanted her to do," said Bishoff. "We asked her to put the ball in play on the ground and she executed it perfectly. She did the job."
Ettinger, who finished with 10 strikeouts and improved to 8-2 on the season, didn't mind the extra work or the pitcher's duel. The Falcons' best chance against her came in the top of the first when they had runners on second and third with one out. But Ettinger got Lindsay Ingle out on strikes, and Erin O'Keefe grounded to shortstop Tracey Dahlen to end the threat.
"It's really exciting. It gets my adrenalin up and the team pumped up which makes me want to work that much harder," she said. "We got what we wanted. We take this win and it motivates us to go win in the playoffs."
Dahlen had a single and a double for the Cougars, who also got two singles from Jessica Fogle. Severna Park got two singles each from Lauren Haag and Lauren Pollock.
Up next for the Falcons is a fourth meeting against No. 2 Northeast in the county championship game, set for 5 p.m. tomorrow at Randazzo Park.