Hammond's softball team could be excused if it didn't play with a lot of energy yesterday, even though the Golden Bears won their first playoff game since the 1997 season.
Hammond defeated Southern-AA, 11-1, in a six-inning, Class 2A South region opener. But there wasn't a lot of cheering. That had come a day earlier.
On the final day of the regular season, the Golden Bears delivered a punch no less surprising than Hasim Rahman landed on Lennox Lewis in their heavyweight title fight on April 21. Hammond, which lost, 12-0, to Atholton in a five-inning game April 18, stunned the third-ranked Raiders, 8-2.
"It was unbelievable," said Hammond junior shortstop Tara Zammichieli, who went 4-for-4, including two doubles, against the three-time county champion Raiders. "We couldn't believe we were actually winning."
The Golden Bears scored twice in the bottom of the first, then scored six runs with two outs in the fourth thanks to five hits and four Atholton errors.
Atholton pitcher Katie Zitnay retired the first two hitters, then Lauren Sapp reached on an error. Cara Prather singled to right, and an error on the play allowed Sapp to score and Prather to take third. Julie Bixler, who had three hits, singled to score Prather.
Whitney Schrader's grounder was misplayed, and Bixler took second. Zammichieli singled to left to load the bases. Laura Erdman singled to left, and another error allowed Bixler, Schrader and Zammichieli to score. Erdman scored on Lauren Record's single before Atholton got the final out.
"We're a good-hitting team," Zammichieli said, "and we finally showed everybody we can hit."
Hammond ended with 11 hits, and its eight runs were the most the Raiders had allowed since Wilde Lake beat Atholton, 8-7, last April, a span of 34 games.
Hammond's defense has played better of late, and in the fifth inning it turned a 5-4-3 double play on Sarah Costa's one-out grounder.
"When we turned the double play, I think that broke them down a little bit," Zammichieli said.
Atholton (18-2, 16-2 league) scored its two runs with two outs in the seventh. Prather limited the Raiders to five hits.
Hammond, which won only one league game in each of the past two seasons, finished 6-12 this season. The Golden Bears won three times in the bottom of the seventh, and also lost 1-0 games to Howard and River Hill.
Hammond will travel to meet top-seeded Gwynn Park on Monday in a quarterfinal game.
"We have a lot of confidence," Zammichieli said. "We just played and beat the No. 1 team. We need to keep hitting the ball, and if Cara throws strikes and we play good defense we can hang with anybody."
Added Hammond coach Scott Farrow: "Since River Hill [a 1-0 loss last Friday] we've been on a wave and we're going to ride it until it ends."
Zammichieli went 3-for-4 in yesterday's win over Southern (3-15), but flied out in her second at-bat, ending a streak of nine straight hits.
As in most no-hitters, someone has to make a defensive play to make it stand up. So was the case Wednesday when River Hill's Shannon Jackson no-hit Howard, 3-0.
In the sixth inning, right fielder Nicole Mele took away a sure hit by throwing out the hitter at first base.