Centennial, one of the county’s hottest teams over the past couple weeks, celebrated senior day in style on Tuesday and made sure it will be carrying plenty of momentum into the playoffs that begin Thursday.
The Eagles erupted for nine runs in the opening two innings against visiting Hammond, creating more than enough separation to cruise the rest of the way to a 13-7 victory. The win is the eighth in the last nine games for Centennial (11-6,), which has secured a winning record in the regular season for the first time under coach Katie Grimm and is slated to face Long Reach in the opening round of the postseason.
“I just think everything is clicking right now for us, where in those earlier games when we were really close, we just had one side of the ball working … it was either defense or offense,” Grimm said. “Now everything is working. We have two girls who were injured back on the field and that has been a big lift and we are hitting up and down the line-up.
“The girls really wanted to achieve that goal of finishing above .500, so to finish strong like we have has been really special.”
One of the girls who had missed a couple weeks with an injury — senior Brita Hawtof — was smack in the middle of the offensive surge against the Golden Bears. Hawtof went a perfect 5-for-5 with 3 RBI to spearhead an Eagles’ offense that finished with 18 hits overall.
Hawtof said there was definitely some extra incentive for herself, along with the team’s other four seniors — Jordan Burk, Josefine Jensen, Abbey Strott and Sammy Kastner — to go out strong in their final home game.
“It’s great that it was senior night tonight and I think everyone came in with the mindset that we really wanted to drop hits in. That’s been where we have gotten some runs taken away before, hitting it right at people,” she said.
Centennial got out a jam without allowing any runs in the top of the first after singles by Hammond’s Kelly Smith (3-5, run, RBI) and Emily Dowdall (4-4, run, RBI). The Eagles then proceeded to break things open by batting through the line-up in the bottom half of the inning on the way to four runs.
Burk kicked things off with a double to left, Jensen followed with an RBI single and the rest of the line-up seemed to follow suit. Hawtoff had and RBI single and Sam Sterenberg delivered a 2-RBI hit of her own.
Grimm said the effort of the defense holding strong early provided the momentum needed to get the bats going as well.
“Us playing really well defensively really translates well to our offense,” Grimm said. “Being really clean out there, not committing errors and having those quick innings, really seems to help our bats.”
Hammond got another two runners on in the second — Sophie Baldwin and Karina LaCroix — but again couldn't plate a run.
That left the door open for Centennial to pad its advantage with five more runs of its own in the bottom of the second. This time the Eagles sent 11 batters to the plate, including one stretch of five consecutive hits by the combination of Josefine Jensen (triple), Celina Jensen (double), Emily Allen, Kastner and Hawtoff.
All five players scored in the inning.
“Once one kid hits, it’s contagious and they all are going up there ready to hit. We have nine girls that can hit the ball and today was a perfect example of that,” Grimm said.
Hammond showed some fight, getting on the board in the third inning courtesy of Dowdall singling and coming around to score on a wild pitch. The Golden Bears then added three more runs in the fourth, as Bethany Hewitt and Dowdall picked up RBI to help plate LaCroix, Smith and Caroline Goyne (2-4).
But just as things seem to be tightening, Centennial extended things again with four more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to make it 13-4. This time it was another triple from Josefine Jensen, along with singles from Celina Jensen and Hawtoff that drove in the runs.
Hammond kept pushing, plating a run apiece in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Samantha Mesol played a big role late, as she doubled and scored in the fifth and then delivered an RBI single in the sixth.
Ultimately, though, it was just not enough to come back from the large deficit.
Centennial ended up having all nine of its batters register either a hit or an RBI.
Heading into playoffs, Hawtoff says the Eagles, as a team, have a lot of confidence.
“The last couple weeks I would say our win against Howard definitely turned things around. When you come off a big win like that, you just realize that we do have the talent,” she said. “When everything comes together, we’re competitive and can take on anyone in the county.”
Centennial 13, Hammond 7
123 456 7 R-H-E
Ha 001 311 1 7-15-2
C 450 400 x 13-18-2
Chapelgate 17, Concordia Prep 7 (IAAM B Conference Playoffs)
The Yellowjackets won their quarterfinal match-up in six innings, advancing into a match-up on Thursday against Maryvale Prep.
Phoebe Cleaver, Hyeji Cho and Bethanne Venkatesan had three hits apiece, while Venkatesan added 4 RBI and Jen Wolinski drove in three. Chapelgate was trailing 7-5 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning before exploding for seven runs to take the lead for good.
Venkatesan got the win at pitcher, striking out 10 in six innings of work.
123 456 R-H-E
C 006 100 7-4-2
CCA 302 732 17-17-3