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Phillips, Walker lead Long Reach softball to playoff win over Atholton

Being a pitcher can be stressful.

So much is out of a softball pitcher’s control, yet the win or loss will be attached to her name after the game.

That’s why pitchers often have a friend on the field — usually the catcher, but sometimes an infielder — to calm them down during stressful situations.

For Long Reach pitcher Sayla Phillips, that player is a little farther away than most. Rather than look to someone in the infield, the senior righty looks to center fielder and future college roommate Kamryn Walker.

The two Bowie State (Division II) commits led the Lightning to a 13-2 mercy-rule win over visiting Atholton on Thursday in the first round of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 3A East regional playoffs.

“When I have a 3-0 count on a girl, I look back at (Kamryn), and she’s my rock,” said Phillips, who was the winning pitcher for the Lightning. “I’m her rock too, so when something bad happens in the outfield, I look out to her and we calm down.”

Phillips allowed six hits and two runs (one earned) in her five innings. She walked one and struck out two.

“I’m never worried about how she’s pitching,” Walker said about Phillips. “It’s always good to have a pitcher who has self discipline and knows how to play the game.”

Walker, meanwhile, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base. She also executed an 8-3 double play, catching a line drive in center field and firing a perfect strike to first base to get the runner who didn’t tag up.

“That double play was awesome,” said Long Reach head coach Melissa Boardman. “Kamryn has been first-team all county, and she had the highest batting average in the county last year. She’s an animal, and every other coach knows that. What a way for her to end her senior year at home.”

Walker and Phillips said they chose Bowie State because of the team’s culture and the opportunity to play together.

“It’s a great school. It was calling our names,” Walker said. “Out of all the schools we visited, Bowie had everything we wanted, and the fact that we’re going together makes it even better.”

Long Reach’s bats come out of the gates hot on Thursday. The Lightning (7-11), led by the middle of their order, scored two in the first and six in the second to take an 8-2 lead after two innings.

Walker, the No. 3 hitter, had an RBI single in both innings. Cleanup hitter Hailey Ramberg had two singles and three RBIs in the first two frames. Sierra Sims, the No. 5 hitter, walked and scored a run in the second, and Alexis Warthen, the No. 6 hitter, hit an RBI single, stole a base and scored a run in the second.

“To get up 8-2 and have that confidence and give our pitcher a cushion is exactly what we needed,” Boardman said. “The bats definitely came out today. To be able to capitalize offensively and not leave runners on in the early innings was huge.”

Atholton (3-16) scored both of its runs in the second inning. Haley Simmerly singled and scored on an error, and Sydnee Ruley was hit by a pitch and scored on a fielder’s choice.

Phillips settled down after the second inning, allowing only three hits and zero runs in the final three frames.

“My curve and my screw weren’t working the first two innings,” Phillips said. “When I realized that, I just started throwing more heat and hitting my corners.”

The Lightning scored five more runs in the fifth inning. Haley Thompson started the rally with an RBI single. Isabella Facey then drove in two more with a single, and Sims ended the game with a two-run triple to right field to give the Lightning the mercy-rule victory.

Atholton graduates three seniors this season. Atholton head coach Allyson O’Neill said Ruley, Sydney Rhodes and Juliet Nierle were “vital parts of the program.”

“They will all be missed,” said the second-year head coach. “They all played varsity for all four years.”

With the win, Long Reach advances to the quarterfinals on Monday, when the Lightning play at Centennial (9-7), the No. 1 seed in Section I of the MPSSAA 3A East Region. The Lightning lost to the Eagles 9-2 earlier this season.

“The way we won this first game, we’re definitely ready to play Centennial,” Walker said.

Long Reach (7-11) – 13, Atholton (3-16) – 2

…………….123 45 R-H-E

A…………..020 00 2-6-3

LR………... 260 05 13-10-2

Other scores:

Glenelg (12-8) — 5, Wilde Lake (3-16) — 0 (2A South)

Kathryn Hoffman pitched a complete game three-hitter with seven strikeouts, setting the stage for the Gladiators’ opening round playoff victory. Shanoy Vassel led the offense for Glenelg with three hits and a RBI. Amy Stetser also added a pair of hits and an RBI.

Veronica Goode led Wilde Lake with two of her team’s three hits.

Glenelg advances to face top-seeded Hammond on Monday.

……………123 456 7 R-H-E

WL………..000 000 0 0-3-4

G………….100 211 x 5-11-1

Marriotts Ridge (13-8) — 17, Oakland Mills (0-17) — 0

Madi Costigan (3 innings and 6 strikeouts) and Olivia Buchwald (2 innings, 2 strikeouts) combined to pitch a no hitter for the Mustangs in their opening-round win over the Scorpions.

Bridget Farrell (2-2, 3 runs) and Sam Miller (2-2, 2 doubles, 2 runs, RBI) led the way offensively for a Marriotts Ridge team that got hits from eight different players. Ashleigh Gerber added a double and a team-high 3 RBI.

Marriotts Ridge advances to face second-seeded River Hill on Monday.

……………123 45 R-H-E

OM………..000 00 0-0-7

MR………..753 2x 17-10-0

Howard (16-5) — 19, Mervo — 0 (4A North)

Pitchers Samantha Hobert (3 innings, 9 strikeouts) and Maddie Coleman (2 innings, 5 strikeouts) combined on a no-hitter to lead the Lions to the opening-round playoff victory.

Sophie Morton paced Howard offensively with three hits and 5 RBI, while Mary Wagenblast added 4 RBI of her own.

Howard advances to face top-seeded Catonsville on Monday.

……………123 45 R-H-E

M………….000 00 0-0-3

Ho………...664 3x 19-16-1

Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at jameyer@baltsun.com or on Twitter @jcalvinmeyer

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