It seemed only fair that, half an inning after McDonogh sophomore third baseman Mackenzi Preston had broken bat shrapnel fly by her head, she got to cross the plate first Tuesday afternoon in Severn.
It likewise only seemed right that Eagles junior Andrea Ottomano had already pitched four scoreless innings when she drove in Preston for the only run of the game in the top of the fifth inning on a ground ball that was bobbled for an error.
Patience paid off as McDonogh broke the scoreless drought and held strong through the end to shut out Spalding, 1-0, and keep its perfect record intact.
“It gives us a lot of confidence in ourselves and each other, to trust each other to get hits and field balls,” Preston said.
Tuesday resulted in a mixed bag for Cavaliers pitcher Amaya Carroll. While she struck out 10 in seven innings and did not give up a hit, she walked five batters, which ultimately proved costly. McDonogh (7-0 overall, 4-0 IAAM A Conference) rode the wind — literally — as strong gusts caused errors and in turn baserunners.
Spalding (4-2 overall, 2-2 IAAM A Conference) actually out-hit McDonogh 2-0 but just could not find the clutch hit.
“The biggest thing is you can’t win a game if you can’t score a run,” Spalding coach Delaney Bell said. “We had a lot of missed opportunities. That team is good top to bottom for sure, and we’re going to see them again.”
Ottomano nearly matched her counterpart, allowing just two hits while fanning eight batters. Her work extended beyond just feeding Spalding batters strikes and making good pitches for outs. Because of the wind, Eagles coach John Folfas said his pitcher had to work to get ground balls to prevent potential errors made by outfielders.
“We struck out plenty today and we made some adjustments later that we were able to get the ball in play,” Folfas said. “Defensively, it was good to make plays behind our pitching because the wind caused two pop flies that should’ve been caught that we missed.”
Carroll’s control corralled McDonogh early, as the UMBC commit piled up five strikeouts through the first two innings. But the patient Eagles took advantage of any outside pitches and drew three walks through four frames.
“We’ve struggled to hit that outside pitch, and she’s thrown a lot of them. I think after our first round of going through our lineup, we started to wait on it more and hit the ball a lot more,” Preston said.
In the bottom of the third, still scoreless, Spalding third baseman Ashlyn Bishop’s bat, whom Bishop nicknamed “Ghost,” shattered into pieces, part of which flung toward Preston at third base. She flinched out of the way.
“It definitely gave me a lot of adrenaline,” she said.
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Preston got on base in the top of the fourth, stole another one and glided home with Ottomano’s well-placed ground ball. It would be all McDonogh needed.
“Every game we have someone different who contributes. [Ottomano] she’s been contributing on the mound all year for us. For her to get that [run] for us to help herself out, that felt good for her,” Folfas said.
A one-run game is far from what the Eagles are used to, but it taught them a vital lesson. Though they enjoy just hitting, they turned their faith to stealing bases and executing other small-ball plays.
“We can win the close games. Last time we played, we beat them by a run as well,” Folfas said. “We feel good playing these close games if we have to. Our girls went up every time knowing they could make contact and put the ball in play. It was a matter of if it’s gonna fall. We’re not scared playing the close games. Obviously, we’d like to have a few more runs.”