Breanna Clayton has been the talk of the softball world in Anne Arundel County over the past few days after tossing a perfect game in defeating 2019 state runner-up Glen Burnie on Friday. She struck out 16 of the 18 batters she faced in that six-inning affair, but on Monday she met a counterpart who nearly matched her pitch-for-pitch.
That pitcher was Brianna Ford of South River.
Fortunately for the Knights, a Skylar Barton base hit knocked in Linsey Voorhese, who led the game off with a line-drive single to left field for the game’s only run as North County escaped with a 1-0 victory against the Seahawks in Edgewater.
The win allows the Knights (5-0) to keep pace with Chesapeake as the only undefeated teams remaining in the league. Through five games, North County has outscored its opponents 60-1.
Clayton was unscathed through the first four innings until junior catcher Erin Tebbe got a base hit, stopping a 10-ininng no-hit streak that spanned two games. It was Tebbe who again touched up Clayton for another hit in the bottom of the seventh.
“Bre has been doing a great job. She’s been working her butt off in practice — just working on her different pitches, hitting her spots, working on her velocity,” North County coach Kelly Guarnieri said. “She’s doing such a great job in the circle. Friday was a really fun game, but today was that really exciting game where the pressure was on, there were a lot of good situations. Our girls really stepped up to the plate.”
After striking out 16 Gophers on Friday, Clayton had eight strikeouts through the first 15 batters before Tebbe’s ended the hitless streak. She could only manage one more strikeout over the next 12 batters she faced, finishing with nine and walking four over 122 pitches. She threw 80 strikes and delivered 17 first-pitch strikes to the 27 batters she faced.
“I’m relieved that I held it together but really stressed the whole game. It was a fun game,” said Clayton. “It was nice being challenged and seeing the girls actually get to field the ball today.”
Conversely, Ford got away with throwing 82 pitches with 50 being strikes. She allowed three hits, two walks and hit a batter while fanning five.
“Bri is a tough kid. She has made considerable strides between her sophomore and junior years,” South River coach Tim Williams said. “Their pitcher is the toughest girl we have faced so far this year though. I give her all the credit in the world.”
The Seahawks had Clayton on the ropes in the fifth inning as senior right fielder Catherine Shaffer led off with an eight-pitch walk then stole second base. Tebbe followed with a one-out base hit just under the glove of diving shortstop Voorhees, who managed to get a piece of the ball to prevent Shaffer, who slid into third, from coming home. An error on a throw home allowed Tebbe to move up to second base.
Senior third baseman Laney Phipps followed with a grounder to shortstop that got under the glove of Voorhese. However, runner’s interference was called on Tebbe, who had originally scored after Shaffer. The call converted the situation to Tebbe being called out for the second out of the inning and Shaffer was forced back to third base. Ford drew a walk to load the bases, but Alyssa Smith popped up to Clayton to thwart the South River threat.
“We definitely interfered with the shortstop there. I was just trying to make my point that my young lady tried to go around her. I’m not sure if my question was 100% understood, but that was the result either way,” Williams said. “That’s the right call in a dead ball situation — the runner would come back. Unfortunately, we couldn’t push a run across in that inning.”
The Seahawks had another runner on base in the sixth after Kenzie McLellan waited out a 10-pitch walk with two outs, but Shaffer’s line drive was snagged by Knights’ third baseman Barton.
Tebbe delivered her second base hit with one out in the seventh inning and was sacrificed to second by Phipps, but Clayton got her counterpart Ford to hit a popup to third for the final out.
Rebecca Gottleib had the other hit for North County and right fielder Sam Braun made a couple very nice plays in the field, including tracking down a slicing ball off the bat of right-handed hitting Smith and a deep fly to the warning track by Gracie Solarz.
Clayton feels that North County deserves to be recognized accordingly now with a perfect start.
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“I feel like everyone always underestimates us, like we’re always the underdogs,” Clayton said. “It’s to our advantage that no one talks about us. We come out strong every time. I like it.”