When she’s in a jam, Howard softball pitcher Maddie Coleman likes to take a few seconds to get out of the circle, breathe and take a look at her teammates playing behind her.
She was in just that spot Tuesday after visiting Glen Burnie scored its first run in the sixth inning, still had the bases loaded and fellow pitcher Wynter Radcliffe worked the count to 3-0.
The Lions had a four-run lead, but it was a turning point.
Coleman delivered a strike and then got Radcliffe out on an infield pop-up.
The anxious moments served Coleman well, and she got out of more trouble in the sixth inning before Howard closed out a 5-1 win over the Gophers in a Class 4A East Region I semifinal game.
The Lions scored two runs in the first inning and three more in third to back up Coleman, who finished with 12 strikeouts while allowing six hits, with the Gophers’ lone run unearned.
Howard improved to 10-2 on the season and will play Friday against the North County-Old Mill semifinal winner.
“Our whole team put in the effort,” Coleman said. “My defense was definitely up the whole game and my team hit well, especially in those first couple innings. So I think the team effort was really why we won this game.”
After a 1-2-3 top of the first, the Lions offense got started immediately. Leadoff hitter Kaylee Delosantos walked and catcher Lindsey Smith followed with a single. One out later, Coleman hit a run-scoring single, and a two-out infield error got Smith across to make it 2-0.
The Lions put together four hits in the third — Sam Hobert’s sharp grounder past second scoring two — to go up 5-0.
Coleman, who consistently delivered first-pitch strikes while mixing a fastball and occasional changeup, finally ran into some trouble in the fifth with the comfortable lead.
With the bases loaded, the Gophers’ No. 2 hitter Lillian Cook earned a walk to make it 5-1 and Radcliffe proved patient in working the count to 3-0.
“I think the most important thing is to just keep your composure because once you get down in the count it’s hard when you have all that energy up,” Coleman said.
The look back to her teammates followed, and she was able to collect her composure.
“So if I’m going to throw a pitch, I need to be confident in that pitch because I know they’re going to catch the ball if they hit because I always know they’re behind me,” she said.
In the sixth, the Gophers had runners on first and third with one out before Coleman got two strikeouts to end the threat.
A 1-2-3 seventh included two more strikeouts to send the Lions on to the next round. Smith, who had two singles and two runs, is impressed with how well the team has come together.
“We’re really bringing it all together with chemistry and talent, using everybody’s specific strengths and just put it all together,” she said. “We’ve been hitting great, our defense was amazing today and we just get along really well, so it’s a great team to be on.”
The Gophers, who have eight seniors, including members of the state runner-up team in 2019, wrap up their season with a 9-4 mark. Rose Weindenhoft and Alexeys Gardner both had two singles with Alexi Abrams singling and scoring the team’s lone run.
“It was a good ride,” Glen Burnie coach Dave Sauble said. “A lot of those kids were on the state championship [runner-up] team, so they’ve seen the highs and lows of what it’s like to be a part of a team. Every one of them are good young women and when you see kids like that, you just know the country is going to be in good shape.”
GB 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -- 1 6 1
H 2 0 3 0 0 0 x -- 5 7 1
Radcliffe and R. Gardner; Coleman and L. Smith
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2B: H -- Delosantos