One pitcher displayed her overwhelming power, the other simply had staying power.
And after seven innings yesterday, Spalding's Kim Sheridan and Glen Burnie's Melanie Scharf each had gone seven innings for victories, earning their teams the right to meet in the championship game of the North County Invitational.
The championship game is tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday at Glen Burnie. The Gophers (1-1) already have three more softball games scheduled this week, and a public-school rule prohibits playing five games in a week.
In yesterday's tournament opener, Sheridan, a junior, pitched her fourth straight shutout as the defending CatholicLeague champion Cavaliers (4-0) defeated defending Class 4A state champion Chesapeake (1-1), 2-0.
Scharf, a senior and her team's No. 2 hurler, won a duel, 3-0, with North County ace Karen Hay, who a year ago had a 1.41 ERA and won 16 games for Class 1A state champion Brooklyn Park. Scharf gave up five hits but walked none.
"I'm workingon speed now, but I knew I couldn't overpower the batters," said Scharf, who was 6-1 last year with a 1.36 ERA. "This is the first game I've pitched this season, and I was pretty nervous. I knew I had to just concentrate on throwing strikes."
Scharf got help early when teammate Christy Hutson (2-for-3, two runs) scored on a second-inning wild pitch. The Gophers led, 3-0, in the third after Heather Smith (2-for-3, one RBI) plated Hutson -- who had tripled.
Over the next few innings, second baseman Michelle Ackerman (five putouts and a fly ball) and Smith (three fly balls) came to Scharf's rescue. But in the bottom of the sixth, when the Knights had runners on second and thirdwith one out, Scharf saved herself with two putouts.
"I feel likeany time we score the first run we can win," said Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolino. "We get a lot more aggressive when
we're up and the defense stays on its toes. The defense knew this game was in their hands."
Sheridan's defense prevented an opposing runner from goingbeyond second base. Only two runners even reached the bag. Sheridan faced 25 batters. She still has not given up a walk this season and was behind on just three batters.
Sheridan walked twice in three at-bats and scored the go-ahead run off of a sixth-inning triple by teammate Nicole Dunleavy. Dunleavy made it 2-0 in the same inning when Chesapeake catcher Stacy Grokas went after a pop fly, remained grounded near the Cougars' dugout and her teammates failed to cover the plate.
Against the final batter of the day, Sheridan hurled three consecutive strikes for her 11th strikeout against three hits.
Her performance overshadowed that by Chesapeake's Amy Jakubowski (seven strikeouts, six hits, two walks), who is coming off of last year's 10-2, 0.56 ERA season.
"I just went out there with the attitude that I'mgoing to throw the
best game that I can. If they hit me, they hitme -- but if they don't that's even better," said Sheridan, who lastyear fanned 190 batters for an 0.56 ERA and a 15-3 record.
"I don't try to throw the ball past every batter; I try to work the batter inside and outside and try to work the ball around. I had a lot of confidence in what my team could do."