Glen Burnie's Heather Smith appeared quite comfortable in the spotlight yesterday, whether she was roaming the infield from her shortstopposition or taking her swings from the batter's box.
Smith made adiving catch and doubled off a runner at third base in the 11th inning to preserve a 3-3 tie, then singled in the game-winner with one out in the 16th, as Glen Burnie upset visiting Northeast, 4-3, and ended the Eagles' winning streak at 64 games.
The streak was the nation's fourth longest ever -- and a mild burden for a group of players who seemed relieved afterward that it was over.
"We're upset we lost, but we played a really good game, and I'd rather lose on hits than errors," said shortstop Stephanie Lazor."We played a really good game and hung in there until the very end. I guess that's the way it goes.
"I know all of us are glad it's over with and we don't have that pressure on us anymore. We can go out and not worry about it. It's just start all over and keep going out there and keep winning."
Northeast coach Lynn Pitonzo said, "Actually, it'll probably make them work harder."
Both sides worked overtime yesterday.
The Eagles (8-1) took a 3-0 lead into the bottom ofthe third inning, and with senior Kristy Zulka on the mound, there was little reason to believe the teams still would be playing after regulation.
But the Gophers (6-2) scored two runs in the third on Michelle Ackerman's bloop single to right, and another in the sixth on a Stacey Jordan double to right-center.
Previously, the Eagles hadallowed only one run all season.
"I can't say enough about them. They just hung in there," said Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolino.
"It would have been real easy to get down after being down, 3-0. The team's won 64 in a row, three (Class 2A) state championships in a row.But we kept being positive. I kept telling them, 'You're putting theball in play, you're not striking out, you're getting good wood on the ball, just keep it up and good things will happen.'"
The best things seemed to happen to Smith. She was mobbed by her teammates after lining reliever Ericka Shade's first pitch past Eagles' third baseman Jen Kisiner and scoring Ackerman, who had lofted a one-out fly ball that landed on the right-field line for a triple.
"I feel great.This is awesome," Smith said, still receiving hugs from her teammates and Glen Burnie spectators.
Broccolino instructed Smith to attempt a suicide squeeze bunt if she didn't make solid contact on her first swing.
"I said, 'You didn't want to suicide, did you?' She goes, 'No, I didn't want to do that at all,'" Broccolino said, laughing.
Shade, a senior left-hander, moved to the mound from center field after Zulka injured her right knee in the 11th and had to be carried from the field.
Zulka, who wears a brace on her left knee from a summer-league injury, was trying to get back to third base after Smith's catch of a Melissa Scarborough liner.
"We're hoping it's just asprain," Pitonzo said. "After Kristy went down, (the Eagles) really dug in."
So did Glen Burnie hurler Mandy Albrecht (5-2), who went the full 16 innings and threw 179 pitches. The senior right-hander allowed eight hits, walked two and struck out 12.
The Eagles' No. 5 through 9 hitters struck out nine times and went a collective 1-for-30 against Albrecht.
"We've mentioned it before, she's not the big-ticket pitcher, like Zulka, (Chesapeake's Amy) Jakubowski, (Archbishop Spalding's Kim) Sheridan. But you can see she throws the ball hard and she throws it to places," Broccolino said.
"That's a gutty performance. I kept saying, 'How do you feel? How do you feel?' And she'd say, 'I'm fine.' "
She was spectacular with the glove, snaring numerous hard bouncers up the middle in recording six putouts.
Muchof the Glen Burnie infield was revamped due to a back injury to catcher Lee Mallonee, who watched the game from the bench. Second basemanAckerman moved to third, where Pitonzo singled her out for making "some super plays," and Melanie Scharf switched from third to catcher.
Michelle Hammerbacher assumed Ackerman's spot at second. "She hasn't started all year in the infield. She started one game in the outfield. I put her at second base and she makes all the plays," Broccolino said.
The Gophers' only serious miscue came in the third, when left fielder Jordan dropped Zulka's two-out fly ball after losing it in the sun, putting runners on second and third.
Kelly Tibbs singled down the right-field line to score Heather Isaac and Zulka and giveNortheast a 3-0 lead. Tibbs had singled in the first run in the opening inning.
But Glen Burnie fought back against Zulka, who gave upsix hits, struck out seven and retired the last 13 batters she faced.
Shade had allowed only three base runners before the 16th, but the Gophers came up big at the end -- a dream come true if there ever was one.
"Last week, (assistant) Don Dzambo came in, and we were talking to the girls, and I said, 'You're not going to believe this, but I had a dream we beat Northeast.' And Dzambo says, 'You're kidding, so did I.' All the girls laughed and said they were getting chills," Broccolino said.
"Mandy Albrecht came up to me today and said, 'Mr. Broc, you'll never believe what I dreamed last night.' I said, 'We beat Northeast?' and she goes, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Let's make it come true.' "