It looked like the number 6 was going to be the Anne Arundel Community College women's softball team's lucky number -- until yesterday.
Seeded sixth in the JuCo Region XX Women's softball tournament at Cecil Community College in Elkton, Coach Tom Smith's Anne Arundel Community College team emerged as a big surprise.
The Pioneers shocked the tournament field by advancing to the finals before bowing twice to defending Region XX champion Charles Community College yesterday by scores of 6-4 and 4-1.
Two fatal sixth innings ended the Pioneers' dream of a major upset after coming into the tourney with an overall record of 9-14.
The twin killing sends Charles to the national JuCo tournament in Kansas in two weeks with an overall record of 24-3. Charles had ripped Smith's Pioneers by 12 runs earlier in the season, but were hard-pressed to knock them off Sunday.
"Their coach was surprised we played them so tough after theway they handled us earlier in the season, but Amanda (Bates) pitched fantastic for us," said Smith.
Bates actually out-pitched Charles ace Jennifer Vance. In the first game, Bates gave up only three hits, struck out three, walked five and hit two, while Vance gave up four hits, struck out four but walked 11.
Anne Arundel failed to takeadvantage of Vance's control problems, except for the top of the fifth inning when it got all four runs, highlighted by Chrissy Finkner'sbases-clearing triple and a single by Sandi Young.
Charles rallied for three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth.
In the championship game, Charles broke up a 1-1 pitcher's duel with three runs in that fateful sixth and held the Pioneers scoreless in the seventh to wrap it up.
"Amanda pitched well for us all year, but we had problems playing behind her and errors cost us in the finals," saidSmith, who was dejected but still very proud of his nine-player squad.
Bates scattered eight hits in the finale and walked only one while striking out one. Her counterpart, Vance, gave up just two hits and struck out four, but walked 11.
The only inning the Pioneers took advantage of the free passes came in the first when Vance walked Michelle Tringali with the sacks full. That was the only run Anne Arundel got.
"Our girls played really tough and, I don't think anybodyexpected us to go as far as we did," said Smith.
The Pioneers were not expected to make it to the Region XX finals. Going in with an overall record of 9-14, most thought they would be gone in the first round.
But with former local high school stars Young (Andover) and Nikki Beall (Meade) swinging the big bats and Bates (Severna Park) handling the pitching, the Pioneers took the first two games to vault into the finals.
Friday the Pioneers surprised Essex, 13-5, and Saturday eliminated favored Dundalk Community College, 4-3, in the semifinals. Young went 3-for-3, knocking in five runs against Essex and inthe semifinal victory singled to score Amy Hersha, who had tripled in the fifth inning, with the winning run.
Beall batted in two runsin each of the first two wins. In that first game, Beall went 2-for-3 with three RBI.
Anne Arundel fell behind 3-0 in the Essex contest only to explode for eight runs in the fourth and take control of the game.
Bates went the distance in both games to notch the wins. Her best effort came against heavily favored Dundalk as she yielded only five hits and struck out seven. The windmiller scattered seven hits in the opening victory.
Two former county star windmillers and Players of the Year, Chesapeake grad Heather Frey (1988) and Jennifer Grinath (1989) of Northeast sparkled in this weekend's East Coast Conference Division I softball tournament in New Windsor, N.J.
Frey, a junior at Drexel University in Philadelphia and the 1987 Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year as a junior, when she went 13-0to lead the Cougars into the state finals, bested her former county adversary, Grinath of Rider (Trenton, N.J.) College, 3-2, in the ECC championship game Saturday.
Before the title clincher over Rider, Frey blanked Hofstra University, 4-0, and ran her overall record to 25-3 for the Dragons.
Grinath, the former Northeast High standout and the 1989 Anne Arundel County Sun Softball Player of the Year, nearly took Rider to the ECC championship in her sophomore year.
Arguably Anne Arundel County's all-time greatest pitcher, Grinath, who wonthree state titles and went a county record 65-10 infour years underCoach Lynn Pitonzo at Northeast, finished her sophomore year at Rider with an overall record of 21-5.
Prior to the heart-breaking lossto Frey and Drexel, Grinath stopped Central Connecticut State of NewBritain, Conn., 12-4, in the opener, and came back to post wins overTowson State University, 9-3, and Hofstra University of Hempstead, N.Y., 6-1.
In local high school baseball, the Arundel Wildcatsof Coach Bernie Walter got outstanding pitching performances Friday night and Saturday to run their record to 14-3 overall.