Maybe it was the fact that Chesapeake already had sewn up a top seedfor the upcoming 4A Region IV softball playoffs.
For some odd reason, it took the defending state champs (16-3 overall, 12-3 league) five innings to hear their wake-up call, as they came back from a 4-0 deficit to subdue North County in a 5-4 thriller Friday.
Becky Thiele provided the game-winning hit on an opposite-field single, scoring pinch-runner Natalie Schmitz. Thiele, a junior second-baseman, shook off two earlier strikeouts to finish up with a 2-for-4, three-RBI day.
"I was very impressed with Becky today," said Cougar coach Dennis Thiele. "It took a lot of concentration to come backfrom two strikeouts and deliver the game-winning hit. Before today'sgame, she had struck out only two times during the whole year. As a coach, I couldn't be more pleased with her, and as a father I couldn't be any prouder."
The Knights (13-5 overall, 9-3 in 4A competition) didn't waste any time capitalizing on Chesapeake's early miscues.
With two outs in the top of the first, North County catcher Lisa Garrison singled, then clean-up hitter Tina Armstrong hit a grounder to Thiele, who bobbled the ball en route to throwing it past first-baseman Stacey Matcuk.
Matcuk then overthrew catcher Stacey Grokas, allowing Garrison to score from first. Tonya Kolodziejski then laid down a bunt that fooled pitcher Amy Jakubowski, allowing the visitors to go up, 2-0.
"We knew that this game didn't mean a a lot to us, so I think we started the game with that attitude, which caused us tomake the errors," said Thiele.
North County, behind the arm of Karen Hay (seven strikeouts in the first four innings) continued to hold the hosts at bay, while padding its lead in the fifth frame.
Jakubowski opened the inning by hitting Kristy Reinhart with a fastball.Two outs later, Kolodziejski (2-for-4) smacked a two-out double to left center. Teammate Krissy Barton then cleared the bases with another two-bagger.
"Usually, 4-0 is a pretty good cushion, especially for a team like North County," said Thiele. "But, slowly but surely, we started plugging away at them."
In the bottom half of the fifth,Hay's good fortune took a sharp turn for the worst. Natalie Black reached second on an error by second-baseman Cheryl Thomschack. After Kristin Spak grounded out, Jaime Long bunted her way on, advancing Black to third. Thiele then cleared the bases with a single to right field, pulling the Cougars to two down.
"It was the little things like those fluke errors that hurt us today," said Knights skipper Sue Fitchett. "Hay started out (pitching) well. They just finally caught upto her at the end."
The next inning saw Jakubowski take herself off of the mound, giving way to Spak. The first-year junior whiffed Colleen Morest, threw Nikki Faulkner out on a come-backer, then fanned Thomschack in three pitches.
"What Amy did took a lot of guts," said Thiele. "At the end of the fifth, she came up to me and said, 'I don't have it anymore.' Spak came in cold, she didn't even know she was going to pitch. And she did a heck of a job."
Chesapeake knottedthe score in the bottom of the sixth on the strength of a leadoff single by Grokas, Thomschack's second error of the day and a passed ball that enabled Grokas and Nancy Yeager to cross the plate.
The Knights' loss, coupled with Old Mill's win over Queen Anne's, eliminatedNorth County from postseason play.
Despite the disappointing loss, Fitchett was not unhappy about her squad's first year of 4A play.
"I think we had a very good year, and I expect more good things next year. We're only losing three players (Morest, Barton and Kerri Widner) to graduation. And if they work over the winter and attend clinics, I think we'll cause even more trouble next year," she said.