Not too many softball teams at any level can walk off the field withear-to-ear smiles after losing a no-hitter.
But to Seton Keough, just being able to put a bat on one of Archbishop Spalding pitcher Kim Sheridan's rocket-like fastballs was enough to provoke a loud cheerfrom its bench, even if it was just a foul tip.
Yesterday, the Gators failed to foil their hosts' bid to win a third straight Catholic League title, as Sheridan hurled a no-hitter while striking out 15 batters (including the first nine) in a 5-0 semifinal triumph.
The league's defending champs will face the Institute of Notre Dame (13-2 winners over McDonogh) in the championship at 3:45 this afternoon at McDonogh.
"I wanted to pitch a perfect game today, but I still wound up with a no-hitter," said the 13-1 Sheridan, who has 171 strikeouts in 91 innings of work.
"In every game, I set a goal for myself. It may be a perfect game, or another game I may want to throw a no-hitter. If I don't reach a certain goal in a particular game, I don't get mad. If someone gets a hit, I just try to throw a one-hitter. Setting goals helps me stay focused."
The junior hurler issued Darby Chellis a free pass during the sixth inning, ruining her perfect-game bid. It was her only walk of the game.
Spalding (17-1) tallied all the runs it would need in the bottom of the first inning, as Nicole Dunleavy and Sheridan both singled in a run.
In the next frame, sophomore center fielder-second baseman Kelly Mabe singled up the middle, reached second on a fielder's choice and stole third -- finally scoring on a botched pickoff attempt at third.
"We didn't hit as well as we could have, but we got them in the right places," Cavalier coach Jim Nemeth said.
"Our defense played great, especially the infield. And once we did get on base, we tried to make things happen. Seton Keough has nothing to be ashamed of. Although they had a couple of errors (five) they played very well defensively."
The Gators (7-8) kept Spalding at bay for the next three innings, until losing windmiller Dina Glorioso (4-2) began to unravel, walking freshman Rachel Synowski and reserve junior Michelle Chin in succession.
While Chin was at bat, Glorioso fired off two wild pitches, moving Synowski to third. Carrie Lycett delivered a sacrifice bunt to score Synowski. Dunleavy followed with a single that brought in Chin.
"Both Synowski and Chin are going to be excellent players for me next year," Nemeth said. "Rachel is a good, young, all-around player, and she can also pitch. Hopefully, by her junior year, she'llmake the regular pitching rotation."
Charles Chellis, Seton Keough's first-year skipper, said, "Despite the little mistakes we made, Ithought we played great. The girls have really improved this season,especially toward the end, when we won five out of our last six regular-season games. Today I felt we played loose, and we also had a lotof fun. I'm really proud of them."
Nemeth and the rest of his team hope the Cavaliers will be able to reach an especially big milestone today.
"These last two games are very important to us. We've never gone undefeated during the regular season and won the tourney in the same year. It's a very big goal to the girls, and they would really like to reach it," Nemeth said.
Sheridan said, "We have to keep playing the way we have, because Notre Dame is the kind of team that can take advantage of your mistakes."