Northeast senior Heather Isaac admitted she prefers a closer game tothe one her team engaged in yesterday.
The only person in agreement was the opposing coach.
The second-seeded Eagles pounded out 11 hits and scored 11 unearned runs en route to a 15-1 victory over No. 3 Stephen Decatur of Worcester County in the 2A state softball semifinals at Upton Park.
Northeast (18-3) can win its fourth straight state championship, and seventh overall, with a win Friday night over top-seeded Damascus of Montgomery County. The Hornets (19-0) defeated Mount Hebron of Howard County, 14-0, in the other semifinal.
The locals can expect a tougher outing than yesterday's debacle, when they sent nine batters to the plate in the second inning and 13 more in the fourth.
The result: 11 unearned runs and an abbreviated outing from Northeast senior pitcher Kristy Zulka.
The windmilling right-hander only allowed onebase runner in five innings -- Seahawks second baseman Dawn Diskin reached on an error leading off the fourth -- and faced the minimum number of batters. She struck out five and has not permitted a run in three playoff games spanning 19 innings.
Senior Ericka Shade threw the last two innings, surrendering one hit and an unearned run in thesixth.
"Everyone played well out there. They were all in it offensively. They were all in it defensively. They did a nice job of base running. Overall, I'm very pleased," said Northeast coach Lynn Pitonzo.
"We capitalized on their mistakes, definitely. We hit the ball when we needed to and made them make the mistakes when we needed to. It worked out to our advantage."
To say the least.
Singles by Stephanie Lazor and Isaac and a Jen Kisiner walk loaded the bases withone out in the second. Nicole Meister fouled out, but Stephen Decatur pitcher Kelly Yoder mishandled a Stacy Reynolds bouncer to the mound, allowing the game's first run to score.
Shade followed with a run-scoring single to center, and a wild pitch gave Northeast a 3-0 lead.
The Eagles used a Melissa Scarborough triple and an Isaac fielder's choice bunt to score another run in the third, before breaking the game wide open in the fourth.
The Seahawks committed four straight errors to open the inning, leading to eight unearned runs. Yoder, who threw 125 pitches in six innings, gave up three hits, walked two batters and uncorked two wild pitches during the nightmarish series.
"She was what we call a flat pitcher," Isaac said of Yoder, whowalked nine. "She comes right in with it. It's not moving or anything. It comes in nice and easy."
The Eagles were the team making everything look easy.
They scored three more runs on three hits in the fifth. Scarborough (3-for-4) and Meister each singled in a run, andanother came home during a rundown.
"We're relaxed now," Scarborough said, explaining the Eagles' sudden offensive resurgence.
"It might be the way we're taking batting practice now. We're hitting offCoach (Ron) Price, rather than a machine."
Isaac said, "I think some people thought we might have let things go to our heads this season, but I knew we would get back to the way it was. We're all together."
Pitonzo said, "Now they're playing as one unit again. It feelsgood."
Next up is an undefeated Damascus team with fireballing junior Marcie Whitehead, who spun 15 no-hitters coming into yesterday'sgame.
"We know very little about Damascus," Pitonzo said. "Everybody keeps telling us they're so great. I don't know. We'll find out."
Scarborough said, "We're confident we can beat anybody we face. We obviously don't think it's going to be a cakewalk, but if we go outand play our game, we should have a good chance."
"If we play together," Isaac said, "there's no stopping us.