GLEN BURNIE — The North Carroll Panthers softball team continued its march to a second straight Class 3A state title with an 8-7 win over Calvert in a state semifinal round game at Anne Arundel County's Upton Park yesterday.
The top-seeded Panthers will seek their sixth state championship against second-seeded Elkton of Cecil County, which defeated Laurel, 13-0, yesterday.
A year ago, the Panthers defeated Elkton, 6-1, in the state final, and they will get their chance to repeat the effort here at 8 p.m. Friday.
"It wasn't my idea of playing North Carroll softball," said North Carroll coach Phil Bonnell, whose Panthers yielded an uncharacteristic five errors.
The Panthers temporarily broke open a tightgame in the bottom of the fourth with five runs on four Calvert errors, to take a 8-4 lead.
With the Panthers down 4-3 with one out and the bases loaded, Sandra Johnson hit a grounder to Calvert third baseman Kim King, who misplayed the ball, allowing a pair to score and giving the Panthers a 5-4 lead they would not relinquish.
Two moreruns scored when Christie McCulley hit a ground ball through the legs of second baseman Christy Dorsey.
McCulley eventually scored when shortstop Katie Grover misplayed a Sherry Martin grounder to give North Carroll an 8-4 lead.
"We made some mistakes we normally don'tmake, but we also took advantage of some of their errors on offense," Bonnell said.
Calvert answered with three runs in the fifth to cut the Panthers' lead to 8-7.
But with two outs and two on in the Calvert fifth, Panthers pitcher Michelle Ament got Christine Livesay to ground out to second baseman Jen McDermott. North Carroll shut thedoor the final two innings, as Calvert went down in order for the last six outs to preserve the 8-7 win.
"The kids hung in tough and played North Carroll softball in the final two innings," Bonnell said.
"We got the hits when we needed it and played tough defense the last two innings when they had to. We showed a lot of character in those last two innings."
Calvert took a 1-0 lead in the first, but North Carroll tied the score in its half of the first after McDermott, who singled earlier, scored on a wild pitch by Calvert pitcher Trina Keller.
The lead changed hands four times before North Carroll took the lead for good in the fourth.
With Calvert ahead, 2-1, in thethird, Johnson drilled a one-out triple and McCulley had an infield single to put runners on first and third.
After McCulley stole second, Ament hit a grounder to second, which Dorsey misplayed allowing two unearned runs to score and giving the lead back to the Panthers, 3-2.
McDermott paced the North Carroll attack with two hits and two runs scored, while Johnson and McCulley each scored two runs.
Ament recorded three strikeouts and the win and played solid defense inthe later innings to preserve the victory.
Bonnell will be looking for a stronger effort defensively from the Panthers for Friday's championship game against Elkton.
"They're a good ball club," Bonnell said of Elkton. "I hope we have the same success we had against them the last time.