COLUMBIA — Just four runs.
That was the difference between the three county teams going 1-3 instead of 4-0 after the first two days of competition in the Amateur Softball Association Junior Olympic Women's Under-18National Championships.
First to drop into the losers' bracket was the Tangerine Machine,the tournament co-host with Frederick's Lewistown Tigers. The Machine dropped Wednesday night's tournament opener, 5-4, to the Columbus (Ohio) Jets.
The East Regional champion Jade Garden Bandits continued the skein at Cedar Lane Park yesterday, losing an extra-inning heartbreaker, 1-0, to Oklahoma City's Ultimate.
Wagner's broke the streak temporarily, getting Stacey Matcuk's fifth-inning, two-run double for a 2-0 lead in an eventual 2-1 victory over St. Louis. Kim Sheridan went the distance, giving up three hits and a walk and striking out three.
In their second game at Cedar Lane Park, however, the two-time Maryland champions held a 1-0 lead over Vancouver, Wash., for five innings before losing, 3-1.
The Northwest Regional champs (74-14) stormed back to tie the game on Jean Dukart's run-scoring singlein the fifth and took a permanent lead thanks to Pandi Leedom (an RBI double) and Stephanie Spindler (an RBI triple) for the winning margin.
"All we have to do is get our heads back into it," said Wagner's co-manager Tom Burns, whose squad plays today at 4 p.m. against the winner of a 10 a.m. contest between Michigan's Foster Oil and the St. Paul (Minn.) Rookies. "I'm sure after the way we played today, we'll still be around after tomorrow."
Wagner's took a 1-0 lead afterErika Backof's two-out single scored Sheridan.
But things went downhill for the locals after Vancouver's starting hurler Stacy Jackson-- nailed in the thigh bone by Backof's hard shot -- had to be replaced by left-hander Sallie Street. After Backof's shot -- Wagner's second hit -- Street held the locals to only one hit while walking threeand striking out one.
Wagner's trailed, 3-1, with two outs in thefifth when Sheridan tripled, but the next batter, Amy Jakubowski, lined out to the shortstop.
"You just don't see many left-handers. We hadn't faced a left-handed pitcher in about six weeks," said Burns,whose two hurlers, starter Jakubowski (four innings, three hits) andSheridan (seven), were rocked a combined eight times. "Their pitcherwas keeping us from making contact."
The same could be said of Oklahoma City's 15-year-old Angie Fuller, who scattered six Jade Gardenhits across eight innings, striking out five and walking four.
Jade Garden had several early opportunities to take control of the game, long before Tiffany Nelms' eighth-inning RBI single signaled the victory for the Metro Conference champion Ultimate (71-12). By the fourth inning, the locals had stranded five runners on base -- two each in the third and fourth and one in the second.
Perhaps Jade Garden's best chance came with runners on first and third and two outs in the third inning. Shortstop Shani Cannon, (.411, 20 RBI coming in) blasted a shot far into left field, but Cindy Hankinson was there to makean over-the-shoulder grab.
"I thought it was gone. I thought we'dpull ahead right there," said Cannon, who will take the field at noon today against another Oklahoma team, the Broken Arrow Bandits.
Although she yielded 10 hits, hurler Kerri Endler was backed by a strong defense and pitched her way out of bases-loaded jams in the third and fourth innings. Endler, who threw 96 pitches, gathered the final out in the third inning on a come-backer and fanned the last batter in the fourth.
"We were elated at times, then we were down," said Cannon. "But this is the best game we've played in a long time and I think we'll be pumped for the next game."