COLUMBIA — Kerri Endler usually has better things to do at 2 a.m. on Saturday -- like sleep.
But at that time Saturday, the 17-year-old Archbishop Spalding graduate was on a pitcher's mound at Centennial Lane, coaxing the final batter from the Broken Arrows (Okla.) softball team into a ground out in her complete-game 5-0 victory for the Jade Garden Bandits.
The game, which began at midnight, was the second of four outingsfor the Bandits, who finished with a 2-2 record in the 70-team Amateur Softball Association Junior Olympic Women's Under-18 national fast-pitch championships. Rain postponed Friday's games, forcing officials to race to finish the tournament yesterday.
By 7 a.m., Endler was warming up for West Point, N.Y., on the same pitcher's mound. An hour later, the 5-foot-2, 110-pounder tossed yet another shutout victory, 1-0. Teammate Nicole Dunleavy's first-inning single scored Kelly Tibbs.
"I had about four hours of sleep, and I was exhausted. But this is the nationals, and if you can pull it off, it's well worth it," said Endler, whose combined stats were seven hits, eight strikeoutsand two walks for both games.
Her squad was playing in the loser's bracket after Friday's 1-0 setback to Oklahoma City's Ultimate in eight innings and was eliminated after Saturday afternoon's 4-0 loss to Akron, Ohio.
Jennifer Kisiner's fourth-inning two-run double anda pair of RBI singles by Dunleavy and Shani Cannon supported Endler in her first shutout as the Central Atlantic Regional champion Bandits -- one of three county teams entered -- surpassed the expectations of coach Ron Schelhouse.
"We were the last team in the state to (get eliminated), so I guess we hung in there the longest," said Schelhouse, whose club posted a 42-22 record in his 10th and final season. "Some teams come to this tournament two or three times before they get their first win. We got two our first time in."
Endler graduatedlast spring from Archbishop Spalding, where she played in the shadows of ace Kim Sheridan. Sheridan compiled a 16-1 record and an .53 ERAthis past season at Spalding, her only loss coming against eventual Class 2A state champion Northeast, 1-0.
"Kerri is a workhorse. When I saw her, she was throwing the ball hard and had the ball moving around," said Sheridan, who started three of the four games for two-time state champion Wagner's, going 2-2 in the tournament.
It helpedthat Endler was backed by players like shortstop Cannon and second baseman Dunleavy, whose fielding averages hover above .900.
"With Kerri's spin, she forces the batter to hit ground balls and a lot of ground outs," said Sheridan. "I'm happy that she did as well as she did out here, and I knew that she could do it."
Sheridan was making her fourth appearance in a national tournament. She was also there with Riviera Beach's 12-and-under team and twice with Riviera Beach's 16-and-under squad.
She went the distance in all three of her starts, striking out 20, walking six and giving up an average of just fourhits per game.
"I was hoping that our team would peak at the right time, and I think we did," said Sheridan, who will be a senior at Spalding in September. "I can't do it myself, of course, and I'm just glad the team was behind me. We had something like three errors in the whole tournament."
In Wagner's first-round victory, 2-1, over St. Louis, Sheridan allowed just three hits and a walk, striking out three.
The 17-year-old also scored the go-ahead run in the next game-- a 3-1 loss against Team Valley -- off Erika Backof's two-out first inning single. Wagner's trailed, 3-1, with two outs in the fifth inning of that game when Sheridan tripled. But the next batter, Amy Jakubowski, lined out to the shortstop, and Wagner's dropped into the loser's bracket.
Sheridan returned to the mound for the 2-0 victory over Foster Oil of Richmond, Mich., striking out 11 while yielding three hits and a walk. Jakubowski and catcher Lee Mallonee -- each 1-for-2 against Foster Oil -- contributed the decisive RBI singles in thethird inning.
Although Arizona's Caseyettes eliminated Wagner's, 1-0, Mallonee was satisfied with the improvement over last year's 0-2mark.
"I felt we could have won more if we had had more clutch hits. And it's not like we got blown out," said Mallonee, one of several players who will return next season. "I think we could have beaten any team there -- and I think everyone on our team feels that way."
She'll get no argument from mentor Tom Burns, the Wagner's co-manager with Paul Tewey.
"We came a long way, and we have half of our team coming back," said Burns, whose club finished 64-15-1 overall. "We represented ourselves very well here. Our goal is to win more gamesnext year and then return to the nationals."
More than 200 college scouts surveyed the estimated 1,200 players in attendance, including some Olympic representatives looking for 1996 games prospects.
First baseman/pitcher Stacey Matcuk appears to have a brighter future,thanks to her play in the tournament.