For Old Mill's softball team, more was on the line against North County than just yesterday's 6-3 triumph over its Bay Division rivals.
For a lengthy commentary on that incentive, one needed only to consult the Patriots' battery after the game.
"(Prophet Pat) said in the paper that we'd be lucky to score any runs, let alone get any hits. He said we'd score little if any runs against her," said junior catcher Lori Lynch, referring to the Knights' windmiller Karen Hay, who was coming off of her fifth straight shutout, 10-0, over Queen Anne's.
Both teams entered the game unbeaten-- North County, 9-0, and Old Mill, 5-0 -- but the Knights were top-ranked in the metro area, while the Patriots were ranked No. 4.
And Lynch and Old Mill hurler Jen Bostak felt their team was underrated, taking exception to pre-game reports that in a pitching duel the Knights would have a decisive edge.
"It seemed like it would come down to (a pitcher's duel)," said Bostak, a senior who scattered eight hits while striking out six with two walks. "But in the end, it was our defense."
Until the seventh inning yesterday, Hay had scatteredfour hits in a game that had been tied at 2-2 since the third.
But the Knights (6-1 in the division) fell apart in the seventh, committing three errors and succumbing to the Patriots' four-hit outburst.
The Knights' downfall began after one out, when freshman shortstopT. C. Horney bobbled a shot by Karen Jacobson, allowing Jacobson to reach first. Then Lynch singled to left center before both she and pinch runner Tracy Kaszuba advanced on a wild pitch.
Both runners scored to make it, 4-2, when the Patriots' Jen Schmittle smacked a low shot between the legs of second baseman Cheryl Thomshack.
Schmittle later scored from second on a single by Christine Baer, who also scored after consecutive singles by Bostak and Sarah Storrs.
North County got another run -- against Schmittle, who pitched the last inning in relief -- when Leann Jones, pinch running for catcher Lisa Garrison who singled, came home on an error. But the Knights left two runners on as Bostak whiffed the last batter swinging for the game's final out.
"I figured it would be a 3-2 game, but losing (yesterday) wasn't as bad as it might have felt in the past," said Hay, a returning second-team All-County hurler who stuck out 11 batters and walked three. "Before, all of the pressure was on me. Today, I felt (the blame) was spread out."
The Knights had taken a 2-0 second-inning lead on RBI singles by Nicki Faulkner (11 RBI on the year) and Garrison,but Old Mill (4-0 division) came right back to tie it in the third.
Lynch walked and scored on Schmittle's triple before Schmittle capitalized on a wild pitch for the tying run.
Schmittle was in only her third game of the year after being hit in the left eye by a ball in practice.
North County failed to score in the first inning withonly one out and the bases loaded as Hay hit into a fielder's choiceand Bostak struck out Tonya Kolodziejski, the Knights' third-leadinghitter at .450 coming in the game.