Chesapeake softball coach Dennis Thiele didn't think his pitcher, junior Lori Congdon, had warmed up enough before yesterday's game at Northeast. Congdon admitted to being so nervous it affected her first inning of work.
What ensued was the most unlikely no-hitter the county has seen in some time.
Congdon retired the last 20 batters she faced and allowed only two base-runners -- both on walks -- in leading the Cougars past Northeast, 2-0, in a classic pitching duel.
The Eagles' Stacy Reynolds finished with a two-hitter, including a run-scoring single from sophomore shortstop Jaime Long in the decisive fourth inning. She struck out nine -- including the first three batters -- and walked three.
"I said in the beginning, we could be winning all our games by 30 runs, and they could be losing all their games by 30 runs, and when we play, it's going to be a tight ballgame," Thiele said.
It was scoreless until the fourth, when Tracy Starke led off with a walk and Stacey Necessary laid down a bunt in front of the plate. Northeast catcherVelvet Farrell's throw to first sailed into right field, and when the ball hopped past outfielder Jen Vickery, who was backing up on the play, Starke scored easily and Necessary advanced to third.
Becky Thiele was retired on a pop-up, but Long grounded a single up the middle to score Necessary. Chesapeake's other hit came in the seventh inning, when Michelle Manner reached on a slow roller to the left side of the infield.
Congdon (4-0), meanwhile, struck out a season-high16 batters in tossing Chesapeake's second no-hitter of the season. She combined with senior Kristin Spak on the first, a 15-0 win over Arundel on April 3.
"The way it looked to me, it looked like she didn't warm up long enough," said Thiele, whose team is 8-1. "It takes her a while to warm up, and I wanted her to do some defensive work on the field. It took her two or three innings to get into a groove, andthen she was throwing real well."
Her only trouble came in the first inning, when she issued a lead-off walk to Jen Johansen and a one-out walk to Reynolds. But she fanned Robin Konrad looking at an off-speed pitch and retired Loren Bailey on a soft liner back to the mound.
"I was pretty nervous today, with it being Northeast and a big-game rivalry," said Congdon, who threw 106 pitches and still has not given up an earned run in four outings. "I had a little trouble in the beginning, but then I just settled down and threw my game."
Her "game" included mixing speeds and pitches effectively and keeping theNortheast batters off-balance most of the afternoon.
"Her ball was moving well," said Chesapeake junior catcher Natalie Black. "We really didn't stay with one pitch consistently."
The Eagles, with Reynolds (6-3) as their only returning full-time starter, look like a more consistent team than they did in their first game, an embarrassing15-0 loss to North County. They had won five straight, and take an 8-3 record into today's game against Southern.
"They're working hard," said Eagles coach Lynn Pitonzo of her team, which is seeking its fifth straight Class 2A state championship. "The improvement has beengradual, and we've still got work to do.
"Stacy did a super job. When she keeps the ball where she wants to get it, she's on. I thought she did very well."
So did the Eagles' defense, which was guiltyof just one error, Farrell's wild throw. Farrell had a strong game otherwise, throwing out two runners trying to steal and catching two pop-ups.