The Northeast softball team has made steady improvement since late March, but it took the fifth inning of yesterday's game at North County for coach Lynn Pitonzo to see just how far her Eagles have come.
With Northeast clinging to a 1-0 lead, the Knights loaded the bases with no outs after two errors and a fielder's choice grounder. But North County's Tonya Kolodziejski hit a sharp bouncer to third baseman Shannon McCausey, who threw home to start a 5-2-3 double play, and Lisa Garrison grounded out to McCausey to end the inning.
"Seeing that, I knew they had matured," Pitonzo said.
The Eagles added another run in the sixth and held on for a 2-1 victory, avenging a 15-0 loss to North County in the season-opener on March 25.
"I was so nervous, my stomach felt like I was going to get sick," said winning pitcher Stacy Reynolds (9-3), who gave up eight hits, struck out seven and didn't walk a batter.
"I knew that we could do it, though. We've changed so much since the first game. We've been working so hard, and we wanted this game so bad."
The Eagles (11-3 overall, 7-1 in the Bay Division) scored a run in the fourth inning on singles by Reynolds and Jen Vickery and an error. They loaded the bases in the sixth on singles by Reynolds, Robin Konrad and Vickery before scoring another unearned run on a Karen Hay wild pitch.
Hay (8-2) struck out the last two batters of the inning. She finished with a six-hitter, striking out seven and walking none.
"I feel sorry forher," North County coach Sue Fitchett said of Hay, who has given up just two earned runs all season. "She's the one who gets the print, saying she lost it. North County lost it. It's not just her."
The Knights (12-3 and 6-1), ranked second behind Old Mill in the metro area, cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth on a Tina Armstrongsingle and stolen base and a Brandy Weidner single to right. Weidnerentered the game in the second after Kristie Rhinehart was struck inthe right eye by a foul tip.
Cheryl Tomshack later singled to putrunners on first and second with two outs, but Reynolds fanned T. C.Horney to end the inning. Garrison singled with two outs in the seventh before Reynolds retired Armstrong on a fly ball to center.
Butthe game may have been decided in the fifth inning, when a Northeastdefense that had committed three errors was able to stiffen, starting with the double play.
"I told Loren (Bailey), our first baseman,'It's going to go home and come right back to you, so be ready,' " said Farrell, who threw out a runner trying to steal and made a nice catch of a foul pop -- both in the second inning.
North County put at least one runner on base in every inning, but Reynolds managed to wiggle off the hook most of the time.
"She wasn't as relaxed todayas she has been," said Pitonzo. "Not all of her pitches were working, and she was relying a lot on different pitches. But that happens."
Fitchett isn't sure what has happened to her team since it lost its first game, 6-3, to Old Mill on April 13.
"We haven't been the same. This isn't the same team," she said. "Errors are killing us, andwe're missing signs. We're not showing maturity, we're not showing experience. It's like two different teams.
"Some of the kids are experienced players, and errors should not be happening. I said, 'I think that you just think that with Karen pitching, it's going to be a breeze. And it's not going to be that way.' "
Northeast made sure it wouldn't be that way again yesterday.