How desperate was Institute of Notre Dame softball coach Jerry Hahn to beat Archbishop Spalding in yesterday's Catholic League Tournament final?
So desperate that he sat down his best pitcher, junior Christa Engleman (10-3) in favor of a senior who hadn't started a game on the mound in three years.
Hahn's theory that light-throwing Chris Gallup would hinder Spalding's timing at the plate backfired. The Cavaliers scored seven runs during Gallup's 1 2/3 innings of work, and even the insertion of windmilling Engleman couldn't stop the bleeding.
"I guess they were trying to throw us off, but we really jumped on her," said Spalding second baseman Amy Councilman, who went 4-for-4 with three runs scored in the Cavaliers' 9-3 victory at McDonogh School.
"It warmed us up for Christa, and then when she came in, it didn't hurt us at all. We were right on both of them the whole game."
Spalding, winner of three straight championships, had five hits off each pitcher and took advantage of eight IND errors.
"We tried to do something a little bit different there," said Hahn, whose team had lost to Spalding, 10-0 and 5-1, during the regular season. "We thought it would just shake up our team a little more, and it probably did. It probably backfired."
Spalding coach Jim Nemeth said, "We've had problems in the past with some extremely bad junk pitchers, but I don't quite understand this. Christa's a real good pitcher. That's their bread and butter."
Councilman led off the first inning with a single to left, and Spalding (16-3) followed with a succession of bunts that scored three runs.
The Cavaliers notched two more runs in the second inning in similar fashion. Michelle Chin reached on a one-out single, stole second, moved to third on an error and scored on a Councilman bunt single. After another error put runners at the corners, Carrie Lycett dropped a bunt that IND catcher Diana Hargis fielded and threw to first, with Councilman scoring.
In both innings, the runner on third didn't break for home until Hargis had released the ball.
"It's a basic situation. We'll do that as long as we can keep getting runs out of it," Nemeth said.
Spalding pitcher Kim Sheridan provided two other runs in the second inning with a long home run to center field, extending the lead to 7-1. She allowed two runs in the top of the third on two hits and two errors, but blanked the Indians (14-5) the rest of the way.
Sheridan (13-3) ended her storied career at Spalding in less-than-dominant fashion, giving up seven hits and her seventh walk of the season. But she wasn't anticipating an easy day, even with two wins over IND already in the books.
"I knew they were going to be a good-hitting team, and I knew they were going to be prepared," said Sheridan, who fanned 10 batters. "They were legitimate hits. I think they were ready."
Nemeth said, "We expected a good game. They came out and made good contact. That's the best offensive performance a Catholic League team has had against us in my two seasons. They made it interesting."
Spalding scored its last two runs in the fourth inning, beginning with a Councilman infield hit. Two errors on one play put runners on second and third, and another miscue on a ball hit by Lycett allowed Councilman to cross the plate.
IND stranded a runner in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh. Sheridan ended the game by getting Mary Burns on a called third strike.
After the last out was recorded, Spalding's players casually walked off the field, minus the exuberant celebration that normally accompanies a championship.
"It wasn't so much that we expected to win, but we had confidence in ourselves," Sheridan said. "It wasn't being cocky, it was confidence.
"Inside, I know we're all excited."
And a little on the outside, too. Nemeth received the traditional ice-water shower as he walked to the bench to round up his players for the bus ride back to Spalding.