Chesapeake's softball players might not have believed what was going on for the first 5 1/2 innings of yesterday's Class 4A Region IV semifinal with Arundel, but Coach Dennis Thiele did.
After pummeling the Wildcats, 15-0, in their April 3 regular-season contest, the top-seeded Cougars (16-1) found themselves in a 0-0 tie against the fourth-seeded upstarts (11-8) in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The regular-season champs then put together their only multiple-hit inning of the afternoon against Wildcat hurler Traci Koenig, scoring all of their runs to salt away a 6-0 victory.
"We've been doing it like this all season long, scoring a bunch of runs at one time," said Thiele, whose team will play host to second-seeded North County (18-3), a 3-1 winner over Old Mill (16-4) in the other semifinal, at 1 p.m. tomorrow.
"I knew that they could hang in there like they did. I just couldn't get my team to believe it. We beat them the first time 15-0. But you're dealing with young kids. But as a coach, you know all of the pitfalls that could come along and make the team overconfident."
After leaving runners stranded on third in the first and third innings, the two-time defending state champs finally began to find holes in the Arundel defense.
With Becky Thiele on second and one out, Natalie Black doubled past shortstop Virginia Gonski, moving Thiele to third. Michelle Manner than reached first on a fielder's choice, loading the bases.
Kristin Spak blooped a single into shallow right field to score Thiele. Pinch hitter Michelle Arch knocked Black in on a fielder's choice, followed by Nancy Yeager's RBI single, bringing in Manner.
Yeager's single loaded the bases once more, bringing up Tracy Starke. The junior right fielder crunched her second triple of the day in four at-bats, knocking in pinch runner Melissa Wagner, Arch and Yeager.
"I'm glad we didn't wait until the seventh inning. We always like to win the hard way," said Starke. "We were kind of frustrated for a while, but then when things started going our way, we started to play our kind of ball. We sat back, relaxed up at the plate, and we started hitting."
Thiele said, "Because of the spin that Koenig was putting on the ball, we were just popping it up and not adjusting. They started to adjust a little later on, and that's when we started hitting the ball hard and on the ground and making things happen."
Winning pitcher Lori Congdon tossed a no-hitter, striking out eight batters. The hosts allowed just one base runner -- Tara Beauchemin -- who reached first on first baseman Mary Caldwell mishandling of Congdon's high throw.
Beauchemin promptly was doubled up when Amanda Hall inadvertently fouled a bunt attempt into the waiting glove of Black, who fired to Caldwell to end the inning.
"We had them on the ropes. Traci was keeping them off guard," said Arundel coach Don Banks. "I'm proud of the way we played. I think they showed that they are a playoff-caliber team.
"I think we came out relaxed, and we played a very good game. We just had one really bad inning. We didn't get the breaks, but they [Chesapeake] did. They finally started hitting the ball, and then everything started snowballing from there."
Thiele thinks his team will be up for what should be a donnybrook against the Knights, 2-0 winners in an April 1 meeting.
"I'm happy to be in the situation I'm in. We're playing right here and it doesn't matter who we play," he said. "People are coming out to get us. We've been on top for a long time, and I'm sure others think that it's time for a changing of the guard, but here at Chesapeake we don't."