The Jade Garden Bandits -- sparked by the play of three North County High graduates -- had to get defensive to qualify for the women's softball nationals last weekend.
The Bandits (30-17), who placed third in the Chalfont, Pa., tournament, earned the right to play in the Aug. 4-9 Amateur Softball Association's fast-pitch nationals in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Former Knight Tina Armstrong, a two-time first-team All-Metro selection, executed a double-play in the berth-clinching, 5-4, extra-inning victory over the Allentown Stars. The triumph raised the Bandits' record to 5-1 before a 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Shilos in their final game.
The winning run against Allentown was scored by another North County graduate, Cheryl Thomshack, who also notched the game-winner in the Bandits' second game, a 2-1 win over the Pennsbury Panthers. Thomshack played well defensively before being used as a pinch runner.
And a third one-time member of the Knights, outfielder Kristie Rhinehart, produced four game-saving catches.
"Our defense went beyond itself and our hitting, which hadn't been too good lately, was just much better than expected," said Jade Garden coach Bill Shevock, whose Bandits led Allentown, 2-0, but had to overcome a 3-2 deficit and a 4-4 tie to win.
Shevock's pitchers were Carol Ewan (3-1, 0.75 ERA) and Chesapeake graduate Kristin Spak (2-1, 0.35 ERA). Ewan fanned 34 batters in 28 innings, compared with 10 in 20 innings for Spak.
Archbishop Spalding grad Kerri Endler, who will enter her sophomore season at Mary Washington College, hurled part of the tournament-opening 9-2 victory over the Philadelphia Spirit and led the Bandits with five RBI.
Also playing well were Old Mill grads Jen Bostak (.476, three RBI, one home run) and Jen Schmittle (.348, four RBI, one home run), Severna Park's Chris Winters (.444, three RBI), Armstrong (.300, two RBI), and Arundel's Heather Daffin (.287, three RBI).
Jade Garden, which will play in this weekend's Blue-Gray Classic in Bristol, Pa., placed third in the state tourney earlier this month, but failed to place in the regional tournament two weeks ago.
"We lost to the eventual regional champion, 1-0, in the first round," said Shevock. "This was our second-to-last chance to qualify and we took full advantage of it."