After Mount Hebron pitcher Jenny Joyce retired Atholton in order in the bottom of the eighth inning to preserve a 7-6 victory, her Vikings teammates sprinted to the middle infield to celebrate the critical victory with the Vikings' ace pitcher.
Finally, Mount Hebron had knocked off one of the county's Big Three.
While Mount Hebron compiled an 8-0 record this spring against the bottom half of the county teams, the Vikings entered yesterday 0-for-5 against the county's top three teams: Glenelg, Centennial and the host Raiders (13-6, 9-4).
"We needed this win to give us confidence and because people underestimate how good we are," said Joyce, who improved to 11-6.
"The bats came around when we needed them," said Mount Hebron coach Eric Aronowsky. "We finally got the clutch hits."
Mount Hebron's victory all but assures the Vikings of a spot in the Class 3A playoffs, with Aronowsky hoping for a win over Howard High today to clinch. Atholton, with its remote hopes of sharing a county title with Glenelg dashed by the loss, finishes up against Oakland Mills today with a 1-0 lead in the second.
"We pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact Glenelg had clinched the title, but we were shooting to go 11-3 in the county," Atholton coach Dave Vitagliano said. "It's tough playing against a team playing for their whole season."
Twice Mount Hebron rallied yesterday , once to take the lead in a four-run fifth inning and then in the top of the seventh for a run to tie the game at 6-6.
In the decisive eighth, Mount Hebron's Becky Miller lined a one-out double down the right-field line. Because Miller is nursing a sore right hamstring, Aronowsky momentarily contemplated a pinch runner.
"I thought about that, but Becky's a tough kid with a good head on the bases," said Aronowsky. .
The Vikings' Heather Cole delivered the game-winning RBI, singling off Atholton senior second baseman Stacey Williams' glove. Miller barely beat Williams' throw to the plate, sliding under the tag of Raiders catcher Nicole Blankenship.
"I was more impressed with my being able to leg out a double than with sliding home with the run," Miller said. "My coach kept asking how my leg was and I kept telling him it was fine, all the while faking how much it hurts."