Atholton pays price for errors

May 28, 1994|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Special to The Sun

Atholton had hoped to become the first Howard County team to claim a state softball title, taking the field against Class 2A top-seed Damascus nearly three hours before Mount Hebron would take a swing at the Class 3A crown.

Atholton's seven defensive errors and critical mental lapses on the base paths, combined with two Damascus home runs, ruined the sixth-ranked Raiders' plan as the Hornets (17-3) of Montgomery County won the 2A championship, 6-1, yesterday at Randazzo Park.

For Damascus, making its fourth straight trip to the Class 2A finals, it was the second title in three years for coach Barb King (96-13 in six years).

Atholton starting pitcher Kim Ruprecht (17-7) took the loss. The Raiders junior allowed five hits and one walk and struck out 11 Damascus batters in six innings, including six of the final eight Hornets hitters.

"It was our worse game all year," said Atholton coach Dave Vitagliano of Atholton's first championship appearance. "Was it nerves? Who knows. Certainly Damascus hit the ball a long way a couple times."

Damascus senior outfielder Heather Templeton, who came into the game with a .524 batting average, did much of the damage by going 3-for-3 with two RBIs on a first-inning home run.

Damascus grabbed a 4-0 lead after two innings by taking advantage of Atholton miscues. After retiring the first two Hornets batters in the first inning, Ruprecht issued a walk to junior Christine Trunnell. Templeton followed with a deep blast to center field, freezing senior outfielder Lisa Murphy in her tracks, as the ball sailed over the Raiders center fielder's head for a two-run home run.

"At first, I wasn't playing deep until I noticed how hard they were hitting the ball," said Murphy, who extended her hitting streak to 18 games with a first-inning single.

Damascus scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning on a triple by senior Melissa Bailey and a passed ball.

With one out and Damascus sophomore Melanie Tyler on second base, sophomore Michele Dick popped out to Raiders senior first baseman Stacie Vollentine. Tyler, believing there were two outs, had headed to third on the play, the base she eventually ended up at when Vollentine's throw to second sailed into center. Tyler later scored the fourth run on a wild pitch.

Damascus increased the lead to 5-0 in the third on junior Christine Trunnell's bases-empty home run to center that just escaped the reach of Murphy. The Hornets added a run in the fourth on four Atholton infield errors sandwiched around a single by Dick.

Atholton scored its lone run in the fifth. Nikki Blankenship led off with a stand-up triple and scored on Shannon Eierman's sacrifice fly to center.

Trunnell, Damascus' junior pitcher who came into the game with an ERA under 0.50, retired the final eight Atholton batters to gain the victory.

"We never expected the kids to get this far," King said. "I know this time I was much more relaxed than when Marci Whitehead was here pitching for us. We were expected to win then."

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