North Carroll pitcher Kandi Lippy said her team was ready to win yesterday. Teammate Jill Ballard said the Panthers wanted a victory badly, and coach Rich Harvey described his team as "focused."
Walkersville probably won't argue with any of those descriptions.
Lippy threw a four-hitter, and No. 13 North Carroll repeatedly came through in the clutch in the field and at the plate for a 4-0 victory over visiting Walkersville in the Class 2A West region final.
This is the second region title in the past three years for North Carroll (14-5), and the Panthers advance to the Class 2A state semifinals on Tuesday against an opponent to be determined.
For second-seeded North Carroll, this victory bore a striking resemblance to its 4-1 decision over third-seeded Middletown on Friday.
Lippy allowed two balls out of the infield yesterday; Middletown hit just three balls out of the infield. Each North Carroll run was unearned on Friday, and yesterday the Panthers took advantage of wild pitches, passed balls and errors to score three times.
"We chipped away; we got a few runs," said Harvey. "We capitalized on the mistakes."
The Panthers scored two runs apiece in the third and fifth. Kathleen Tunney scored from second on a wild pitch with Becky Bosley up for a 1-0 lead with one out in the third.
Bosley walked and scored on a Ballard single.
In the fifth, Jocelyn Bredenburg walked and later came in on a throwing error. Bosley reached on that play and scored on Lippy's single for a 4-0 lead.
"We were not as sharp defensively as we have been," said Walkersville coach Dave Schrodel. "When you face a pitcher like [Lippy], you have to play perfect defense, and we didn't."
Lippy (2-for-3, one RBI) allowed fourth-seeded Walkersville (16-4) almost nothing. The Lions came up with four singles -- including two infield hits -- but North Carroll kept the Lions quiet with a number of tough defensive plays.
Third baseman Jen Rongione stopped a two-on, one-out rally in the first with back-to-back good plays. Catcher Bosley threw out a runner trying to steal third in the fourth inning. Lippy started a double play to end the sixth.
"For some of us, it's our last year and we really wanted to win," said Ballard (2-for-3, one RBI). "We know if we lose, we're out of it."
Harvey said North Carroll may be coming together at the right time.
Errors caused the Panthers problems during the season, as three of the team's five losses came on errors in the final inning.
But the Panthers were perfect in the field against Middletown and made two meaningless errors against Walkersville -- something that delighted Harvey.
"It puts a smile on my face," said Harvey. "We've got to keep it going."