Centennial rebounds, stops Howard, 4-2 Hall's three-hitter helps Eagles regain confidence

March 28, 1997|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Fresh off their shutout loss to River Hill on Tuesday, the 13th-ranked Centennial Eagles looked to return to form yesterday against No. 10 Howard.

The host Eagles, however, may have gone one better.

To coach Dale Huting, a 4-2 victory over the defending regional champion Lions was just the confidence boost his team needed, heading into the meat of a tough county schedule.

"Today was a big step toward the whole season," said Huting. "I think the important thing was that we played much better than we did against River Hill. Our offense finally worked, and we made some defensive plays that we weren't capable of the other day."

Emily Hall's pitching wasn't half bad, either. She took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before finishing a complete-game three-hitter. At times, the senior overmatched Howard's hitters, ending with nine strikeouts, including five in a row early.

To Hall, the victory meant redemption for last year's loss to the Lions (3-1 overall and in the league) in the regional finals.

"We didn't want to let them come in thinking they were going to win just because they beat us last year," said Hall. "We wanted to get back at them."

After taking a 1-0 lead on Angela Strittmatter's RBI single up the middle in the second, the Eagles (3-1, 3-1) took command with a three-run third.

With Lions starter Kelly O'Neill struggling with her control, they put runners on second and third with no outs, and cleanup hitter Lauren Martin followed with a two-run single to center.

Three batters later, Centennial made it 4-0 when Neha Amin reached on an error, scoring Martin from third.

After a shaky start, O'Neill settled down -- allowing no runs on two hits the rest of the way. But the damage had been done.

The Lions, however, weren't through. In the sixth, Sarah Berg's double to deep center made it 4-2. Then in the seventh, Howard put the tying and winning runs on base before Hall got Grantham to line out to second to end the game.

For Howard coach Dave Vezzi, the fact that his team rallied from behind had some merit.

"We had a chance," said Vezzi, who said he expects the Lions to be challenged many more times before the season is out. "There are three or four real quality teams in Howard County this year. This is not going to be the only competitive game we'll have."

The rest of the schedule aside, Huting was just pleased to see his Eagles improve.

"This is a growing team, and they have a long way to go to be where they should be," said Huting. "Today felt good."

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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