Howard pitcher Kelly O'Neill told herself to concentrate. Yes, the home plate umpire had just kicked her grandfather from the stands and told him to leave the area, but she had problems, too. Visiting Wilde Lake already had scored twice in the top of the third, and had the bases loaded and one out.
"My job is to pitch," said O'Neill, whose grandfather, Tom O'Neill, had questioned the umpire's ball-and-strike calls. "What happened [with her grandfather] is not my responsibility."
O'Neill got the next two outs on strikeouts, then turned the game around with her bat. She gave Howard the lead for good with a bases-empty homer in the fifth, then hit a two-run blast in the sixth to lead the 11th-ranked Lions over the 12th-ranked Wildecats, 10-5.
"I hit those home runs for him [her grandfather]," said O'Neill. "He's always been so supportive of me and comes to watch me play, and I wanted to make him proud."
O'Neill almost had three homers. In the first inning, when Howard (7-2) sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs, O'Neill hit a two-run triple over the right fielder. Wilde Lake first baseman Jessica Seldomridge was in the base path and O'Neill ran into her and was slowed down.
"I really believe she would have had another one had she not run into the first baseman," said Howard coach Dave Vezzi.
Wilde Lake (6-3) tied the game in the third at 5-all, sending nine hitters to the plate and taking advantage of two errors to score three runs.
O'Neill was facing Sara Taliano with the bases loaded and one out when her grandfather was told to leave the game or the Lions would have to forfeit. As Tom O'Neill headed off to the parking lot beyond left field, Kelly O'Neill struck Taliano out. O'Neill walked Shannon Fitchett on a 3-2 pitch, forcing in a run, then struck out Erin Kaiser to end the inning.
The game quieted down until the bottom of the fifth. O'Neill led off and hit Jen Babish's first pitch into the right-center alley. She had touched home before the ball came back into the infield.
"The first pitch is usually the best one," said O'Neill. "The pitcher is trying to get ahead of the hitter."
Howard added four more runs in the six -- two on an infield single by Stacey Swiney, who also had a double and triple, and two on O'Neill's homer to center. Again, O'Neill hit Babish's first pitch.
No. 9 Glenelg 5, No. 14 Centennial 2: Shana Wyant struck out six to lead the Gladiators (7-2) over the host Eagles (6-3).
Pub Date: 4/08/98