Spalding's Saunders sharp in shutout

Freshman uses 81 pitches, fires Cavs to 1-0, 1-hit win over Mount de Sales

April 27, 1999|By Mark Hoeflich | Mark Hoeflich,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Spalding Cavaliers are maturing. Yesterday's game against Mount de Sales was proof of that.

The Cavaliers replaced last season's veteran group with a youthful cast that includes five freshmen this season, and several chipped in to steer No. 4-ranked Spalding (13-3, 10-1) to a 1-0 win over the No. 8 Sailors in a Catholic League game at the Catonsville Senior Center.

Most impressive was the way freshman pitcher Jessica Saunders plowed through the Sailors' lineup. She allowed only one hit and struck out 12 in recording her fourth win of the season.

Moreover, Saunders has thrown 31 consecutive scoreless innings and showed she can be the marquee player the Cavaliers need with Sabrina Ryals sidelined with a strained knee.

"There's so many good things about Jessica and you learn more about her every day," said Spalding coach Linda Taylor. "She just bears down and does her job and we have a lot of confidence in her."

Saunders retired the first 10 batters -- at one time striking out seven of eight Sailors -- and she carried a perfect game into the fourth before a one-out walk to pitcher Christy Urban. Mount de Sales' only hit was Brittany Sutherland's single in the fifth.

"I just tried to do the best that I could and hoped for the best," said Saunders, who needed only 81 pitches for her third complete-game victory. "I didn't have my changeup but I stuck with it. I'm feeling pretty good about my effort."

"We just didn't put the ball in play and their pitcher deserved to win when you strike out that many batters," said Sailors coach Pete Waskiewicz.

Saunders also received some help from her young fielders.

Freshman shortstop Sara Merkl had three putouts, including a nice play on a ground ball in the hole in the seventh to retire April Riggins for the final out of the game. And sophomore right fielder Kristen Marll made a fine running catch of a line drive for the first out in the same inning.

Urban gave the Sailors (11-5, 9-2) another powerful performance, giving up just four hits, but two came in the first inning and that proved to be the difference for Spalding.

Bridgette LaPorte's double down the third-base line, scored Merkl with the game's only run. Merkl had singled with one out in the first.

"I've played three years in other leagues with their pitcher so I kind of knew how she threw," LaPorte said, "and she threw a pitch right down the middle and I got it."

Said Urban, "I wanted to come out strong but I guess I didn't start moving the ball soon enough. In the first inning, my pitches were in the zone and they hit them."

Mount de Sales' best scoring chances came in the fourth and fifth innings, when the Sailors put a runner at third, but Saunders ended both threats with strikeouts.

Pub Date: 4/27/99

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