Freshman's one-hitter gets Cavs another title

Spalding tops Gators, 2-0, for eighth crown in 1990s

Catholic League softball

May 15, 1999|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Archbishop Spalding closed out a decade of excellence in the Catholic League yesterday, and Jessica Saunders appeared poised to help the No. 4-ranked Cavaliers continue the domination into the next one.

Saunders, a freshman, threw a one-hit, 2-0 shutout yesterday against No. 10 Seton Keough as the Cavaliers captured their eighth Catholic League tournament championship of the 1990s to go with 10 straight regular-season crowns.

The Cavaliers (21-7) scratched across single runs in the second and third innings at Towson University, more than enough support for Saunders, who struck out 10 and didn't allow a hit until Keough pitcher Kristin Dulay singled between third and short in the sixth.

"I was nervous coming out, but after I got one or two innings under my belt, I felt comfortable," said Saunders. "I also got some real good defense behind me."

Saunders, relying mostly on her fastball but also mixing in a drop-curve and changeup, did have to work her way out two jams because of walking five.

The Gators (14-6) put two runners on base in the second and fourth innings, but Saunders got the last outs as needed.

"She's amazing," said Seton keough coach Chris Ashby. "She's a freshman with a lot of heart, and she came right at us. She's about as fast as they come and someone we'll have to reckon with the next three years."

Dulay, who transferred from Spalding this school year, also pitched well, allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts.

The Cavaliers took a 1-0 lead in the second when senior shortstop Sabrina Ryals walked with the bases loaded. In the third, the Cavaliers made it 2-0 with the help of Keough's only error and a wild pitch.

Saunders and flawless Cavaliers defense handled the rest. Ryals made a diving catch of a pop-up behind the mound in the third, and second baseman Julie Bahus ended the Gators' fourth-inning rally with a nice play on a ground ball that deflected off Saunders' glove.

"We wanted to stay at one level," said Ryals, an All-Metro performer. "The big thing is the defense. If we make the plays, we know we'll get the runs. We worked really hard this season, and this is a good way to go out."

The Gators, who have improved steadily in each of Ashby's four seasons as coach, also were pleased about how they went out, going 15-4 in the league and knocking off defending champ Mount de Sales in a tournament semifinal.

They reached the tournament final for only the second time in program history, and with a lot of talent returning, Ashby expects more visits.

"This was a great team effort this season. They worked hard all year," he said. "We're real excited about the future. We're only losing one starter, and there's a lot to work with coming up from the JV."

After being upset by Mount de Sales in last year's championship game, the Cavaliers returned, in a sense, to normal with yesterday's win.

"They all feel good. But after last year, this one feels real good," said Spalding coach Linda Taylor. "There were some moments Jessica was struggling a bit. But she fought through it, and I'm proud of her. Sabrina's diving catch also lifted the team and set the tone the rest of the way defensively."

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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