3 runs in last at-bat lift Howard to 4-3 victory

Atholton takes lead in 7th, then falls on Kelly's double

Class 2A softball

May 15, 1999|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

No. 15-ranked Howard took advantage of two Atholton errors and a one-out, bases-loaded double by Rah-nee Kelly to score three times in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-3 victory over the ninth-ranked Raiders yesterday in a Class 2A South region game at Howard.

The Lions (13-6) will play 13th-ranked River Hill (15-5) Monday. The Lions, who had dropped first-round games the last two seasons, have lost six straight to the Hawks.

Atholton (17-2), which went from last place to first place this season in Howard County, sent nine batters to the plate in the top of the seventh to score three times for a 3-1 lead.

"I thought it was over," said Howard pitcher Kelly O'Neill. "They play awesome defense."

Leadoff hitter Kim Palmer started off with a sharp single to left. Then consecutive errors by shortstop Jessica McDonagh and right fielder Karen Lee loaded the bases. Sarah Berg's high chopper was fielded by third baseman Lauren Mickley, but she couldn't make a play, and Palmer scored.

Shannon Tracey's grounder resulted in a force out at home for the first out. In stepped Kelly, who hadn't hit the ball out of the infield in three previous trips.

Kelly fouled off Katie Zitnay's first pitch, then took a called strike. She fouled off another.

At 0-2, Kelly, the designated hitter, remained calm.

"I usually hit 0-2 pitches," she said.

Kelly crushed the next pitch over the center fielder's head, scoring Stacey Swiney and pinch-runner Ashley Steinrucken.

"I didn't feel the bat hit the ball. All I heard was the noise," Kelly said. "I thought at first [the center fielder] was going to catch it, but then I saw it go over her head and I said, `Yes.'

"I just felt really proud that I was able to help my team."

Atholton coach John Zitko said, "Our outfield was deep so nothing would get by them. But the ball was hit so hard."

Zitko added: "Howard did a great job, but I think the hit was one in a million. But that can happen when you stay tough in the game. Give Howard credit."

He also praised his team, which won its second county championship and first in 26 years.

"It's a learning and growing experience for the young girls on our team, and it will make us stronger next year," said Zitko, who started five freshmen yesterday. "It was a great season. I think the girls were wonderfully surprised, and it's something they can look back on for years and years."

Atholton's eighth and ninth batters, Aubrey Barrett and Karen Lee, got things started for the Raiders in the top of the seventh with a single and walk, respectively. Zitnay's slowly-hit grounder with the bases-loaded scored Barrett, and a throwing error on the play by second baseman Lindsey Hasiuk allowed Lee to score. Three batters later, Zitnay scored on O'Neill's wild pitch.

Both teams had a runner thrown out at the plate. An Atholton error in the third allowed Howard to score its first run.

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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