O'Neill throws Lions to 1-0 victory

Pitcher helps Howard stop River Hill in 8 innings

May 18, 1999|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Howard came into yesterday's Class 2A South region quarterfinal at River Hill with a six-game losing streak against the Hawks. Senior right-hander Kelly O'Neill made sure it didn't continue, striking out half the batters she faced in the extra-inning game.

O'Neill allowed two singles and struck out 13, and the 11th-ranked Lions got a run in the top of the eighth, to edge the 13th-ranked Hawks, 1-0.

Howard (14-6) will play host to Long Reach tomorrow in a semifinal game. The Lightning (12-8) no-hit Central, 14-0, behind Kristen Schaper and Kathy Drew.

O'Neill, who was sidelined briefly last month because of tendinitis in her right forearm, stuck out five of the first six batters she face, struck out the side twice and ended the game with two strikeouts.

"That's the best game Kelly's ever pitched for Howard," said coach Dave Vezzi of O'Neill, a three-year varsity starter. "She had great location and changed speeds effectively."

Said Howard catcher Stacey Swiney: "She was definitely on top of her game. She was hitting the corners, her change-up was working well and she was very consistent."

River Hill sophomore pitcher Shannon Jackson, who has improved tremendously from her early wildness at the start of the season, also was very sharp. She limited the Lions to a single in the first and seventh innings, walked three (one intentionally) and struck out six.

Each team begins the extra inning with a runner on second base.

Howard, which stranded runners on second and third in the seventh inning, started the eighth with Beth Myers at second. She moved to third on Lindsey Hasiuk's sacrifice bunt.

Leadoff hitter Kim Palmer hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Amanda Bile, who misplayed the ball and Myers scored. O'Neill sacrificed Palmer to second, and River Hill intentionally walked Swiney. Sarah Berg lined out to center field to end the inning.

River Hill started the bottom of the eighth with Kelli Myers at second. Lisa Humphrey never looked to bunt, and advanced Myers to third on a ground out to second base. Freshman Robin Smith pinch hit, and, after fouling off a bunt try, fell behind 0-2. She struck out on a change up. Tara Fadrowski struck out on three pitches to end the game.

The 5-foot-8 O'Neill simply was overpowering.

"She was outstanding. She was pumped," said River Hill coach Dave Vitagliano. "She threw hard from the first inning on. That's the hardest I've seen her throw in a long time."

River Hill (15-6) has used the bunt effectively this season, but yesterday the Hawks couldn't buy one. River Hill got leadoff singles in the third and fourth innings, but failed to bunt them over.

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