O'Neill pitches Howard over Long Reach, 5-0

Lions to meet McDonough for regional championship


May 20, 1999|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Howard pitcher Kelly O'Neill hasn't washed her uniform in two weeks, and she doesn't plan to do so any time soon.

O'Neill's uniform last found the wash after Long Reach beat the Lions 16 days ago. Since then, Howard has won six straight, including yesterday's 5-0 decision over visiting Long Reach in a Class 2A South region semifinal.

O'Neill's not about to change a thing. "I'm superstitious," she said.

She's also on a roll.

O'Neill followed Monday's 13-strikeout, two-hit performance in a 1-0 extra-inning win over River Hill with a one-hit, nine-strikeout showing against the Lightning. She has not allowed a run in 15 innings.

"She always goes out with intensity, but she's really focused right now," said Howard coach Dave Vezzi. "She's become a team leader and taken the other players with her."

No. 11 Howard (15-6) will play at McDonough, a 3-2 extra-inning winner yesterday at Centennial, at 4 p.m. tomorrow in the regional championship. The last time these two teams met was three years ago, when the Charles County team no-hit the Lions in a Class 3A state semifinal.

"[McDonough] is a good team, but if we keep playing the way we're playing, we're going to be a tough team to beat," said O'Neill, who reached base safely three times against the Lightning.

Centennial coach Dale Huting, whose team lost twice to Howard in the regular season, said the Lions should be in the game against McDonough, which won the Class 2A state title last year and the Class 3A state title the three previous years.

"If Howard goes and plays with maturity and uses their experience on the field, I think they really have a chance," Huting said.

Howard scored all the runs it needed against Long Reach in the first inning. The Lightning started the game with consecutive infield errors that put runners on second and third. Cather Stacey Swiney singled to right, scoring leadoff hitter Kim Palmer and pinch runner Christina Frydrych.

Two outs later, Swiney scored from third when Long Reach catcher Kristi Drew threw to second to try and get Rah-hee Kelly stealing. Kelly beat the tag and Swiney scored easily.

The Lions added a single run in the third on an RBI single by Shannon Tracy and a run in the fourth on another Lightning error.

Long Reach (12-9) played the game without coach Chuck Struhar, who left quickly yesterday morning to be with his mother, during surgery in Pittsburgh. JV coach Dale Harriman took over, but Struhar's absence hurt the Lightning.

"It made a huge impact," said Long Reach second baseman Rachel Jordan, whose team beat Howard twice in the regular season.

"Mr. Struhar would have been there yelling," said Long Reach pitcher Kristen Schaper, who struck out seven and walked one. "He would have had us in the game more then we were.

"Kelly pitched a very good game and I give her credit," Schaper continued, "but I don't think we played up to our expectations and capabilities."

Added Jordan; "We hit [O'Neill] her during the season and then in the playoffs, when it counts, we don't come through. It's frustrating."

But O'Neill and her teammates have been a different team in the playoffs. After going 12-6 in the regular season, the Lions disposed of county champion Atholton, then beat River Hill, a team they had lost to six straight times.

"The regular season was disappointing," O'Neill said. "We definitely want to get something out of our senior year. I'm just trying to throw the best I can."

McDonough 3, Centennial 2 (8 inn.) -- Visiting McDonough (14-8) scored twice in the first extra inning without a hit to beat Centennial (10-11). The Eagles scored a run in the first inning when Jenn Roberts tripled and scored on Laura Angle's groundout. McDonough tied the game in the fourth.

In the eighth inning, McDonough used two bunts and a Centennial double play to score its runs. The Eagles, playing in their fourth extra-inning game this season, scored when Kim Paulus singled home Roberts.

Centennial coach Dale Huting, in his 13th season, was proud of his team's effort.

"In all the years of coaching, this team has come farther than any other in terms of developing," Huting said. "It just has a little ways to go. I'm really pleased. I just hope the girls realize how well they did."

Northeast 5, Wilde Lake 0: The top-ranked Anne Arundel County team (21-2) used a four-run fourth inning to beat the visiting Wildecats (15-5) in a Class 3A East region semifinal.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.