Northeast captures East crown, 2-0

Benner shuts out Northern, Thom. Stone next in states

Class 3A softball

May 23, 1999|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

OWINGS -- Yesterday was senior Deana Benner's turn to provide the dominating pitching. The offense came with a single-filled rally in the fourth inning, and the defensive gem came later in the sixth.

Collectively, No. 1-ranked Northeast turned back Northern-Calvert, 2-0, in the Class 3A East region final, taking a giant step in their try at a ninth state title.

The Eagles (22-2) moved on to the state semifinals at Randazzo Park, where they will meet South region champ Thomas Stone, of Charles County, at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

And while the Eagles completed a trifecta of sorts yesterday with a balanced attack and solid defense making up two of the components, the third -- Benner's three-hit effort on the mound -- was the big winner.

With her curves and fastballs finding the outside corner and occasionally mixing in screwballs and changes, Benner retired 12 straight at one point, striking out the side in the second and finishing with 11 strikeouts.

"To beat our team, you have to have a dominating performance, and Deana came up with one today," said Northern coach Mike Johnson, whose Patriots closed out their season with a 19-2 mark. "We've seen that kind of speed this season, but what impressed me most was how she changed speeds at certain times."

Five singles in the top of the fourth punched across the Eagles' two runs. Benner got the inning started by lining one to center. Amanda Shifflett ripped another to left field.

One out later, Erin Hart hit up the middle to score one, and Melissa Rode made it 2-0 with a liner to left.

The Panthers tried to answer in the sixth with Lisa Boone and Aimee Mason starting the inning with singles. But with one out, Eagles center fielder Renee Mrowczynski ended the threat, snaring a liner from Katie Radford and throwing out Boone trying to advance to third.

Benner retired the Patriots in order in the seventh.

This was the second year the Eagles have brought the former Class 4A-bully Patriots, winners of four state titles in that classification, down to size. Last season, the Eagles won, 2-1, in an early game before being upset in the next round by Patuxent-Calvert.

"This feels so good," said Benner. "We knew they wanted us bad, so we kept on fighting. I just tried to keep them off-balance with a lot of heat outside. They weren't hitting it, so I kept at it. We're really starting to play well."

Benner and All-Metro pitcher Stacy Smith, a senior, were out of the lineup at the start of the season, enabling others to step up. But as the Eagles head for Randazzo Park, everyone is healthy and the team is playing well.

"When you play a quality team like Northern, you have to rise to the occasion, and we did that," said Northeast coach Marianne Shultz. "You try to improve as you go. It's all coming together at a wonderful time."

Pub Date: 5/23/99

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