Unranked IND puts N. Carroll on ice, 5-2

Excelling in cold weather, Gray strikes out 13 batters


March 28, 2002|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Set to hit the road for a tournament in balmy Myrtle Beach, S.C., next week, the Institute of Notre Dame softball team yesterday continued its even more torrid early season play.

Sophomore Ashley Gray allowed three hits and - for the third straight game - no earned runs, striking out 13 in a 5-2 victory over No. 14 North Carroll.

The win improved visiting IND to 3-0, including two victories over Top 15 opponents. On Monday, the Baltimore team upended No. 7 Severna Park, 2-1.

"This is a team that has a lot of talent coming off of last year," said Greg Ehrman, coach of the unranked Indians. "The kids really wanted to make a statement."

Despite frigid temperatures and gusty winds, IND did just that, with a little help from the Panthers' infield.

The Indians scored five unearned runs in the second and third innings, taking advantage of seven errors by an infield consisting of four sophomores.

The game-breaker came in the third, when three straight errors with none out opened the door for a four-run inning. Sarah Grabenstein drove in a run on a groundout and Lindsay Lowder, who had two RBIs on the day, brought home another on an infield single.

"I guess what it came down to was our bad inning was worse than their bad inning," said North Carroll coach Lloyd Ford, whose team scored a pair of unearned runs in the sixth. "Can I expect a mistake here and there? Sure. Five in one inning? I'd never expect that."

The Panthers (0-1) also weren't expecting the dominant pitching performance of Gray, a transfer from Northeast with a repertoire of five strong pitches, including a fastball clocked in the low 60s.

Gray struck out the side in order twice and didn't allow a hit until consecutive singles by Ashley Martin and Lisa Worden with two outs in the fourth. She then got out of the jam by retiring Ashley Denbliss on a comebacker.

"We were facing a quality pitcher - obviously the best we've seen so far," Ford said. "With the scrimmages we've had, we haven't seen anything close to that."

"My fastball and my changeup, mainly, were working really good today," said Gray, who didn't show the effects of the cold temperatures. "After you hit the ball it numbs your hands, and it makes it harder to pitch."

For IND, which started four sophomores and two freshmen, the uncomfortable day served to heighten the expectations for next week's South Carolina trip, which will include the Azalea Tournament, not to mention a stop at the beach.

So far this season, however, cold weather has been the Indians' friend.

"This is the third game we've played in the same kind of conditions," Ehrman said. "We do a good job not letting things bother us."

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