River Hill nips Atholton, 2-1

Smith twins pull off game-saving play in 8th to defeat No. 2 Raiders

Softball

High Schools

April 30, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

As River Hill pitcher Kelly Smith can attest, there are few things better than a catcher who can bail you out of tight spots.

Unless, of course, the catcher saving the day just so happens to be your twin sister.

With Atholton and River Hill tied at 1 in the eighth inning yesterday, Kelly Smith uncorked a wild pitch with a runner on third base while trying to intentionally walk Raiders' slugger Katie Zitnay. But with lightning quick reflexes, Robin Smith scooped the ball off the backstop and fired it to sister Kelly, who tagged Atholton's Stacy Defino at the plate for the third out of the inning.

Minutes later, Kelly Smith scored the winning run for the Hawks, whose 2-1, extra-inning victory gave them a share of first place in the county and a split with the No. 2 Raiders on the season.

"Robin's really good at scooping the ball up like that, so I knew it was going to be a close play," said Kelly Smith. "I didn't know I'd turn around and she'd be sliding into the plate, but the ball was right there. It was a pretty nerve-racking."

"We'd been working on that a lot in practice, so I just ran back there as hard as I could," Robin Smith said. "It was a pretty emotional roller coaster there."

The play was also somewhat indicative of the way the day went for both the Raiders (12-2) and the Hawks (13-2). Both teams made defensive mistakes, but it was River Hill that was able to overcome them. In the bottom of the eighth, Kelly Smith scored the winning run on an Atholton throwing error after a sacrifice bunt by Megan Mitchell.

"We really had the mind-set that this was our game," Kelly Smith said. "We knew we needed to come out strong and keep our heads in it. I think we really did that. It was a great game on both sides."

It was certainly one of the best of the county season considering what was at stake. Atholton hadn't lost since getting upset, 1-0, by Glenelg in the season opener, and the Raiders had defeated the Hawks with relative ease on April 8.

It was much closer this time, however. Zitnay and Kelly Smith both pitched excellent games, but River Hill grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Nicole Mele led off the inning with a double, then scored on an error by Raiders second baseman Megan Murphy three batters later.

It stayed that way until the sixth inning, when Raiders center fielder Aubrey Barrett - who was suffering from the flu and had to leave the game in the fifth inning to vomit - came into the game as a pinch hitter. Barrett got an infield hit, stole a base, then tied the game by scoring on an error by Mitchell. It set up the wild finish in extra innings, where teams start with a runner on second base in accordance with Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules.

"They played a really nice game," said Atholton coach Maureen Shacreaw. "Kelly Smith pitched great. We made a couple of errors, which isn't something we normally do. We just needed to be clean with it. It was still a good game by both teams. We're tied for first now, so we'll see how things end up."

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