No. 2 Atholton, Zitnay slam door on Howard

Offense supports pitcher in driving rain for 11-2 win


May 05, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Howard couldn't stop Atholton last night. Mother Nature didn't have much luck, either.

The Raiders -- the area's No. 2 softball team -- played perhaps their best game of the season, fighting off a driving rain to pound out 12 hits in an 11-2 win over the Lions at Cedar Lane Park.

Though the game had the distinction of being the first night game in Howard County high school softball, Atholton (15-2, 13-2 league) quickly erased any doubt about the outcome by combining for eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings to win handily.

"I'm so proud of these girls right now," said Raiders coach Maureen Shacreaw. "Our senior leadership is so important to this team. I think a lot of the difference was that our seniors have been here before. We knew if we didn't win this tonight, we put the county title in someone else's hands. Now, it's still in ours."

River Hill, whose record is identical to Atholton's, still will have a say in that. But last night belonged to Atholton, which almost seemed to get better as the conditions worsened. Raiders pitcher Katie Zitnay had some trouble gripping the ball in the first inning, and the Lions (12-4, 11-4) took advantage by scoring two runs off four hits. But from then on, Zitnay allowed only two hits and struck out five.

"In the first inning, I think the rain was a little hard for Katy to get used to," said Atholton catcher Kelly Kemp. "But after that, she buckled down just like she always does. After they scored those two runs, we just told each other, `Don't get your head down.' We just tried to keep up with them and stay fired up."

No one was more fired up than Kemp, an all Howard-County first baseman last year who has made a smooth transition to catcher this season. Kemp had three hits, reached base twice on errors, scored three runs and played stellar defense in the mud and the muck surrounding home plate.

The Raiders' rally started when Aubrey Barrett stole home to tie the game at 2 in the third. In the fourth, Kemp cracked a two-run double off Howard's Kristin Gormus to break open a five-run inning. Zitnay had an RBI single, Karen Lee had two, and three more runs in the fifth essentially put the game away.

"I think hitting is contagious," Kemp said. "As soon as one of us got a hit, everyone just followed."

Said Shacreaw: "At one point, Katy came into the dugout and said, `Guys, the ball is so heavy, all we have to do is make contact.' They listened to everything and were so focused, they really played the best game they could play."

Jamie Wolfe had three hits for Howard, but no other Lion had more than one.

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