River Hill's 2-1 victory produces title draw

Hawks defeat Howard, earn share of Howard title with Atholton, 7-0 winner


High Schools

May 09, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

River Hill's softball team doesn't do blowouts.

On occasion, sure, the Hawks will turn a close game into a rout. But for their part, one-run white-knuckle affairs are more their style. And while the added stress that comes with living on the edge might wear on some teams, the Hawks have thrived on it this season.

Thrived just enough, in fact, to earn a share of the Howard County championship.

River Hill defeated Howard, 2-1, yesterday, and coupled with Atholton's 7-0 win over Hammond, the two teams will share the league crown by both finishing with identical 18-2 records. The county title is the fourth in a row won by Atholton and the first for River Hill since 1998.

"I've told our team for awhile that good teams seem to find a way to win," said River Hill coach Dave Vitagliano. "You don't get extra points for winning big; you just get credit for a win. That's the way we've played all year."

No doubt that's the way River Hill played yesterday, as Howard nearly ruined the Hawks' party thanks to an impressive pitching performance by Kristin Gormus. The senior ace didn't give up a hit until the sixth inning, and she had River Hill guessing all day with a good fastball and a nasty changeup.

In the sixth, however, with the game still scoreless, the Hawks' bats finally woke up. Catcher Robin Smith led off the inning with a single, Kelly Smith reached on a fielder's choice and Megan Mitchell knocked in the first run of the game with a single to right field.

It didn't stop with Mitchell, though. Right fielder Nicole Mele laced a deep single into right-center that scored Kelly Smith, which turned out to be all the runs the Hawks would need.

"Last year we were a great team, but we seemed to come up short in the end at times," Mele said. "This year we've been more focused. I was feeling empowered to get us another run any way I could, and the ball just happened to find the right spot."

Howard battled back to score a run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI groundout by Melissa Javier, but in the seventh, Kelly Smith closed the door on the Lions after a leadoff single by Jessie O'Neil.

"We kept our composure, just like we have all season," Vitagliano said.

Atholton didn't mind sharing the title, especially Raiders first-year coach Maureen Shacreaw, who was an assistant at River Hill just last season.

"One of my kids told me, `You don't lose either way, if both teams win it.' That's really true," Shacreaw said. "I'm as happy for the River Hill kids as I am for mine. If I have to share with somebody, that's who I'd like to share it with."

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