Offense no worry in opener for 12th-ranked River Hill

Howard co-champ gets to No. 15 Howard early, 7-1

Softball

March 25, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The River Hill softball team put David Vitagliano's mind at ease.

The No. 12 Hawks opened defense of the county championship they shared with Atholton last spring by easily defeating No. 15 and visiting Howard, 7-1, in Clarksville yesterday.

Before the season began, Vitagliano, who has coached River Hill for the past seven years, was worried about his squad's ability to manufacture runs.

But the Hawks posted five runs and all five of their hits - all singles - in the first two innings against the Lions in the season opener for both.

"I think it tells the other teams that we can get down and dirty and serious when we have to," said senior catcher Danielle Thacker, who led River Hill by hitting two singles, walking once, reaching second base on an error and driving in a run. "We know when to do our jobs."

Vitagliano was encouraged by his team's offensive display in the season opener.

"They've been working hard, and we've got good players," he said. "They make me look smart."

River Hill tagged sophomore right-hander Jessie O'Neill - making her first start on the mound after playing second base last spring - for two runs in the bottom of the first.

After Thacker opened the inning with a single to center field, two wild pitches by O'Neill moved Sam Hassett - Thacker's pinch runner - from first to third base.

Melissa Keese drew a walk and promptly stole second. Another wild pitch allowed Hassett to score, and Kacie Glenn singled in Keese.

The Hawks added three more runs against O'Neill in the second inning off a bases-loaded single by Thacker and two more wild pitches and two runs in the fourth off a bases-loaded walk to Danielle Schovee and another wild pitch.

That would be all the run support right-hander Stephanie Haas would need as she struck out nine and gave up two singles in a complete-game effort.

"When I saw the middle of their order, I could tell that they were good hitters," said Haas, who mixed a changeup with her fastball. "I sped it up for them. For the rest of the order, the off-speed stuff was working."

Howard coach Dave Vezzi expressed confidence in O'Neill, who struck out four batters before being replaced by right-hander Lindsey Gormus in the fifth inning.

"It's the kid's first game pitching," he said. "That happens. I think as the season goes on, she'll get better and better."

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