Northeast pitcher Ashley Gray is working to offset her softball team's early-season offensive troubles.
Gray out-dueled Beth Slater and threw a four-hit shutout, escaping from a tough situation in the seventh inning to close the door and give No. 11 Northeast a 1-0 victory over No. 4 Glen Burnie yesterday in an Anne Arundel County game.
In four previous games, Gray allowed three runs on six hits but had just a 2-2 record as the Eagles had scored just seven runs.
"She's been doing a great job for us," Northeast coach Marianne Shultz said. "Our bats aren't strong yet, but we're getting there."
Northeast (3-2) scratched out the only run in the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Lauren Hart walked and went to second on Megan Lucas' sacrifice bunt. Lee Ann Raber then doubled, scoring Hart on an unusual play.
Hart and the throw from the outfield arrived at the plate at the same time. Glen Burnie catcher Allison Hohman couldn't handle the throw, which bounced up the third base line. The umpire didn't make a signal as Hart stood right by home plate for several seconds. The Northeast bench began screaming for Hart to touch the plate -- and she finally did, just before Hohman tagged her.
Gray didn't need more help. The junior right-hander walked only one, struck out seven and stayed in command throughout while letting just three balls reach the outfield. She was ahead in the count on nearly every batter, kept her pitches low and changed speeds nicely.
Glen Burnie (2-2) had only three base runners -- stranding one at third in the first and fourth -- until causing trouble in the seventh. Sara Schmidt lined a single off Gray's foot to start the inning, and Slater later singled to help the Gophers put two runners on with one out.
But Gray got Amber Stapler on a liner to third and struck out Jen Gribben to end it.
"I was just trying to keep the ball outside and ... far away," Gray said. "I just keep trying as hard as I can."
Slater (three hits, seven strikeouts, four walks) allowed only two balls out of the infield.
"Beth pitched her heart out," Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolino said. "We lost the game on offense [because] we didn't move the runners over."
The Gophers practiced bunts Monday but couldn't get the ball down on two squeeze plays.
"I thought I did well, and our defense was excellent," Slater said. "Our offense wasn't on today, but we'll get there."