With the area's top-ranked softball team on the same field as the defending state champion in a Class 3A South region semifinal yesterday at Severna Park, it wasn't that something had to give, but rather one team would have to take.
The host and No. 4 Falcons did the taking, moving a big step closer to repeating as state champs, with a resilient 2-1 win over No. 1 Northeast that lasted nine innings.
Execution proved the difference: The Eagles left four runners on base in the two extra innings and 13 for the game, and the Falcons were able to scratch across a ninth-inning run on winning pitcher Kaila Jenkins' grounder to second base.
Things stay tough for the Falcons (19-3), who will come back to play Northern of Calvert County today at Severna Park in a rematch of last year's state championship game.
Northern, which moved into the South region this season, is the No. 1-ranked team by The Washington Post.
"We've been struggling a little to come together as a team and we had a talk before the game ... that we needed to have the positive attitude and great approach to succeed," said Severna Park coach Jeff Shepherd. "They jumped all over that. We didn't have a single moment when they weren't totally into the game."
Playing with the international rules that places a runner on second base at the start of every extra inning, Jenkins worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the Eagles top of the ninth to keep the score tied at 1.
Shepherd described the bottom of the ninth an "ideal situation" to plate the game-winner and advance.
The Falcons started with speed at second base in Katie Purcell, had their best bunter up first in Kristin Wojtowycz and then their 3-4 hitters next, starting with Jenkins.
Wojtowycz got a bunt down that Northeast third baseman Jessica Bobb picked up and threw late to get Purcell at third, leaving runners on first and third. Jenkins followed with a grounder to second baseman Lindsey Gray, whose throw to home was not in time to get Purcell.
"I just wanted to put the ball in play," Jenkins said. "[Northeast pitcher Ashley Gray] threw me outside pitches, so I was just trying to snap my wrist and get to it. Luckily, it got out there to the second baseman."
Jenkins finished with 17 strikeouts.
It's the third straight year the Falcons have eliminated the Eagles (15-5) in the regional playoffs, all coming in extra innings.
"There's no margin of error, and execution is everything," said Northeast coach Marianne Shultz.