Title game perfect ending for Speierman, Hammond

Pitcher strikes out 19 and allows no base runners

No. 5 Hammond 4 North East 0

Softball Class 2a

May 27, 2007|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK -- As the last North East batter stepped to the plate in the seventh inning of yesterday's Class 2A state softball championship, the Hammond cheering section stood up as one and applauded.

They were all well aware and appreciative of what they were watching -- perfection.

Sophomore pitcher Stephanie Speierman wasn't about to disappoint, throwing the final three strikes to complete the task: a perfect game for a 4-0 win over the Indians from Cecil County that not only gave the No. 5 Golden Bears (24-1) their first state championship, but also provided the first in Howard County softball history.

Speierman struck out the first 11 batters she faced and the final six, finishing with 19 strikeouts in becoming the fourth pitcher to throw a perfect game in the state championship. McDonough's Clarissa Crowell was the previous pitcher to throw a perfect game, in 1997. The two other outs recorded came from a bunt try she easily fielded and a soft liner to second baseman Mandy Snyder.

"I was just trying to get outs, for the most part. But once I got to the seventh inning and the people over in the stands were yelling stuff about it, then I started thinking about it a little more," said Speierman, who broke the single-season record for strikeouts with 427. "It's amazing; just winning a state championship is crazy. It's really exciting and then you throw a perfect game and that makes it that much better."

Speierman also provided the Golden Bears with all the offense they would need in the second when she lined an outside pitch the other way for a two-run triple. In the third inning, senior shortstop Katie Skojec opened with a single and later came around on a wild pitch to make it 3-0. Speierman picked up her third RBI in the fourth on a groundout to close out the scoring.

At that point, the biggest question was whether she could possibly strike out all 21 North East batters. Senior center fielder Amanda McCardell answered that question by putting a bunt in play with one out in the bottom of the fourth.

Speierman, simply overpowering, said her best and most used pitch was a curveball that had the Indians (22-3) baffled.

"Everybody was struggling, so it wasn't like you were the only one. It was extremely frustrating because you would see it and then it's moving at the last second and you didn't have time to react. She just hit all her spots and we couldn't handle her," McCardell said.

From Speierman's perfect game in a 6-0 season-opening win over North Harford to yesterday's lasting impression, Hammond first-year coach Richard Pond couldn't have asked for anything more.

"This whole year has been a year of firsts for us -- winning the county title, then winning the region and now the states. It's just been like we've been blessed this whole season," he said.

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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