As much as the Leopards (8-3) wanted it, though, the Rebels refused to give it to them. A Smithsburg rally in the first was gunned down with Marsha Moats' outfield assist to home. In the fourth, Amber Biser's leadoff triple was wasted when Higgs struck out the next two batters and got a harmless grounder to first base.
Then came the controversy. With runners on second and third with one out in the fifth and Katy Powell at the plate with a full count, Higgs fired high and inside again. Trying to duck out of the way, Powell rolled forward in the batters' box and brought the bat through with her for an apparent strike three.
However, the umpire said Powell's "didn't break her wrists," and awarded her first base on a walk. South coach Sabrina McCoy even gave examples to try reversing the call, but it didn't help.
"It shouldn't have come down to a call in a game like this, but it did," McCoy said. "And he wasn't going to change his mind."
Higgs struck out the next batter for two outs - which should have been three - before Smithsburg took advantage. A wobbly roller ate up Emily Middlekauff for an error as one run scored, and Reed then drilled a two-run single right for a 3-0 lead.
"Alison pitched a great game, but we put her in the hole too much," McCoy said. "She stayed focused. ... She was in 3-0 counts and still striking out people."
As good as Higgs was, Reed was better.
"Especially after getting hit so early, I was curious how she would do," Smithsburg coach Brian Getz said. "She had the marks on her face. But she stuck with it. She didn't let it get her down.
"And I think, in an unfortunate way, it helped wake us up. It took a shot like that to wake us up."
Smithsburg was also ready to avenge an 8-7 loss in nine innings earlier to the Rebels (5-4). In that game, late errors - and a grand slam by Middlekauff - did them in. Not this time, as Powell's diving catch in the seventh slammed the door.
"Lauren was fighting hard out there, but don't take anything away from our defense," Getz said. "That could have been a single and opened the door. That's what happened last time."
Reed didn't let that happen, stitch marks and all.
"She pitched a great game," McCoy said. "She had us off balance and frustrated, and I think she got inside our heads a little bit. ... She's a tough kid. Coming back, I was worried for her. But to pitch the way she did, she dug deep.
"I think we all want a player like that."
Smithsburg 3, South 0
Higgs and Waltemire. Reed and Waldron. WP-Reed (7-3). LP-Higgs (4-2).