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Knights get caught in own rush

May 17, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

By DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

MIDDLETOWN, Md. - The Middletown softball team wanted to take the next step in the 2002 playoffs, hoping to at least make a region final or, perhaps, the program's second-ever trip to the state tournament.

The Knights just didn't expect to trip over their own feet on the way.

Fort Hill added some physical pressure to that mandate and the Knights wilted, committing eight errors and only getting three hits on the way to a 3-1 loss in the Class 2A West semifinals on Thursday.

"A lot of nerves out there today," said Middletown's Shannon Sturtz, who pitched four innings of one-hit relief to keep the Knights in it. "Last year we got in the same situation (the region semifinals) and wanted to take a step further this time.

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"There was a lot of pressure on us."

The Sentinels didn't help matters. They constantly put runners on base with well-placed bunts, looping singles or hit batsmen. Middletown (16-5) nearly got itself out of the jams - getting to two outs in each inning - but couldn't finish the escape.

n Middletown catcher Megan Enders tried to pick Brandi Page off third in the first, but the ball hit Page and rolled away, allowing her to score.

n Fort Hill put runners on first and second with one out in the second, but Enders caught Bre Wallizer off first. In the subsequent rundown, the Knights threw out Fort Hill's runner at third, but the throw to get Wallizer at second was dropped. She scored on the next pitch, a triple by Amanda Helmstetter.

n Enders tried the pickoff play one more time in the third, but sailed a throw into center field trying to get Lauren Whitacre at second base. Whitacre rounded third and came home when the relay throw hit 12 feet up on the backstop.

"They never get nervous, it's just the way this group is," Middletown coach Charlie Toms said. "But the wheels came off today."

The wheels nearly caused a gruesome accident, but Sturtz practiced some high-wire damage control the rest of the way. She entered with two on and none out in the fourth, yet didn't allow a run the rest of the way - pitching around five more errors and stranding eight runners.

"She did an awesome job. She came in and got us out of some jams," Toms said. "They put us in situations all game long. It could have been ugly out there."

Down 3-0, the Knights got one back in the fourth, when Erin Burtner singled and scored on a wild pitch and two groundouts. But Fort Hill pitcher Becky Vance allowed just one hit the rest of the way, and received a game ball from Toms after the game.

"She was throwing all over, not just to one spot," Sturtz said. "She got me on a riseball, and I think she got a few of (my teammates), too."

Unfortunately for the Knights, she got them exactly where they didn't want: the same place as last year.

"The team put in a great effort, we tried our best," Sturtz said. "We tried as a team, we fell as a team. That's about it."

Fort Hill 3, Middletown 1

Fort Hill 1110000-370

Middletown 0001000-138

Vance and Wallizer. Riner, Sturtz (4) and M. Enders. WP-Vance. LP-Riner (9-5).

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