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Cougars can't rise early in 1A title game

May 24, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

SEVERN, Md. - Asked how long it would take her team to adjust to the riseball of Southern Garrett pitcher Jennifer Bosley, Catoctin softball coach Amy Hunt was quick to answer: "Eight innings."

But a regulation softball game only goes seven innings. Uh-oh.

The numbers didn't lie on Thursday, as the Cougars couldn't figure out Bosley's money pitch in time, finishing with just two hits. The Rams, meanwhile, scratched out a pair of two-out runs for a 2-0 victory and their second straight Md. Class 1A state title at Randazzo Park.

"No one's ever thrown that pitch against us," Catoctin catcher Jess Valentine said. "Drop curves and junk is all we've seen lately, and we've got a lot of girls that swing at the high ball anyway."

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Catoctin (20-5) fell behind early offensively and defensively. Bosley struck out eight batters in her first trip through the order, and the Cougars allowed an unearned run in the bottom of the first when Southern's Ashley Liller tripled with two outs and scored on an infield error for a 1-0 lead.

"At first they might have been a little down," Hunt said. "But the aura around me felt like it lifted. I told them we weren't going to win without a run anyway."

The only problem was, Bosley (19-0) didn't buy into the plan. The Radford (Va.) University-bound senior allowed a hit to Nicole Sweeney to lead off the fourth, but got a strikeout and a popout to strand Sweeney at second. She struck out two more in the fifth on a rare change-up and another riseball.

"We even pulled up our practice pitcher in front of the mound to try and show it," Hunt said. "But she had a little bit of everything working."

"But I was proud of them. They never gave up and I never saw chins drop, and that could have happened."

Especially after the bottom of the fifth. With two outs and Autumn Uphold on third, Liller lifted a flare into short left field - right on the cusp of Randazzo's awkwardly crowned fields that are normally used for slow-pitch softball.

On a flat field, Catoctin left fielder Jenn Cregger likely would have made the catch, but the crown forced her to hit the brakes and the ball fell in for a double that scored Uphold for a 2-0 lead.

"I've been here three years now, and I hate these fields," Cregger said. "You run in and that thing, it makes you feel like you're going to trip and fall flat on your face."

Catoctin took its final shot in the seventh. Heidi Stull led off with a single, but was called out trying to steal second, even though it appeared she slid in under the tag.

It sealed the Cougars' fate as a state runner-up for the seventh time in school history. They've won only one state title (in 1986) and thought, after two straight losses in the state semifinals, this was the time for No. 2.

"To make it this far this time and not win, that's hard," Cregger said. "Especially for our seniors."

"This is the only (state loss) we've never stopped trying and never gave up," said Valentine, one of four Cougars who played their final game. "We had a lot of confidence and talent. We thought it was our year ... we just didn't make it."

S. Garrett 2, Catoctin 0

Catoctin 0000000-022

S. Garrett1 0010x-240

Wilkes and Valentine. Bosley and Reeves. WP-Bosley (19-0). LP-Wilkes (14-5).

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