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West title puts Wildcats two steps away from goal

May 21, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

Tom Dzur hopes for the best, but braces for the worst.

It's the best way to explain the Williamsport softball coach's nervousness on Saturday during the bottom of the sixth inning of the Maryland Class 1A West final against Beall at Mount Savage Middle School.

Dzur skittered around the Williamsport dugout area like a 2-year-old on a sugar high. He didn't want to pinch himself because he was afraid of believing the reality of his Wildcats having the game - and the region title - well, well in hand.

After all, only two things are for certain - death and taxes - and you don't want to have to deal with either one of those. Even 11-run leads can be mirages at a times.

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"I've been ahead 10-0 before and had to bite my nails to win," Dzur said after the Wildcats closed out the 11-0 victory to move on to Tuesday's state semifinals against South region champion North Point.

It wasn't going to happen this time. Dzur burnt his extra calories for nothing.

The Wildcats scored all 11 runs in the fifth and sixth innings and then relied on their defense and the strong pitching of Jessica Bennett to take the school's third trip - and first since 1980 - to the state Final Four.

"The kids picked up the momentum and took it from there," Dzur said.

Kelly Beard's two-run single gave Williamsport (16-5) a 3-0 lead that took the air out of Beall's balloon. That was popped with the emphatic eight-run sixth which put the Wildcats on the brink of the state tournament. Emily Myers cracked a two-run home run to highlight the rally.

Even with all the runs, the first-reluctant Dzur was relieved that it was over.

"You don't know how hard it is," Dzur said. "I've seen teams reach the regional title before, and it isn't that easy. But you can't stop here. I'm happy and will enjoy the regional title, but like I told the girls, it's just a step.

"There are still two more games."

And it's two big games that the Wildcats have been shooting for all season.

"It's an indescribable feeling," said Bennett, who pitched a two-hitter with eight strikeouts for the title-sealing victory. "We have been playing for this all year. We hope to be one of the first teams to put the sign on the wall (of Williamsport's gym) and say we are state champions."

To do that, Williamsport must first get by North Point - a team that is much more feisty than its record - in Tuesday's semifinal at 3:30 p.m. at Bachman Softball Complex in Glen Burnie, Md.

North Point enters the game with a 9-11 record and was the random seventh seed in the South region. It opened the tournament with a 24-0 win over Dunbar and then wiped out No. 2-seed Digital Harbor, 17-0.

North Point followed by defeating No. 3-seed Forestville before taking out top-seeded Poolesville 10-4 on Friday.

Williamsport had some of its own tournament testing in the West semifinal when the Wildcats needed 11 innings to score a 7-6 victory over defending state champion Catoctin. Kelly Beard pitched the Wildcats to a 1-1 tie through regulation. Beard held Catoctin to one run on seven hits while striking out six in 9 1/3 innings.

Bennett came on to pitch the final 1 2/3 innings as Williamsport finally held on to its fifth lead of the game to secure the win and the right to face Beall.

And the rest became history. While Dzur battled through frazzled nerves, the Wildcats' excitement swelled with each out of the sixth inning. At one point, Dzur spoke to the bench, trying to get the players to temper the confidence until the last out.

But Williamsport finished what it came for - a ticket to the state tournament.

"I'm happy for the seniors," Beard said. "This means a lot to them. This is the first time we made it to states ... I'm just glad to be a part of it."

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