Smithsburg softball coach Katy Barnhart got the birthday present she was wishing for on Wednesday.
“I told them, ‘I only want one thing. I’m not asking for much,’” Barnhart said after RBI singles by Brooke Parks and Kinsey Shifflett in the sixth inning gave the Leopards a 2-1 victory over Clear Spring and put Smithsburg in control of the MVAL Antietam title race.
The Leopards (16-1, 12-1) can win the title outright by defeating Catoctin (12-4, 11-2) at home Friday. A Cougars victory would cause a three-way split of the title between Catoctin, Smithsburg and Clear Spring (14-2, 12-2).
“We’re definitely looking forward to Friday,” Barnhart said. “It’s nice to play two great teams right before playoffs.”
Clear Spring took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Amber Forrest’s RBI single, and Forrest made it stand up through five innings — allowing just one hit while striking out 10.
But the Blazers gave Smithsburg a little life when, with one out in the sixth, Shayla Murray reached base safely when a throw to first was dropped for an error. Karah Knight followed with a bunt single before Sam Gladhill flew out to shallow right for what should have been the third out but instead was only the second out.
“We make that play (at first), and the inning’s over,” Clear Spring coach Ron Baker said.
Parks stepped in and dueled with Forrest in an eight-pitch at-bat that included three two-strike foul balls. On the eighth pitch, Parks hit a liner into left field, and Murray scored from second to tie the game.
“I knew I could not strike out with two runners on,” Parks said. “You don’t get an opportunity like that again. I had to do something to give us a chance.”
Shifflett stepped in looking for an outside pitch from Forrest, got it and ripped it to right. The line drive barely glanced off the webbing of leaping second baseman Jenna Knable’s glove on its way to right field, and Knight raced from second to score the winning run.
“I was just ready for the pitch,” Shifflett said. “I knew I had to be a clutch hitter, so I did what I needed to do.”
Cara Ferguson allowed five hits and one walk while striking out four for the win for the Leopards. She got out of three different jams with two Blazers runners on base.
Smithsburg 2, Clear Spring 1
Clear Spring 001 000 0 — 1 5 2
Smithsburg 000 002 x — 2 4 1
Forrest, Mellott (6) and Blickenstaff. Ferguson and Shifflett. WP — Ferguson. LP — Forrest.