CLEAR SPRING — Softball isn’t a complicated sport.
“In this game, the team that makes the least mistakes wins the game, and that’s what happened,” said Clear Spring coach Ron Baker, after his Blazers fell 4-3 to North Carroll on Tuesday in the Maryland Class 1A West Region East Section semifinals.
While the Blazers’ errors came back to bite them, they were given opportunities to atone for them.
Down 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Clear Spring (15-3) loaded the bases with no outs, as pinch hitter Morgan Purdham drew a walk, Sarah Elwood hit a bunt single and Jenna Knable reached on an error.
But the Blazers were only able to get one run out of it on an RBI groundout by Amber Forrest, cutting their deficit to 4-2.
“We let one get way,” Baker said. “Our hitting just didn’t show up.”
Still down two runs in the seventh, Tori Albert led off with a single, her second of the game. After Panthers left fielder Michaela Stitely made a great running catch to rob Sarah Blickenstaff of extra bases, right fielder Alex Stitely dropped a line drive hit by Kristen Mellott, putting runners on second and third with one out.
North Carroll (17-5) then exchanged a run for an out on an RBI sac bunt by Courtney Royce, as the tying run moved to third base. Elwood, the team’s leadoff batter, followed with another bunt, but was thrown out at first to end the game.
“We knew we had to do something to put the ball in play,” said Baker of the back-to-back bunts, which resulted in the final two outs of the game. “If we hit in key situations and our lineup came through, we’re not in that situation.
“We only needed two to tie (in the seventh). We were just trying to get runs in, and we almost did it.”
North Carroll took the lead for good in the top of the first against Forrest, who got off to a shaky start. She allowed three singles, committed a throwing error and hit a batter as the Panthers went up 2-0.
Forrest got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first with one swing, blasting a two-out, solo shot that cleared the fence in right-center.
North Carroll went up 3-1 in the third on a leadoff double by Madison Grimm and consecutive sac bunts by Ashlynn Shaffer and Jen Miller.
The Panthers extended their lead to 4-1 in the fifth. A pair of singles and an error put runners on second and third with no outs and ended Forrest’s day in the circle. Mellott came on in relief and retired the next three batters, as only one of the runners scored.
Mellott held North Carroll scoreless the rest of the way, but Clear Spring was unable to overcome the deficit.
Shaffer pitched a complete game for the win, allowing three runs, five hits and a walk while striking out six. She and Miller each had two RBIs, while Alex Stitely and Micaella Hernandez each had two of the Panthers’ eight hits.
North Carroll faces Smithsburg today in the section final in a rematch of the two teams’ season opener, won 4-0 by Smithsburg on March 21.
“You try to remember what you did wrong and hope that the improvements you’ve made pay off,” North Carroll coach Lloyd Ford said. “I think it will be a good match.”
North Carroll 4, Clear Spring 3
North Carroll 201 010 0 — 4 8 3
Clear Spring 100 001 1 — 3 5 2
Shaffer and Tolomei. Forrest, Mellott (5) and Blickenstaff. WP — Shaffer. LP — Forrest.