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April 17, 2012

Blair softball falls 8-3 to undefeated Sherwood

by Sarah Wilson, Print Editor-in-Chief
BLAZER FIELD, Apr. 16—

Families and Blair lacrosse players gathered on blankets and folding chairs by the left field fence. The regular "Sam's Club" group of seniors came donning their matching T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of senior pitcher Samantha Schweickhardt, and four photographers and a videographer were poised near the dugouts. It wasn't just the 80 degree weather that brought the abnormally large audience to the game Monday night. It was the chance to witness the latest battle in the longstanding Blair (8-1) Sherwood (6-0) softball rivalry.

Both teams entered the dugouts undefeated, but it was Blair that would emerge with a tarnished record, losing to Sherwood in a final score of 8-3. It was a back and forth night for the Blazers, who started off strong but had one rough inning.

While both teams' impenetrable defense allowed no runs in the first two innings, a strong offensive rally by Blair in the third raised the team's hopes to reclaim their rivalry victory. But Sherwood's consistent hitting in the fourth inning deflated the team as the Warriors brought in the additional six runs that would clinch the win. "Our emotions went up and down," Schweickhardt said. "Once we were ahead we were over the moon and then they got a couple of lucky hits and we deflated, so we have to learn not to do that again."

Blair maintained a tight defense throughout the first three innings, allowing only one run by the end of the third. With Sherwood runners on first and second and no outs, Junior Melissa Romero halted the strong offensive with a spectacular catch in deep left. This was followed by a rundown at third where juniors Sabine Lipten and Kara Madden trapped the runner, eventually tagging her out at home and allowing no more runs for the inning.

Riding off the energy from their successful defense, Blair came on strong in the third. Three consecutive doubles allowed sophomore Michelle McGhee to steal home on a dropped third strike and freshmen Camilla Arias and Andrea Brown to slide in and take the lead with all three of Blair's runs for the night. Pietanza crushed the ball in a final drive to center and the inning closed with confidences high.

From the start of the fourth inning however, the Sherwood offense was hot. The batters adapted to Schweickhardt's pitching and began to slam doubles and triples deep into the outfield. "They had some good at-bats and balls that went over our fielders' heads, so there was nothing we could do about that," said Arias.

While outfielders, Romero and senior Molly Nicholson, fielded the flies quickly, Sherwood found the holes in the defense. Several dropped catches and fielding errors allowed Sherwood to zoom around the bases and pull in an additional six runs. "The problem was really that one inning where things started to compound," Schweickhardt said.

Blair's defense regained its strength as the game concluded, with several strikeouts by Schweickhardt and a stunning catch by Nicholson. Still, Sherwood's powerful pitching and on-point fielding prevented the offensive rally the fans were demanding. When Blair managed to get the ball in play, they were often stopped by forced outs at first.

Sherwood is one of the toughest teams in the area to beat, and the Blazers looked to the game as a learning experience after a fairly easy start to the season. "We need to learn that we can't make that many defensive mistakes against a team that can hit that well," head coach Louis Hoelman said. "We gave them too many outs and they made us pay, but I like playing a team that's that good. It's going to make us stronger in the future," he said.

The girls' varsity softball team will play their next home game on Monday, April 23 against Springbrook at 7:00 p.m.

Editor's note: Molly Nicholson is the Features Editor for Silver Chips Online.



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