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April 9, 2005

Denenberg pitches no-hitter as Blazers win again

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor

For a game that was nearly cancelled, Blair ace Annie Denenberg made sure that the fans that stuck through the rain got to see a memorable performance Friday night. Denenberg threw the first no-hitter since 2003 and the Blazers rolled to a 6-0 victory over the Walter Johnson Wildcats, just another chapter in what has been a remarkable stretch out of the gate for Blair, which is now 5-0 on the season.

Denenberg set the tone right off the bat for Blair, striking out all the Wildcats (1-2) batters in the top of the first inning. And by the time she took to the mound again, she had a comfortable lead and didn't look back from there. The Blazers managed to score three runs in the bottom frame of the first inning without getting a single hit. Two errors, a hit batter, three stolen bases and a wild pitch helped that happen.

After being told by manager Louis Hoelman to simply "get on base," Sarah Rumbaugh led off the inning for Blair by doing just that, getting hit on the hand with a pitch. She didn't shy from running once on, stealing both second and third base. She had so little fear in fact, that she lined up similar to how a sprinter is in the starting blocks, straddling first base with her feet, pointed straight ahead at second base, which she stole with ease.

Claire Lieberman then hit a grounder back to WJ pitcher Kendra Morse, who made an errant throw to first, enabling her to reach base, and allowing Rumbaugh to score the first run of the game. Emily O'Brien reached on a walk, and Michelle Linford got aboard thanks to another Wildcat error, which allowed Lieberman to score. O'Brien scored on a wild pitch, giving the Blazers a 3-0 lead after one inning.

From then on, Denenberg was nothing short of dominant. Although she did show signs of fading later in the game, her pitching when she's fading is better than many pitchers' best stuff. She had eight strikeouts in the first three innings, striking out the side in the third inning as well. No Wildcat made contact with the ball for five at-bats and only one batter put a ball in play in the first three innings.

Denenberg didn't allow even one WJ player to hit the ball into the outfield for the entire game. She had 10 strikeouts through four innings, winding up with 12 Ks on the night.

Like any no-hitter, this one had close calls that nearly ended it. Two controversial errors in the sixth inning by Blair were ruled just that -- errors, which kept the no-hitter intact. On both of the plays, which happened back-to-back, the umpire said first baseman Emily O'Brien was not in control of throws from Denenberg on come-backers to the mound.

Hoelman's protests were to no avail, and O'Brien even said to her manager after the first error that "the ball was in my glove the whole time." The runners got to second and third base with two outs. But Denenberg battled through a six-pitch at-bat with Joanna McCrehan, claiming her 12th and final strikeout victim looking on a full count to end the inning.

A weak grounder ended the game and sealed the no-hitter; the reaction was subdued, and some in the crowd didn't even know that Denenberg had pitched a no-hitter. But she had.

Denenberg said she was aware the whole time that she was throwing a no-hitter, "Because everyone was telling me. I was nervous the whole game." But even as the strikeouts stopped coming (she had just one in the final two innings), she never lost her confidence. "I thought I would do it. Definitely," she said.

On the year, Denenberg is now 3-0 with 29 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA.

Almost as impressive as the no-hitter were Hoelman's managerial skills tonight for Blair. The coach has expressed in the past that he is unafraid to utilize his team's vast speed, and tonight he used that speed to squeeze six runs out of just three hits despite Morse's throwing 13 strikeouts in just six innings.

"One of our best strengths is speed," Hoelman said after the game. "I told [the team] to put the pressure on Walter Johnson, and it showed in the first. Those three runs were not luck; we had smart, aggressive runners."

The runners gave Blair the initial lead, but it was a mix of power and that speed that, as Hoelman put it, allowed the game to "snowball" from there and helped Blair seal the win. Michelle Linford had another big game, including an inside-the-park home run. Her line drive went clear over the Wildcat center fielder's head, and she raced around the bases for her second home run of the year.

Linford also tripled in the third inning, hitting a bullet into the left-centerfield gap to finish 2-3 on the night, reaching all three times, hitting 2 RBIs and scoring twice.

Aggressive base running and bunting has been a centerpiece of Blair's 5-0 start this year, and it played a large role tonight. Denenberg laid down a squeeze bunt to score Linford off her triple, and she herself managed to go from first to home on a play when another Blazer struck out.

After the K, Denenberg stole second base and rounded for third, drawing an errant throw from the WJ catcher that allowed Denenberg to touch home. The play drew a mix of excitement and puzzled bewilderment from the Blazer bench.

Hoelman was all praise for this team, saying, "This is the best softball start in…ever. Ever." The squad is loaded with sophomores, which was supposed to make this season a rebuilding year off of last year's 11-5 performance. But as Hoelman said, the "sophomores are doing everything right and everything I ask them to do."

"We're playing very well right now," he said. "We can play with the best in the county." In fact, the night before, Blair earned a 3-2 win at Watkins Mill, last year's divisional champs.

The great start and all-around dominant win tonight has earned Hoelman one major fan in Blair baseball coach John McDonald, whose team won 10-0 tonight. McDonald, overhearing Hoelman's comments about the softball win, gave high praise about how Hoelman has built a consistent winner at Blair, saying that, "The [softball team] has only been good since Hoelman took over."

Blair is off until next Wednesday when they host Richard Montgomery. That will give them the chance to enjoy a historical start to the 2005 season and a historical pitching performance by Annie Denenberg.

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  • yo on April 9, 2005 at 5:14 PM
    dawg, in softball you have to start like that, there is no leading. Rumbaugh wasnt being fearless. just learn the rules. good job softball.
  • michelle linford fan on April 9, 2005 at 11:30 PM
    good job softball. YEH MICHELLE!!!! why weren't you pitching?
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on April 9, 2005 at 11:30 PM
    I know you cant lead, but instead of facing the batter in a crouch, she was lined up directly at second base.
  • tucson, arizona on April 10, 2005 at 2:29 AM
    damn "yo" give my girl sarah sum props, we all kno she could be a track star, so let her shine on her bases! deng dude!
    go sarah! i luv u!
  • me on April 10, 2005 at 7:00 PM
    thats how softball players take a lead! they dont crouch....
  • Tennis player on April 10, 2005 at 8:21 PM
    Why don't you write an article about the tennis matches? They were only 25 feet away from the softball game. You should at least include something about tennis. All the tennis articles are from last year.
  • what on April 11, 2005 at 8:43 AM
    the tennis courts are all the way on the other side of the school from the softball stadium...
  • Tennis player on April 11, 2005 at 6:57 PM
    The match was at Walter Johnson. It was an away game. At Walter Johson, the softball court is just 25 feet away from the tennis courts.
  • ANNIE DENENBERG FAN on April 11, 2005 at 7:20 PM
    go ANNiE!!!
  • creatine thing on April 13, 2005 at 2:04 PM
  • Blair softball TEAM fan on April 14, 2005 at 4:02 PM
    Yes! Blair softball is the best. Can we mention in our articles...DEFENSE...offense sells tickets...defense wins games! #2 no doubt is a great player but she has an excellent defense to back her up. There are a 7 innings with 3 outs per inning which means there is 21 outs per game. The pitcher had 12 Ks, what about the other 9 outs? The team wins and loses together.
  • BLAIR FAN on April 14, 2005 at 4:04 PM
    Last I checked there were nine players on a field during a game. Winning or losting is done by the whole team. Without your defense you have no game. So congrats to everyone on the team and Mr. Hoelman.
  • softball fan on April 14, 2005 at 4:45 PM
    I agree with Blair Fan. You win and lose as a team. One or two people do not make a team. Oh and Mike, maybe you should find a new career, because writing is not your thing. Get all your facts together before you start to write articles.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on April 14, 2005 at 10:23 PM
    Facts such as what, softball fan? Why should I diminish Annie's performance? Do you really want, or need a recap of every routine grounder to third base? I reported what happened, which was a couple errors but overall solid play by the whole team, and a unique pitching performance by Annie.
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