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April 21, 2005

Blazers bats halt losing skid by mauling Bengals

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor

If they wanted a realistic shot at keeping pace with Damascus at the top of the Maryland 4A division standings, Blair needed to defeat a mediocre Blake. The Blazers did just that, winning 5-2 thanks to a pair of clutch two-RBI base hits.

Tonight's unexpected hero was Liz Scroggs, making her first start of the season. In the bottom of the fifth, she singled with runners at second and third to extend the Blair (7-2) lead to 5-2. Blazer manager Louis Hoelman called Scroggs' hit "very clutch; the biggest hit of the game."
Emily O'Brien connects on a 2-RBI base hit en route to a 2-3 evening. Diana Frey
Emily O'Brien connects on a 2-RBI base hit en route to a 2-3 evening.

How the runners got into scoring position was emblematic of Blair's season-long ability to manufacture runs without getting a single hit. Emily O'Brien reached on a dropped third strike, and stole second. Annie Denenberg reached on an Anna Babcock throwing error at third base, and then took second base before Scroggs knocked them both in.

"We've been able to take advantage of the other team's errors all year, and I'm proud of that," Hoelman said, also giving credit to the hit that drove the runs in. "The thing that's won us games all year was clutch hitting."

O'Brien also had a two-RBI hit in the first inning to give Blair their first lead of the night. After Claire Lieberman expertly laid down a bunt and beat the throw and Michelle Linford drew a walk, O'Brien honed in on pitcher Rachel Shepherd's pitch and laced it over Ashley Parker's head in centerfield.

In the fifth, prior to Scroggs' hit, Sara Pierce gave Blair the lead for good with yet another clutch hit. After Allison Rubin singled, she stole second and third, and Pierce's single over the third base bag scored her to give the Blazers a 3-2 advantage. Pierce and Rubin led the team with two hits each tonight. O'Brien, Scroggs and Claire Lieberman all had one hit.

Hoelman said that Blair was able to snap their losing skid thanks to the timely hitting. "What has hurt us in the two losses was not getting enough timely hits, which we did get tonight in the win."

From the second inning on, the Bengals (4-3) played farther back in the outfield and Shepherd retired Blair in order in the second, third and fourth innings. Blair third baseman Shante Henderson told the team on the bench that Blake was playing back "because they know we're gonna crush it."

Henderson in particular did more than enough tonight to help the Blazers on defense, making multiple tough plays at third look easy. She was involved in six of the first 13 Blake outs of the game.

Michelle Linford got her fourth win of the season despite only two strikeouts. However, despite the added amount of live balls in the field tonight, Blair's defense held strong and propped up Linford, who only allowed four hits all night. Both Blake runs reached base because of a pair of Blazer throwing errors. Caitlin Williams drove in the second run with a double, her second hit of the evening for the Bengals.

Hoelman said that the timely hits by Blair helped "take pressure off our defense," but that the "defense was solid and the defense has been solid all year. Without the defense, we still could have lost tonight."

In the top of the seventh, Linford did not fade; rather, she pitched her best inning of work tonight. Lieberman, the catcher, made a tough snare in foul territory right up against the backstop that sent the spirited crowd into a frenzy. The final out was a pop up to Anna Szapiro at shortstop that sealed the first Blair win in a week.

Thanks to the trio of big hits by Scroggs, O'Brien and Pierce, Blair was able to win for the first time without leadoff hitter Sarah Rumbaugh, still out with a bum ankle. Said Hoelman on her condition and playing status, "Sarah's ankle is day-to-day, she wants to play badly, we want her to play, but she just can't quite yet." He didn't rule out the possibility of her playing Thursday at Magruder.

While Blair appeared in control for much of the game, they did only score five runs, and haven't amassed over seven in any game. Still, that did not faze Hoelman. "[Not routing] teams doesn't worry me," he said, "because with our good defense and and good pitching, we can win a lot with that, including tonight."

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  • Ray D. on April 21, 2005 at 4:24 PM
    I don't think that Blake is (as characterized in the article) "mediocre". I think it was a huge win for Blair, over a fairly tough team.

    Blake's hitting was perhaps "mediocre", but that's only because Blair pitching (Linford) was outstanding.

    But Blake's fielding was for the most part superb, both outfield and infield. And their pitcher was highly-skilled with a nasty changeup that she used very efectively. The fact that Blair was able to hit her as well as they did was inspirational.

    Great effort, Blair!
  • FAN on April 22, 2005 at 7:44 AM
    It's about time you mentioned Shante Henderson with her outstanding performance on the field. I feel that Michelle gave a awesome pitching performance all night, not just in the seventh inning. I'm not sure what game you were watching but most of the girls were crushing the ball.
    Ray D is on the money, Michelle did do an outstanding job and had her defense behind her. Great game girls. Everyone deserves a big hand with this one
  • hmmm...someone who was watchin on April 22, 2005 at 4:45 PM
    ...well i think blair played well. i dont think that this was there best game but i mean it was a very important game. despite the losses that they have had...blair is #1 in my BOOK!!!

    *CLASS OF 07*
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