Blazers top Magruder Colonels 5-2
MAY 16, BLAZER FIELD—
Coming into today's game with a 15-1 record and a regular season win over Magruder, Blair seemed poised to win an easy game against an obviously overmatched Colonel squad. However, since Louis Hoelman became head coach eight years ago, the Blazers have lost in the first round of the playoffs every year. The Blazers' solid defense and stellar pitching tonight ensured that this losing streak came to a satisfying end. Blair won 5-2, advancing to the second round of the playoffs, while simultaneously improving their county-best record to 16-1.
Blair played one of their best defensive games of the year, according to Hoelman. "We looked really confident in the field and we had only one error all game." Blair played well in the gray areas of the field, places where multiple fielders often run for the same ball, sometimes causing confusion and even collisions between teammates. Today, players called loudly to their teammates, limiting any possible mistakes and helping to keep the Magruder offense scoreless through six innings.
Junior Annie Denenberg's pitching was just as important in shutting down the Colonels. With the pressure on, Dennenberg pitched her strongest game this season, keeping a no-hitter going through five innings. Dennenberg's excellent control kept her from walking a single Magruder batter.
In the sixth inning, however, Dennenberg was pulled out of the game and fellow junior Michelle Linford was put in to get the final six outs. "Michelle had not pitched in a week and I wanted to give her some game action before she started tomorrow," said Hoelman. Linford protected Blair's lead but still gave up two runs in the top of the seventh, although it was already clear that Blair had control of the game and the lead.
Offensively, Blair was sufficient, but not superb. Hitters were able to get on base, but many times were left stranded at the end of the inning. At one point the Blazers had the bases loaded with no outs, but the team was unable to convert on the opportunity, scoring not a single run. Junior Claire Lieberman said after the game, "We weren't able to string any hits together," something the team had been excellent at during the regular season. Tonight's biggest hit came off of Linford's bat, a double, which drove in two runs, increasing Blair's lead to 4-0 and giving the team necessary breathing room.
Hoelman felt that the team's offensive troubles could become a serious obstacle as the team advances through the playoffs. "We are only going to be playing better and better teams as we go on. We need to put everything together if we expect to keep winning," said Hoelman. The coach stressed that Blair is often excellent defensively or offensively, but almost never both. "We need to put together a complete effort," he concluded.
Today's game was attended by one of the largest crowds of the season, but for the first time this year, an admission of $5 was required to for fans to sit in the bleachers or near the field. Yellow tape was set up as a dividing line between the paying and non-paying zones. Dozens of Blair students and alumni crowded around the left field corner, the closest area that was still free of charge.
Hoelman explained the situation, stating that during the state-run playoffs, admission is required, with none of the ticket sales going to Blair athletics. Hoelman was very grateful for the continual fan support Blair has shown the team this season, and he hopes that it will continue even with the new admission costs.
Still, many softball players were disappointed by the state admission requirement and its detrimental impact on the overall atmosphere at Blazer Field. "We love our fans, and it felt lonely without them being near us," said junior Juliet Garlow. With the majority of fans sitting hundreds of yards away, the Magruder support section was often louder than the paying Blair contingent, especially as the softball team's offensive woes became more and more apparent.
Blair's playoff win was the first of Hoelman's career as head coach. Hoelman felt Blair's recent losing streak in the playoffs put extra pressure on the Blazers to win today. He also thought that there were several game-specific factors that affected the team's mindset going into today's contest. "When you have already beaten a team and you are expected to win, there is definitely more pressure on you to win," said Hoelman.
Softball players echoed similar feelings after the game. "It was not an option for us to lose today," said Garlow. "We have worked too hard and are too good to lose so early." Garlow felt that Blair's successful regular season will keep the weight on the team to continue their winning ways. "One win is not enough for us," said Garlow.
Blair's next game is Wednesday, May 17, at home versus Gaithersburg at 7 p.m. A $5 admission charge will be required for fans wanting to sit in the stands.
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