Superior pitching and defense lead to 8-5 win
MARCH 30, BLAZER FIELD—
For the first time this season, the stands and the bench were completely silent. Parents anxiously readjusted seats and looked up at the sky or out towards the Blair parking lot, anywhere but the field, where Blair had just fallen behind 3-2. A Blair softball team that had beaten their last three opponents by a combined score of 45-3 had given up the same number of runs in a single inning. The game seemed to be falling apart.
Head Coach Louis Hoelman called a time out, walked out to center field and tried to reassure a team that had faced little adversity earlier in the season. After the game Hoelman commented on his mid-inning speech. "I told them that Damascus had come to play, but that we had as well." The team responded, closing out the inning with two quick outs.
Blair stepped up to bat in the bottom of the same inning knowing they had to make a statement of their own and retake the lead. After the first batter grounded out, the next seven batters reached base, with three consecutive singles followed by four doubles in a row. Hoelman said, " I asked them to bounce back and they definitely did. There's nothing better than that."
Blair took the lead 7-3 and never gave it back, winning the game 8-5, while improving their record to 4-0. Blair had not played a team of this caliber all year, besting their earlier opponents 14-3, 10-0 and 21-0. However, Blair tried not to let a strong Damascus squad intimidate them. "We try to approach every game the same. We try to stay calm and collected," said junior Juliet Garlow.
Blair's calmness was tested again in the bottom of the 7th inning. Up 8-3, a win seemed certain, but Damascus had four hits in the inning, two with two outs. A late triple cut the lead to 8-5 and raised tension on both benches. Blair hoped for the inning to end, while Damascus prayed for it to continue. Luckily for Blair, the next batter grounded out and the game was over.
For players, this game was a test of team's will and perserverance, the team coming out stronger and more connected than ever. "We have gained a lot of confidence in each other and in our team. I know that personally I was worried going to the game, but I feel so much better now," said Garlow, who was 2-2 with two walks.
Offensively the team was anchored by strong play at the top and bottom of the order. "Sarah (Rumbaugh) and Allison (Rubin) were both excellent up front. Allison was 3-4, and really brought in the runs. Juliet (Garlow) simply had a great game," said Hoelman.
Senior captain Sarah Rumbaugh also commented on the team's offensive prowess this season. "Last year we were a much better defensive team, but this year we are hitting a whole lot better." Rumbaugh thought that this switch helped the players remain confident even when they fell behind. When the team fell behind Rumbaugh remembered "that it was early in the game, and that we were a good team, and that we should be able to come back."
The final score also does not accurately indicate the closeness of today's match. "Damascus was actually hitting better than us, forcing our outfielders to the fences," said Rumbaugh. Still Blair was able to win the game. "We always took advantage of the times that we did get on base." Throughout the game, Blair bunted, stole bases, and extended hits, ensuring that every at bat used as effectively as possible.
Defensively, Blair played a more solid game than Damascus. "We were limit their long hits to a double, maybe a triple, but when we got a long hit it was often a triple or a home run," said Hoelman. Junior Allison Rubin, helped to stop several well hits balls as an outfielder, stretching the Damascus outfield when at bat, hitting two doubles and one inside the park home run.
The team now looks forward to some of their toughest competition of the year, hoping to maintain their pristine record. The Blazers also have a renewed sense of trust and confidence in each other and their ability to win. "We are going to be a very challenging team to beat this year. We practice hard and play hard," said Garlow.
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