Hagerstown, MD - May 4, 2019 - Saturday's Region XX play-in doubleheader had special meaning for Hagerstown Community College's sophomores, who could have been playing their final home softball games for the Hawks.
Anne Arundel threw a scare into HCC and pushed the Hawks to the limit. The Hawks needed to win the second game to stay alive after the Riverhawks claimed a 4-3 victory in eight innings in the opener.
HCC was equal to the task, breaking out the bats for an 8-0 win in five innings behind a one-hitter by Emily Talbert.
The split forces a decisive third game Sunday at noon — or Monday if there is inclement weather. The winner will advance to play in Catonsville next weekend.
"There was definitely some rust, and I think some nerves being that it's the playoffs now," HCC coach Jenna Knable said. "Obviously not playing for 12 days, we definitely did not have that momentum that we usually have.
"We know what to expect tomorrow. As long as we come out and hit, we'll be fine."
Maddy McDonough put the Hawks (32-9) on the right track in the nightcap with a leadoff single to right in the first inning. She reached third when Elizabeth Churchman bunted for a single, as no one covered first.
Madi Renn hit a sharp grounder to third, putting McDonough in a rundown between third and home. McDonough prevailed, eventually breaking for the plate and scoring under the tag for a 1-0 lead.
"As a leadoff, I just really focus on getting the ball in play and doing my job. ... I didn't get a hard hit somewhere, but I was able to get on. My job is to score," McDonough said.
Talbert followed with a double to score Churchman and move Renn to third. Renn scored on Kaitlin Wolfe's sacrifice fly. Victoria Oliver added another sac fly to bring home Talbert and cap the four-run first.
It was more than enough support for Talbert, who was lights out in the circle for HCC. She protected the lead by striking out the first two batters in the second, before closing out the inning with a groundout after hitting a batter and issuing a walk.
The Hawks aded a run in the bottom of the inning, starting with Lily Oliver getting hit by a pitch. She took second on Ashley Bachtell's bunt before scoring on a McDonough single for a 5-0 lead.
After Talbert struck out the side in the third, HCC made it 6-0 by loading the bases before Bachtell drew a walk for the RBI.
The Riverhawks (13-22) ended Talbert's no-hit bid with Kyleigh McQuade's harmless single in the fourth.
HCC capped its scoring with a pair of runs in the fourth. Renn reached on an outfield error and took third on an errant throw to the infield. Wolfe cashed in with a single for a 7-0 advantage.
The Hawks loaded the bases again, giving Bachtell a second chance to show her patience as she drew another walk and RBI for the eighth run.
Talbert allowed two Riverhawks to reach base in the fifth before retiring the next three batters — the last on a strikeout — to finish the victory and force Sunday's game.
The opener was a struggle for HCC in its first live action in two weeks since completing the regular season.
Anne Arundel's Sylvia Frye led off the second with an inside-the-park home run as Churchman in left field slipped on the wet grass.
The Riverhawks added a pair of runs in the fourth. After a double by McQuade and a single by Frye, Alexis Brengle advanced the runners into scoring position with a bunt. Two batters later, Carly Gernert dropped a bloop single into shallow right field to score McQuade, with Frye coming in on a high throw to the plate.
HCC's bats came alive in the seventh. Wolfe led off with a single. After Bachtell entered as a courtesy runner, Oliver and Cierra Beaver each laced a single and Bachtell scored, making it 3-1.
Lily Oliver bunted to advance Oliver and pinch runner Madison Baker into scoring position, setting up Smith's sac fly to right to cut the deficit to 3-2. McDonough singled to center to tie the game, sending HCC's dugout into an uproar.
McDonough was stranded at third, forcing extra innings.
Anne Arundel collected the winning run in the eighth, as Frye hit a two-out single off Wolfe that was misplayed in the outfield, allowing Frye to get to second. Talbert came on in relief and allowed Brengle's RBI single.
Sunday's game will have some added meaning to it.
"I know coming into tomorrow, it's my last home game here. I really didn't have any intentions of coming to HCC, but it's become a huge part of me," McDonough said. "I know I'm going to work as hard as all the other girls because it means the world to us."