Softball: Fairfax on the rise; Northeast starts strong

April 2, 2014

After jumping to a two-run lead in the first inning at Fairfax on Tuesday night, Stone Bridge appeared to be on its way to its first win of the season and ninth consecutive win over its former district foe.

But after four straight seasons without a winning record, the Rebels have learned to play from behind.

In front of a strong home crowd, Fairfax rallied to defeat the Bulldogs 7-6 as senior Rutgers signee Rebecca Hall went 2-for-3 at the plate with a single and an RBI double.

“They did a great job keeping their heads in it,” Fairfax Coach Matt Hoffert said. “We know what to do when we’re down and we’ve come back on teams before.”

When the two squads last met last May, the Bulldogs held on for an 11-9 win en route to the Virginia AAA semifinals. But Stone Bridge graduated eight seniors from last season’s 28-2 team and lost six starters.

The Rebels (2-0) are a year wiser and have nine returning starters from a team that finshed 8-13 last season.

“We just have a lot of talent this year, and we’ve never had all nine girls on the field play travel ball in my four years,” Hoffert said. “That’s new for us, we’ve got our seniors who’ve been struggling in the program but are working hard to improve the team.”

Hall is one of only three seniors on the team, and along with fellow infielder and North Carolina recruit Kiana Sherlund, she provides a solid punch in the middle of the order. Sherlund has four RBIs and one home run through two games.

She’s an integral piece of the team’s success and a starting lineup that features three freshmen starters. Freshman catcher Mac Orebaugh has a team-high five RBI.

Sherlund said before every season the Fairfax student body asks how the team will perform, and for the first time in recent memory the Rebels are relaying the message of high expectations for this season.

“In past years we’ve kind of aimed for .500, but this is the first year in a long time that we know we can make it further than before,” Sherlund said. “I think we have a real shot this year to win a playoff game.”

The Rebels will look to continue their hot start when they face Conference 6 foes Langley and No. 5 Madison Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Northeast earns two crucial in-county wins

Northeast softball has two goals for the 2014 season. To go undefeated in Anne Arundel County competition and to advance as far as possible in the playoffs.

The Eagles (5-0) have already made their case for the former with statement wins against top county foes Chesapeake and Glen Burnie.

And their road to the state title should be smoother this year with the reclassification of Howard, the team that defeated Northeast in the region semfinals each of the last three years.

“Howard’s not there, and we’ve gotten so much better in the offseason because we know this year’s our year,” centerfielder Sabrina Gordon said. “This is our year, the seniors’ last chance to prove something about Northeast, and we just really want it.”

Gordon returns for her fourth year on varsity along with fellow Stevenson-commit Brooke Steinbach, who tallied nine strikeouts against Chesapeake (3-1) last Friday and 12 against the Gophers (1-2) on Tuesday. The Eagles graduated three seniors from last year’s county championship squad and replaced two of those spots with a strong freshman class, including Sabrina’s younger sister, Sarah.

Their strength early this season is hitting, Gordon said, and their ability to connect in any situation.

“It only takes one of us to start the inning and then everyone keeps hitting,” she added.

The Eagles trailed by one run Tuesday at the start of the sixth inning against last year’s 4A state runner-up when a triple by Kaitlyn Muller sent two runners home and secured a 3-2 win. Glen Burnie pitcher Ali Moos, who finished last year 12-2 with a 1.50 ERA, struck out six and had a single, triple and one RBI for the Gophers.

Sophomore infielder/pitcher Coral Dittmar made the difference in the Chesapeake win with a single, a triple and four RBIs for a 6-4 final. Coach Joe Hart pointed to Chespeake, Glen Burnie, Severna Park and Broadneck as the biggest county challengers at the start of the season.

“The Chesapeake game was probably the bigger win for me,” Gordon said. “Just because I know they want us so bad. They’ve always been our rivals.”

The two teams split two meetings in Gordon’s freshman and sophomore year. The Eagles swept the rivalry games last year and their only Anne Arundel loss came against Old Mill. They’ll face the Cougars twice more during regular season.

The Post Top 10

Due to weather postponements, Sherwood was scheduled to play its first game in more than a week on Wednesday at Einstein. . . . Lake Braddock defeated its last two opponents by 41 combined runs and has yielded just one run through three games. . . . Northern avenged a loss to Chopticon that snapped a 77 game win-streak with a 6-0 win against the Braves Tuesday . . . Madison pitcher Katie Vannicola outdueld Marshall’s Madison Larsen in a 2-0 shutout win Monday.

1. Sherwood (1-0) LW: 1

2. Lake Braddock (3-0) LW: 2

3. Northern (4-1) LW: 3

4. O’Connell (1-1) LW: 4

5. Madison (3-0) LW: 5

6. Woodgrove (4-0) LW: 6

7. South County (1-0) LW: 8

8. National Cathedral (0-0) LW: 7

9. St. Mary’s Ryken (2-1) LW: 10

10. Battlefield (4-0) LW: NR

On the bubble: Chopticon (4-1), Glenelg (2-2), River Hill (1-0)

Records through Tuesday.

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