Mount Hebron center fielder Aaliyah Montague-Bass celebrates every Vikings win with a tumble into the postgame huddle. Coach Chuck Struhar told the team he would take her place one time this season if the win warranted it, and so the Vikings got their 2014 barrel roll on a Friday afternoon with a 6-5 win at home against River Hill.
“I’m not doing anymore barrel rolls. When we win states, maybe, but they’re not getting anymore,” Struhar said after his tumble by first base. “I don’t do barrel rolls for nothing.”
It was an acrobatics-worthy win for a few reasons. The Vikings came back from a two-run deficit with a four-run third inning powered by doubles from Alli Bluhm, Maddie Bennett and Sammi Cadigan. Struhar earned his 299th career win. Sophomore Evvie Buehlman struck out eight. Most important, the Vikings avenged a 6-5 loss in last year’s 3A East region final in which the Hawks (7-2) kept them from reaching the state tournament with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“It was the exact same situation,” Buehlman said. “Same girl up at the plate, same score, same one-run difference. It was really nice beating them after last year. Last year was heartbreaking.”
It took time for the Vikings (8-1) to make moves offensively and calm themselves on defense.
“We can hit the ball, it was just a matter of time before we started hitting it,” Struhar said.
Bluhm’s double to the fence in the third left the ball dented and unusable, foreshadowing her eventual fifth-inning home run that put the Vikings in the lead for good.
On the defensive end, Buehlman pitched the first four innings and then stepped out for a bit after a rough patch. She took to the circle for the last inning right as the wind picked up in Ellicott City. She paced to the edge of the circle and calmly pushed her hair back behind each ear after each pitch as she retired three consecutive batters.
“We’re pretty equal, and whether we play the game here or there, it’s worth a run,” Struhar said of the close finish. “They’re very good, a very strong team, and when you’re playing a very strong team you want to play up to their level, and we did that well.”