Softball: Neuhart pitches Hayfield through Virginia AAA National District; Northeast thwarts injuries; E. Roosevelt is unbeaten

May 8, 2013

Taylor Neuhart wiped her eyes dry before proceeding to pitch. On a night commemorating Hayfield’s six seniors, emotions briefly got the best of one of the area’s most effective pitchers.

Monday night in Alexandria, Neuhart struck out 11 Falls Church batters in her penultimate regular season game as a Hawk, a 16-1 win. The four-year starter has spent six seasons with Hayfield’s varsity.

“There were definitely some tears, and then we brought it back together for the game,” she said.

Neuahart joined the team as a manager in seventh grade, shagging balls in the outfield, feeding the pitching machine and rounding the bases in situational practice scenarios.

Five years later, she started every game for Hayfield, compiled a 19-0 record and racked up more strikeouts (244) than any area pitcher except for O’Connell’s Tori Finucane.

“I love doing anything with the game,” Neuhart said. “If I’m not at my own practices, I’m at my sister’s or somebody else’s or pitching out front with my dad.”

Neuhart has not allowed more than one run in any game of her senior campaign. Behind her dominance in the circle, the Hawks have yet to lose a game.

Hayfield wraps up the regular season against Washington-Lee on Thursday before entering the Virginia AAA National District tournament — which it won last year — as the top seed.

In 16 years at Hayfield, Coach Ron Giovannucci said he’s never had this many seniors on one team. Graduating only one player last season, the Hawks have flourished in clearly defined roles that haven’t wavered from 2012, when they advanced to the Virginia AAA Northern Region quarterfinals.

“They’ve been together for a long time,” Giovannucci said. “They take care of each other, they pull for each other. They’re completely focused on having a successful season.”

“I’m going to miss them a lot.”

Giovannucci constructed the program he said has never had a losing season. By coaching travel ball teams and scouting for players in summer leagues, he dealt with the dip in talent that arose when South County opened its doors in 2005 and several athletes elected to move.

He said the AAA National District gets “a bad rap” compared to the Virginia AAA Patriot and Liberty districts, which possess three ranked teams.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to prove to some people in the regional playoffs that we are for real,” the coach said.

Neuhart said the team is comfortable ignoring the pressure of outside expectations. With a district tournament title putting a target on Hayfield, the girls kept improving.

With an experienced team, she’s thrilled about the prospect of proving Hayfield’s unblemished record is no fluke.

“We’re just ready to prove everybody wrong,” Neuhart said.

“As the season has gone on, we feel like the target has just gotten bigger. We’re ready to prove ourselves. We’re really excited for the tournament.”

Northeast grits teeth to win Anne Arundel

A scalpel could not stop Northeast’s campaign to win the Anne Arundel County regular season championship.

After an early-season loss to Old Mill provided a wake-up call, the Eagles ratcheted up their focus in practice and games to end the regular season on a 14-game win streak that included two one-run, comeback victories over defending county champion Chesapeake.

Freshman infielder Coral Dittmar has played through torn ankle ligaments to hit .525 and lead the team in doubles. Senior Selina Matulonis injured her left shoulder last year, causing problems with multiple direction stability.

Both players delayed corrective surgical options in favor of playing out the season.

“At first I was going to get the surgery and not play, but I knew we had the potential to do great [things] this season, so I’m sticking it out because I believe in us,” Matulonis said.

A four-year member of the team, Matulonis did not want to miss her last hurrah. Surgeons will tighten the ligaments and tendons after the season, but for now she serves as an example to her teammates in toughness, perseverance and versatility.

Because of her injury, the right-handed senior now bats left, slap-bunting her way on base. Typically a shortstop, Matulonis has also played right field and second base while the Coach Joe Hart figured out the optimal alignment.

Junior pitcher Brooke Steinbach has compiled a 15-1 record, and six different players are hitting over .400. This leaves Hart with a good problem.

While en route to a meeting with Anne Arundel County coaches to discuss selection for the all-county team, Hart said he did not know how he could whittle down his list.

In his third year coaching the Eagles, Hart has seen contributions from the top to the bottom of his lineup all year.

“Even when they get down, they never give up,” he said. “They just fight, and fight and fight.”

On May 3, facing a crucial county test at Chesapeake, Northeast went down 4-2 in the fourth inning before scoring four sixth inning runs to win, 6-5.

The refusal to quit harkens back to players who pushed through injuries and to a 7-1 loss to Old Mill in April in which Hart left the dugout to question a call.

“He just shows up that he never gives up,” Steinbach said.

Northeast is the No. 1 seed in the Maryland 3A East Region tournament. After a first-round bye, the Eagles face the winner of Wilde Lake and Howard, which has eliminated the Eagles from the past two tournaments. Along with Northern, Northeast’s nine state championships tied for the most in the history of Maryland public high schools

“I’m actually excited, and I hope we get Howard,” Steinbach said. “ I think we can beat them.”

Eleanor Roosevelt reigns atop Prince George’s 4A standings

Coach Delton Fuller would have been okay with a loss.

With his team trailing 7-0 in the third inning at Bowie on Monday, Fuller remarked to an assistant coach that a loss “might not be such a bad thing” after the Raiders won all of their previous 16 games.

The team’s defense was unfocused, and Fuller desired a change. After coming back in the bottom of the seventh to defeat closest rival C.H. Flowers the previous week, Eleanor Roosevelt did not need the win to lock up the Prince George’s 4A title.

“We need to reenergize and get hungry,” he said, recalling the dugout conversation.

But the group he’s dubbed, “the comeback kids,” did it again, putting up eight runs in the fifth inning to win, 16-11, and finish the regular season with an unblemished 17-0 record.

In an impassioned rivalry, Fuller’s young, athletic team ignored the snare drums Bowie fans banged in the bleachers to impress their coach yet again.

Fuller said he’s emphasized slap-bunting and base running with his speedy team that lacks experience. Freshman Joya Grillo starts in the circle as just a sophomore.

Freshman Claire Mudd tallied 6 RBI and was a single short of hitting for the cycle against Bowie.

In his fourth year heading up softball for the Raiders, Fuller hopes to match the success he had coaching girls’ basketball, when Eleanor Roosevelt advanced to the Maryland 4A state semifinals.

Fuller’s goal is represent the region in the state semifinals at the Bachman Softball Complex.

“One thing about getting to Bachman is most people think when they play the P.G. County team, it’s going to be a weak team,” he said.

“I’m not trying to just get to the county. I want to get to the states, and who knows what will happen? Maybe we’ll win states.”

The Post Top 10

Northern is the No. 1 seed in the South Region of the Maryland 3A state tournament. The Patriots will play the winner of the Potomac (Md.) at Friendly in a regional quarterfinal on May 13. . . . Sherwood and Eleanor Roosevelt are top seeds in the North and South regions in Maryland 4A competition. . . . Woodgrove hosts Loudoun County, the only area team to down the Wolverines, on May 14 with the top spot in the Virginia AA Dulles District tournament on the line. . . . O’Connell, Glenelg and National Cathedral finished the regular season without a loss in district play.

1. Northern (18-0) LW:1

2. O’Connell (24-1) LW:2

3. Sherwood (16-0) LW: 3

4. Stone Bridge (17-1) LW: 4

5. Glenelg (20-0) LW: 5

6. South County (15-1) LW: 6

7. Woodgrove (15-2) LW: 7

8. Lake Braddock(14-1) LW: 9

9. National Cathedral (11-0) LW: 10

10. Loudoun County (15-2) LW: NR

Dropped out: Atholton

On the bubble: Hayfield(19-0), Eleanor Roosevelt (17-0), McLean (15-3)

Related: Schedules: Softball | Baseball

Standings: Softball | Baseball

Statistical leaders: Softball | Baseball

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