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Tough Schedule May Help Thomas Stone Turn a Corner

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page SM10

If Thomas Stone's softball team finishes the regular season strong and makes a nice postseason run, the Cougars will look back on this past week as their season's turning point.

Thomas Stone began the week with a tough loss to Huntingtown on Monday, and, two days later, was silent for five innings against Patuxent, to which it had lost two weeks earlier.

Jackie Cote of Thomas Stone slides into home as McDonough's Karen Elder fumbles the throw in Friday's game, which the Cougars won, 12-0. (Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)

But the Cougars erased a two-run deficit to defeat Patuxent, 3-2, in the bottom of the seventh inning, and steamrolled McDonough, 12-0, in five innings Friday afternoon.

Now, the Cougars, winners of six of their past seven, feel they are starting to click at just the right time; tomorrow they host No. 4 Calvert, which has won 28 consecutive Southern Maryland Athletic Conference games and has allowed two total runs in those games.

"We had a pretty good week," said senior Maggie Donaldson, second baseman for Thomas Stone. "We came together. We're officially a pretty good team now."

The week did wonders for Thomas Stone's confidence. Even though the Cougars are the only SMAC team not to be shut out this season, they needed to prove to themselves they could hit both in the clutch -- as they did against Patuxent -- and all through the lineup -- as they did against McDonough.

Patuxent led 2-0 after four innings, but Thomas Stone senior pitcher Brittany Therres did not allow the Panthers a hit the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Therres's fifth-inning single -- Thomas Stone's first hit -- got the offense moving.

A couple of singles and some aggressive base running by Donaldson to score the winning run on a throwing error in the bottom of the seventh made for a giddy postgame for the Cougars.

This week could have been bad, Thomas Stone Coach Jessica Roche said. "But that win against Patuxent really helped. Our momentum kept going as the game went on. Putting it in play eventually turned into base hits."

And those base hits came in bunches against McDonough. Thomas Stone led 9-0 after two innings. Backup catcher Jessica Poulin had two doubles, and eighth-place hitter April Plater had a triple.

"That turned us around and helped us out a lot," Donaldson said. "It gave us a lot of confidence. You always need confidence with your hitting."

They will need every bit of it against Calvert and All-Met pitcher Megan Elliott. The Cavaliers have a one-game lead over Huntingtown in the SMAC but do not play the Hurricanes again. A victory over the Cougars would put Calvert in excellent position to clinch its second straight SMAC title, with all its remaining games against teams in the bottom half of the conference.

But a good showing by Thomas Stone against Calvert would give the Cougars even more confidence for the postseason. Although the teams from Anne Arundel County are tough, the only challenging SMAC foe awaiting Thomas Stone in the Maryland 4A East Region is Patuxent, which the Cougars now know they can defeat.

"It's going to be a big game on [tomorrow]," Donaldson said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company