District 7 won its ninth straight Maryland Big League Softball title Monday. That didn't surprise the team. Going a bit further, though, would be quite an accomplishment even for the most accomplished program in the 24-year history of Big League Softball.

Unlike in past seasons, District 7 has had to overcome injuries, decisions by players not to play for the all-star team, and, in one case, a player's split softball commitments.

Still, District 7 is back in the Eastern Regional Tournament after a pair of victories, 6-0 and 2-0, over a team representing Elkton on Monday night.

The regional tournament begins Tuesday in a new home -- West Haven, Conn. District 7 has won seven of the past eight regional titles, thanks, in part, to playing on its home field, Stethem Park in Waldorf.

"We've lost a number of players. We've lost a little bit of punch," District 7 Manager Tom Morrison said. "We're going to have to do it like we did" Monday night.

If District 7 advances through next week, it will reach the Big League World Series, which will be played Aug. 15-20 in Kalamazoo, Mich. District 7 has won a record five Big League titles since 1997.

District 7 took early control of the first game Monday, scoring single runs in the first and third innings. The latter came from Christine Shipyan, a rising senior at Westlake. She was playing catcher a day after starter Autumn Boyd, a Thomas Stone graduate, separated her shoulder in practice.

"She did it all for us," Morrison said of Shipyan, who has also played third base and outfield for Westlake the past two seasons.

That was enough for pitchers Carrie Higdon and Amanda Hanson. Higdon, a La Plata graduate, and Hanson, a rising junior at St. Mary's Ryken, combined on a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts.

In the second game, St. Mary's Ryken graduate Kim Fowler broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth inning with an RBI single. In the top of the seventh, Fowler got the second of District 7's three hits with a one-out single and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Thomas Stone graduate Betty Jane Tennison.

Higdon allowed one hit in six innings, and Hanson struck out two of the three seventh-inning batters to seal the victory.

Hanson will spend only the first day of the regional tournament with District 7. She also plays on the Charles County Youth League team that will compete in the 16-and-under Babe Ruth World Series next week in Varina, Va., and committed to play with that team before the Big League team advanced.

Morrison hopes Carrie Reeves, a rising senior at La Plata, can pick up Hanson's innings, but Reeves has not pitched in five weeks because of a wrist injury. She was prescribed six weeks' rest and could be given clearance to pitch next week.

"If she's available and comes around," Morrison said, "we have a very good chance."

Pitching will be critical for District 7 because the team will have to play doubleheaders Tuesday, Wednesday and next Thursday in order to advance to the final Aug. 12. Big League rules limit pitchers to 10 innings per day.

"It's going to take a lot of sacrifice [hits] and some timely hitting," Morrison said. "I don't think we're going to blow anybody out of the water."

SHIPYAN