The icy glare never left the face of Severna Park sophomore pitcher Kaila Jenkins. Not when Northeast loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning, or when the Eagles tied the game with two outs in the top of the seventh, or at any point in a game in which one mistake might mean the season's end.
Not until teammate Katie Purcell crossed the plate in the bottom of the ninth did Jenkins allow herself to celebrate, as No. 10 Severna Park (19-3) defeated fifth-ranked Northeast, 2-1, yesterday at home to advance to the Maryland 3A South Region final against La Plata at 4 p.m. today at Severna Park. La Plata beat top-ranked Calvert, 1-0.
"We're not afraid to walk people to load the bases," Severna Park Coach Jeff Sheppard said. "We know that Kaila can come and just shut you down. She's an incredible player, I can't say enough about her."
Northeast starter Ashley Gray matched Jenkins throughout the game, allowing no runners past second base until the bottom of the sixth, when Severna Park's Annie Roche led off the inning with a single and scored when the Eagles misplayed a bunt by the Falcons' Kristin Wojtowycz.
Northeast (15-5) tied the game with two outs in the top of the seventh on a single up the middle by LeeAnn Raber that scored pinch runner Amber Webster. Purcell scored on a fielder's choice with no outs in the ninth.
"This should have been a state final game," said Northeast Coach Mariann Schultz, whose team has lost in the region tournament to Severna Park each of the last three seasons. "There's a satisfaction on a great season, but this is getting old."
In La Plata's upset, Jamie Bussey's one-out single in the top of the sixth scored Lindsey Preuss as the Warriors avenged two regular season shutouts at the hands of All-Met sophomore pitcher Megan Elliott and the Cavaliers. The Warriors (18-4) have not advanced to the state tournament since 1997, when they lost the 3A title game to Calvert (20-2).
La Plata junior Carrie Higdon pitched her best game of the season, holding Calvert to just one hit and striking out 13.
Screaming Eagles Advance
At the start of the season, Seneca Valley Coach Larry Raum and his players agreed that they would not participate in the playoffs if the team did not post a winning regular season record. The Screaming Eagles did and now they find themselves one win away from the state playoffs after yesterday's 5-4 victory at Paint Branch (13-5) in a Maryland 3A West semifinal.
Seneca Valley (11-7) scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie. With two outs, junior shortstop Kaitlyn Benson doubled to deep center field to score courtesy runner Lindsay Sager on a controversial play. Paint Branch catcher Jessica Janoskie appeared to tag out Sager, but the plate umpire ruled Sager safe. Junior pitcher Kate Berman followed with a two-run triple.
"I think [Janoskie] touched her as she was going around her," Paint Branch Coach Maura Ryan said. "That hit definitely shifted the momentum of the game. . . . But that call didn't cost us the game. Our lack of hitting did. We had opportunities."
Staff writer Alan Goldenbach contributed to this report.