— CRESAPTOWN— Fort Hill may not have been able to win the Cumberland City championship, but a 6-2 win over City rival Allegany for the the Maryland 1A West Region, Section I championship will do just fine for the Sentinels.
On the verge of blowing yet another opportunity and stranding even more of its runners, Fort Hill scored five times with two outs in the top of the eighth inning to beat Allegany on a foggy night at Carl Belt Field. Starting two hours late because of rain delays, Jasmine Benson singled four times and drove in three runs and Michala Garrison kept Allegany from getting warmed up to lead the Sentinels to their first section title since 2009 when they finished runner-up for the 1A state title.
The Sentinels had already left a dozen runners on base over the first seven innings when they were able to load the bases with one out in the eighth. Cheyane Rice lined out hard to third for the second out, but Shania James was able to work the count into her favor at 3-1 with two gone when Fort Hill got fortunate after Allegany miscommunicated on a pop fly in the infield and allowed the goahead run to score to make it 2-1.
The Sentinels took full advantage of the opportunity and would add four more runs on three hits to open up a 6-1 lead. Benson singled home Bailey Godlove and Alexis Kimmell, who reached early in the eighth off of an error and a fielder’s choice, and Emma Bauer scored James with a double that also moved Benson to third. Catcher Morgan Cranford singled to left field to score Benson and give her team a five-run lead.
The lead was more than enough for Garrison to hold during the bottom of the eighth as Allegany was able to get a run back, but ran out of time. Garrison was extremely sharp early and didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. She struck out eight and walked one.
Besides Benson’s three hits, Fort Hill got two singles from James and Cranford. Bauer added a single to her double.
Fort Hill (12-9) plays again today, 4 p.m., at Kemps Mill Field against Manchester Valley for the West Region title. Manchester beat North Carroll 4-3 on a walk-off hit by Kayla Geho to win the Section I title.
“I kept saying, even when we were 3-7, that we weren’t out of it,” Fort Hill’s head coach Mike Bittner said. “I really believed that we still could get to this point and the girls stepped up we’ve won nine of our last 11 games to get here.”
The Sentinels didn’t get a hit off of Allegany starter Tori Bohrer during the first two innings before collecting a pair of singles in the third. They stranded both of those runners to make it a total of five in the first three innings.
Fort Hill got its first run during the fifth inning when Rice doubled and scored on Benson’s second single, but the team stranded another runner to bring the total to seven. Three more were left on base during the sixth, two more in the seventh, and the final two being left out during the eighth gave the Sentinels a total of 14 for the night.
“I just knew that one run wasn’t going to be enough, and it was awful because we had wasted so many chances to maybe break things open,” Bittner said. “We finally got what we needed in the eighth, although we almost left the bases loaded there too, with a huge hit from Jasmine Benson.
“We were lucky that Allegany didn’t do more with their opportunities or it could have gone the other way.”
After Fort Hill had taken a 1-0 lead in the fifth, the Campers responded with their first run in the bottom of the sixth. Ashleigh Eisentrout hit a two-out double, scored when Shannon Dougherty singled five pitches later. Dougherty was Allegany’s leading hitter with three singles, and Eisentrout drove in her team’s second run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth.
“They all hurt, but this one definitely stings,” said Rick Twigg, Allegany’s head coach. “To be that close to getting out of that jam in the top of the eighth and have a mental mistake be what hurts us is hard to take. But honestly, if you would have told me at the beginning of the year that we would have gone 15-6 I would have called you crazy. That’s a testament to the girls, especially the seniors, and the coaching staff.”
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at email@example.com