WILLIAMSPORT — Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. When you’re as good as Mountain Ridge, that means sometimes it takes a lot of luck, and on Friday afternoon the Lady Miners blended hard work and serendipity beautifully to collect their second straight Class 1A West Region title with a second consecutive 5-4 over North Carroll in a nine-inning thriller at Kemp Mills Park.
Using seven singles from seven different players, and despite being outhit almost 2-1 by North Carroll, Mountain Ridge (21-0) will now carry a 44-game winning streak into Tuesday’s state semifinal against Perryville, 4 p.m., at Bachman Park in Glen Burnie. Like North Carroll in the region championship, Perryville played the Miners in the state semifinals last year, with Mountain Ridge winning 1-0.
After allowing North Carroll to tie it 4-4 with three runs in the top of the seventh inning, Mountain Ridge got the win in the bottom of the ninth when Carlie Lewis scored the title-clinching run on an errant throw to first.
The two teams shut each other down in the first extra inning, and the Miners began the home half of the ninth entering the bottom of their order with the No. 6 batter, Katie Llewellyn, leading off. With Lewis on second because of the international tie-breaker rule, Llewellyn opened the inning with a with a groundout to second that advanced Lewis to third. Chelsea Muir, on the second pitch of the at-bat, hit a steady grounder to Panthers shortstop Madison Grimm. Grimm, who had as good of a day as any player on either team, looked Lewis back to third, but her throw to first sailed high, allowing Lewis to score and giving the Miners the win.
“We were fortunate to come out of here today with a win, there is no doubt about that,” said Mountain Ridge head coach Martha Mauzy. “I’m proud of the girls for not folding after giving up the lead in the seventh. I think that says a lot about who they are.”
Over the first three innings, the Panthers continued to pound on the door, but the Miners refused to let them in. The Miners couldn’t even find the Panthers’ house over the first three innings, let alone a door to knock on, and didn’t get their first hit until the fourth inning on a bloop single from Shae Winner.
The Panthers, who stranded eight runners over the first three innings and 14 for the day, got on the board first in the fifth inning when catcher Gina Tolomei singled and scored on Jen Miller’s double.
Mountain Ridge flipped the switch offensively in the bottom of the fifth, getting singles from Muir and Kiya Wilhelm to leadoff the inning, and a bunt single from Allison Hawkins to load the bases with no outs. The score became tied at 1-1 when Anna Broadwater lined an infield single that was knocked down by Grimm at short, but allowed all runners to advance safely. Following an infield pop up, Emma Baker drilled a ball back up the box for a single to score Wilhelm and Hawkins to make it 3-1, and Winner hit a sacrifice fly to center for the final run of the inning.
Lewis proved vulnerable at times on the mound (allowing 13 hits, three runs and throwing 130 pitches), but tough in others (striking out nine, and getting out of sticky situations in each of the first three innings). She struggled early after having a problem with the dirt around the rubber.
“There was a gully that her whole foot was slipping into every pitch,” said Mauzy, but the head coach didn’t believe it had anything to do with her struggles. “She’s a veteran pitcher. She can’t let things like that get her off her game.”
Lewis settled down during the middle innings but ran into trouble once again in the top of the seventh, and then showed her experience once again to get out of trouble.
North Carroll started the inning with a Michaela Stitely single, and Grimm followed by crushing a home run just to the left of center field to slice the score to 4-3. The next batter reached on an error before Lewis struck out her counterpart Allison Short for the first out. With one out, Jen Miller was hit by a pitch, and Melanie Martin singled to load the bases. The Panthers scored their fourth run on an error, before Lewis got a strikeout and a ground out to escape.
Stitely, Grimm and Tolmei shared eight of the 13 hits for the Panthers, who have lost to two teams this season — Mountain Ridge (the reigning 1A champion) and Liberty (the defending 2A champion) twice.
“It wasn’t how we’ve become used to winning, but the girls kept going even when things weren’t going good,” said Mauzy.
“Like I said after the last game, these girls really want to get back to the state championship, and for them to keep playing like they did when we were struggling is what most championship teams have to do at some point during the season. We just hope it’s the last time we have to do it.”
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at email@example.com.