GLENELG — Same game. Same opponent. Same field.
But different outcome.
Yes, payback never felt so good for these McDonough Rams.
After a crushing 3-2 loss in last year's Class 2A South Region softball final at the Glenelg Gladiators, McDonough returned to the scene of the crime Friday in Howard County with regional supremacy and a state semifinal berth again on the line.
This time it was McDonough's turn to do the celebrating while Glenelg was heartbroken in the aftermath of a demoralizing loss — a reversal of fortunes from a postseason ago — as the fourth-seeded Rams got revenge with a 5-3 victory in their latest clash in the regional final with the third-seeded Gladiators.
"It felt awesome. It just feels really good to know that you can do this; it's a confidence booster," said McDonough junior pitcher Jazzmyn Hayden, too distraught to comment after last year's regional final when her no-hitter through five frames was spoiled in the sixth to set up Glenelg's winning run. "[Last year's loss in the regional final] did stick for a while, but I feel kind of ashamed of myself now for taking it the way I did. This game was our goal. If anything, we wanted to at least win regionals."
"That was our main goal: get to the regional final and leave happy, not sad, and we achieved that today," echoed McDonough head coach Julie Snavely, who now has guided a totally different team to states from her past two Rams squads she took there, winning it all in 2009. "It worked out. The softball gods were shining down on us today."
Hayden got the last laugh in the rematch with Glenelg, particularly with her bat. Her clutch, two-out single in the fifth was the deciding hit, driving in Vicki McKenzie and Molly Simpson with the winning runs.
She added as her jubilant team was about to board the bus for its 90-minute trip back home, "Elated. I couldn't believe it at first."
In the process of avenging last year's season-ending loss at Glenelg (10-6), McDonough (14-7 overall) won for the third time in its fourth straight appearance in the regional final and advanced to Tuesday's state semifinals against Lansdowne (18-3) at Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie. McDonough's state semifinals affair against the Baltimore County outfit finished too late for inclusion into this edition.
Meeting for the second straight postseason to decide the region was hardly a surprise for McDonough and Glenelg. Both were young, talented teams a year ago when they collided in the regional final.
"Wonderful," McKenzie simply said about getting even with Glenelg. Like Hayden, she was at a loss for words following last postseason's painful setback in the regional final.
"We were really ready to play ball today," she said.
McKenzie was the catalyst in McDonough's explosive start — scoring three runs in the first, more than its entire output from a year ago at Glenelg — as she crushed the first pitch of the game over the center-field fence for a quick 1-0 lead. Ironically in last year's regional final, McKenzie cranked the second pitch of the game for a double to the right-center-field fence that bounced over the fence. She later would score, but that was the only run McDonough got in that opening frame.
Junior center fielder Kate Beck proved that McKenzie's most recent leadoff heroics had a contagious effect. Beck followed by hammering a double to left field, then Simpson ensued with an RBI single for a 2-0 McDonough lead. Simpson eventually came around to score on a critical two-out throwing error by Glenelg after a flyout to right.
"Anyone on this team could've gotten that [first-inning double]. I was just thankful that I got it and it felt great," said Beck, who led McDonough with a combined 5-for-8 showing in both regional finals at Glenelg after multiple hits in each game. "[McKenzie] is a great player, and that home run gave us a boost of confidence."
Hayden finished off Glenelg by retiring four of the final six batters she faced via the strikeout pitch. She put an exclamation point on a 12-strikeout performance, which included four hits and three walks allowed, by fanning the last batter of the game — right before the most productive part of Glenelg's order was coming to the plate.
"Jazzmyn came up big today," Snavely said of her ace who was out of commission during the regular season for a couple of weeks due to tendonitis in her throwing arm, resulting in a McDonough losing streak. "Pitchingwise, she was awesome."
"She was doing really well today — really, really well," McKenzie added of Hayden.
comeback this time
But Hayden's most important strikeouts occurred in the fourth when Glenelg had the go-ahead run standing at third base with just one away after already plating three runs in the inning to knot the score.
Hayden struck out Glenelg's Marissa Saglimbeni and Brooke Redmond with swinging third strikes to end an intense, rocky fourth, moments after the McDonough pitcher uncorked a wild pitch that enabled the Gladiators to tie the game and put Faith Kujawa within 60 feet of taking the lead.
Glenelg second baseman Nykita Vernot ignited her team's fourth-inning scoring with an impressive 10-pitch at-bat that she worked for a leadoff walk. Then the speedy Leah Allen broke up Hayden's no-hitter with a bunt single in a form of history repeating. Allen scored the winning run against McDonough in last year's regional final when she broke up Hayden's no-hitter to lead off the sixth of that contest by legging out an infield single.
Vernot and Allen were thorns in McDonough's flesh throughout Friday's encounter with their playmaking ability.
"We got kind of shaky in the middle of the game, but we still held it together," McKenzie said.
"I feel like I do better when I'm under pressure," Hayden revealed. "My team says all the time that I put myself in pressure because I do better like that."
"I have faith in my pitcher," Beck said of Hayden. "Every team's going to hit the ball so it's not like she's going to be unhittable. She's amazing, and we're lucky to have her on this team."
Still, McDonough — which appeared it may blow the game open early, following up its three-run first with hits in the second, third and fourth that put stranded runners into scoring position each time — was able to keep the score tied heading into the momentous fifth when it regained control. McKenzie led off with an infield single, displaying her speed as she hustled down the line, and then Simpson worked a one-out walk off Glenelg pitcher Amanda Bendix to set the stage for Hayden's game-deciding single.
Six of McDonough's batters recorded hits in the win, led by McKenzie, Beck and Erin Parlett with two apiece. Each of the three was also responsible for an extra-base hit.
Beck would have homered in her final at-bat if not for Glenelg right fielder Colleen Regan snagging the deep fly while reaching over the short, flexible fence on the run. Regan actually completed the impressive catch by falling over the fence, though the play was ruled an out as the umpire declared she had the ball before her spill.
McDonough headed to the state semifinals with hopes of winning its second Maryland banner in three years, capping star pitcher Melanie Mitchell's high school career with a championship in 2009.