It the third of three outstanding softball games played between No. 1 Eastern Tech and No. 3 Hereford this season, the host Mavericks came from behind to defeat the Bulls, 4-3, in eight innings, Saturday afternoon, in the 2A North Region final. The victory advances Eastern Tech into the 2A state semifinals where it will face North Caroline on Tuesday afternoon at Bachman Park in Glen Burnie.

In an outstanding pitcher’s dual between Eastern Tech’s Jodie Bronushas and Hereford’s Erin Collins, both team’s found their offense late.

The winning rally began with Tech’s Nina Metz at second base under the tie-breaker rules. Casey Turner then sacrificed her to third, before the Mavericks (19-1) loaded the bases on a pair of fielder’s choice grounders. This brought Amaya Chmielewski to the plate.

Chmielewski slapped a ball to short, against the drawn-in infield. The ball was fielded by Hereford’s Michaela Watts, who fired home. The throw arrived at about the same time as Metz was sliding into the plate and the ball glanced off the glove of catcher Emily Arnold, allowing the winning run to score.

“We were all ready to get out of the gate and play our hearts out,” said Bronushas. “The first game, they had our number and the second, we definitely had theirs. So, it was really good competition.”

Hereford (14-4) broke on top in the top of the fourth inning with a pair of runs. Hannah League started the outburst with a one-out single and she came around to score on a triple by Haeven Henderson. With two down McKenzy Hall hit a double to plate the second run.

Eastern Tech got one run back in the home half of the fourth, as Casey Turner led off with a walk, stole second and scored on a RBI single by Bronushas, but Collins retired the next three hitters in order to preserve the Bulls’ one-run lead. Collins then promptly re-established Hereford’s two-run lead by leading off the fifth inning with a solo home run.

In the home half of the sixth, Nina Metz led-off for Tech  with a single and with one down Bronushas walked. A wild pitched moved both runners into scoring position and Natalie Bates picked up an RBI with a fielder’s choice groundout to second. Chmielewski then rolled a single up the middle to plate the second run of the inning, tying the game at 3-3.

“Basically, for the whole game we were down, so it was just fighting to get back on top,” said Eastern Tech senior Hannah Pfarr. “It was a hard game so we really had to push through and find hits to get on base to get runners to touch the plate. It was interesting, but it was hard fought.”

In the top of the eighth, with Lauren Mentzer at second base for Hereford, the Bulls advanced her to third with an infield groundout by Jennie Howard. Carly Stevens then attempted to bunt, but popped the ball to Bronushas for the second out. Mentzer nearly got caught too far off the base on the play, but scampered back into third as Bronushas’ throw sailed wide of the bag and into left-field. The ball was backed-up quickly, however, and there was no chance for Mentzer to score. Bronushas then got League to pop to first to escape the jam.

“It feels like it has been us and Hereford in this regional game so many times,” said the Mavericks’ veteran coach Jack Meyers. “We know each other so much and Erin Collins is a great pitcher. She has so many spin pitches and we were just trying to be patient.”

Meyers also talked about some of the challenges his team has face in 2017.

“This whole year has been a challenging year. A lot of these kids are playing in different positions from what they play in club ball, so they’re learning on the job.”

When asked what it is going to take get to the the state title game and win, Meyers did not hesitate.

“Defense, I believe. We have to take care of the ball. Jodi is going to keep us in the game and we have some good hitters and some timely hitters. One through nine, each one has a different style and a different way of getting things done.”

For Hereford, it was a tough way to end a brilliant season, but the future is bright for the Bulls.

“In the 18 years I have been coaching, I have never been prouder of this team,” Hereford coach Laura Blama. “We started four freshmen; they really held their own. Erin Collin dominated from start to finish, at the plate and on the field. It was just a really special group we had this year.”

Blama expects her club to be back.

“We always hope it is going to be our day and we always take the confidence that we can beat any team we come against. Things happen and it didn’t work out for us in the end, but we got beat by a really good ball team today. We have a lot of young talent coming up and I hope we are in the same spot next year, but with a different outcome.”