Mount de Sales Academy softball coach Pete Waskiewicz strolled calmly out to discuss a call that had gone against his team in the bottom of the sixth inning in an IAAM A Conference semifinal against McDonogh School in Owings Mills on Monday afternoon.
The veteran skipper ultimately had the call reversed in his favor and it turned into one of several key moments that helped the 13th-ranked Sailors prevail, 7-4, and move on to Tuesday’s championship game for the fifth straight year under Waskiewicz, who is retiring after 24 years at the helm following the final.
They will meet the No. 15 John Carroll, Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Harford Community College.
The fourth-seeded Patriots, who have never won an IAAM softball crown, upended No. 14 Archbishop Spalding, 9-3, in the other semifinal to set up a showdown with Mount de Sales, which claimed its last title in 2013.
The second-seeded Sailors (13-7, 7-3 conference), who topped John Carroll, 3-2 and 12-7, in both regular-season meetings this spring, are still wary of taking the Patriots lightly.
“It’s hard too beat a team three times in a season,” Waskiewicz said.
And Waskiewicz should know, considering that the Sailors had fallen twice to McDonogh (9-8, 7-3) before Monday when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by junior outfielder Abby Fontana and a single by freshman infielder Laurna Heathcott and never allowed the Eagles to get any closer.
Even after junior infielder Karlee Stocksdale, who went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs, scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore infielder Olivia Davidson and senior center fielder Taylor Forgen scampered home on a stolen base and a throwing error to give the Sailors a 4-0 advantage in the fifth, they still needed key plays and clutch hits to hold off the hard-charging Eagles.
After Camille King opened the bottom of the fifth with a double and scored after Ruby Jocelyn was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, the Sailors countered with two runs of their own on Stocksadle’s double to left-center.
“I wasn’t looking for a specific pitch, I was just looking to drive the ball and get those two runs for my team,” she said.
The 6-1 lead looked large until the Eagles staged a two-out rally on singles by Carson Belanger and Chloe Burgenthaw followed by a ringing double by King to bring both runners home.
It could have even been a bigger inning for the Eagles if Lacey Allee-Press, who was originally called safe, hadn’t been called out on a bang-bang play at first after Waskiewicz asked the umpires to confer.
Although King crossed the plate on Jocelyn’s single to make it 6-4, another pivotal play went the Sailors’ way when Nikki West smacked a drive into short right-center field that appeared to be heading into the gap.
That is until Forgen came up big with a diving grab to save a run and end the inning with no further damage inflicted.
“Their center fielder made three tough catches today,” said McDonogh coach John Folfas. “If any one of them had gotten through, it might have been a different game. We got 11 hits. We just couldn’t get enough of them at the same time.”
With that crisis averted, the Sailors added an insurance run in the seventh on a Heathcott homer.
“That was a clutch hit,” Waskiewicz said. “It gave us some breathing room. We knew we’d have to out-hit them to win.”
They also needed Forgen’s fielding gem to prevail.
“She’s a senior who has been my center fielder for four years,” Waskiewicz added. “That play was a difference-maker.”
IAAM A CONFERENCE SOFTBALL SEMIFINAL
No. 13 MOUNT DE SALES 7, No. 15 McDonogh 4
MDS 002 022 1 — 7 10 0
McD 000 013 0 — 4 11 2
MDS — Lindsey Tolle and Allie Cluster.
McD — Kearstyn Chapman and Madison Gemmill
2B: MDS – Karlee Stocksdale 2, Laurna Heathcott; McD — Camille King 2, Lacey Allee-Press.
HR: MDS — Laurna Heathcott