Huntingtown stops No. 2 Chesapeake-Anne Arundel for 3A state softball championship (VIDEO HERE!)
by Derek Toney
As tears and laughs flowed on his player’s faces in a corner of the main level at the University of Maryland Softball Stadium late Saturday afternoon, Chesapeake-Anne Arundel softball coach Don Ellenberger thought back to early March with his talented yet unproven roster.
“I told them I believed if they bought in to everything we were trying to do, we had a shot to get to Maryland,” said Ellenberger. “The bottom line is, they bought in and worked hard.”
The No. 2 Cougars fell short in their ultimate quest, dropping a 2-0 decision to Calvert County’s Huntingtown in the Class 3A state championship game. Haley Downin, Norah Hart and Alison Pollack each posted singles for Chesapeake.
In a scoreless deadlock through five innings, a couple of Cougar miscues helped Huntingtown (22-1 overall) breakthrough en route to a second straight 3A title. The Hurricanes defeated Westminster in last year’s title round.
The wait continues for Chesapeake (20-4), which last won a state title in 2008. The Anne Arundel County champions had chances Saturday.
Their best was in the third inning, loading the bases with one out. Lead runner Hart, who opened the frame with a single, was forced out at home on Tristyn Stewart’s fielder’s choice.
The next batter, Jerzie Nutile, sent a towering fly ball a foot foul over left field fence. Huntingtown senior pitcher Victoria Fletcher got Nutile looking to end the inning.
Fletcher, who will play for Lehigh next spring, didn’t allow another base runner until the seventh.
“We knew she was going to be very tough, and we had our opportunities,” said Ellenberger. “We had the bases loaded, and if we get a key hit that game doesn’t end up the way it did.”
Downin, who will play basketball and softball at Wilmington University in Delaware next season, matched Fletcher Saturday. She also escaped an early threat.
Starra Murphy lined Downin’s first offering in the bottom of the second for a double. Murphy advanced to third after a wild pitch with two outs, but Downin struck out Kaela Gilligan to end the frame.
Downin and the Cougars weren’t as fortunate in the sixth. Sophie Futchko hit a hard grounder that grazed off Downin’s glove into centerfield to start the frame.
Alexis Mann walked and Fletcher laid down a sac bunt. Downin threw to first basemen Charli Smith for the out. Smith, looking to force Futchko back to third with a bluff motion, lost the ball.
The ball rolled into foul territory near the Huntingtown dugout and Futchko came home. With two outs, Nutile mishandled a grounder, allowing Mann to score the Hurricanes’ second run.
Chesapeake hoped for some late inning magic as Pollack and Sophia Bianco reached on an error to start the seventh. After Smith’s bunt attempt landed into the glove of Mann in front of the plate, Ashley Anderson hit a low liner that Hurricane first basemen Jaden Vermillion nabbed and touch the first base.
Vermillion threw to second base where shortstop Taylor Hastings tagged out Pollack for a game ending double play.
“We played a good team and gave it our all,” said Downin. “It just wasn’t our day.”
Ellenberger praised Downin, who set 13 team records in her varsity career, and fellow seniors Kexin Wang and Brittany Ledson for bringing along a roster that featured five freshman and three sophomores.
“We didn’t know what we were going to be and they were more than I could’ve asked for,” said Downin. “They played like juniors.”
“Everybody keeps telling me I should be set for the next three years, but I don’t know about that,” said Ellenberger, who’s guided the Pasadena school to two state titles and eight state finals in 18 seasons. “We’re still young, but we should be pretty good. If everybody stays healthy, we’ll be competitive.”
CLASS 3A STATE SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
AT UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
HUNTINGTOWN 2, NO 2 CHESAPEAKE-ANNE ARUNDEL 0
Chesapeake-Anne Arundel 000 000 0 – 0 3 2
Huntingtown 000 002 x – 2 5 1
Downin and Stewart; Fletcher and Mann
2B: Huntingtown – Murphy