Maryvale’s Jessica Butler was all business in her final high school game, pitching a three-hit shutout to lead Maryvale Prep to another championship.

NDP’s Mary Beth Wisniewski pitched a tough ballgame for the Blazers, but was hurt by a four-run fifith.

Once again it’s a pride of Lions that rule the roost. The Maryvale Prep Lions roared again, as they most often do in May, blanking Notre Dame Prep, 5-0, to win yet another IAAM B Conference softball title, this one coming on Sunday afternoon at Harford Community College.

It was their second straight championship, and fifth in the last six years. Only a McDonogh win in the 2008 title game has prevented Maryvale from winning six in a row. If it’s not a dynasty, then pick another word that’s close. When the IAAM began play in 2000, Baltimore Lutheran ran off four straight B titles. Catholic won the crown in 2004, and it’s been all Maryvale Prep since then, save for that lone McDonogh win.

Maryvale won the title last May by beating Towson Catholic, with Jessica Butler pitching for the Owls. Twelve months later, the losing pitcher in that game took the hill as a Lion, clad in vibrant red, the same color she will don next year when she takes to the field as a Maryland Terrapin. This time, and excuse the obvious “if-you-can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” line, she got the win, tossing a three-hit shutout, as Maryvale broke open a tense 1-0 game with a four-run fifth inning.

Butler’s strong outing, which included 13 strikeouts, along with a 3-for-3, two-RBI day at the plate from junior battery-mate Suzanne Patinella, helped key the win.

After beating TC last year at the same venue, Maryvale head coach Tim Messina lost several players to graduation, but still had a strong returning core. That core got much, much stronger after the closing of Towson Catholic last summer, as Butler transferred to the Brooklandville school for her senior year.

Butler’s presence pushed the Lions from strong contenders to very strong favorites this spring. And she and her new Lion teammates certainly lived up to the expectations, going 10-0 in the league and finishing with an overall mark of 17-1.

Butler opened the game strong, getting two K’s in a one-two-three top of the first. Her teammates then staked her to an early lead in the home half. Senior first-baseman Emma Voelker lined a sharp one-out single to left and after advancing on a fly-out, she came around to score on a RBI single from Patinella.

Butler fanned the side in the second, making it five strikeouts of the first six hitters she faced. Maryvale nearly scored again in the second, as the Lions loaded the bases, but NDP starter Mary Beth Wisniewski got a big strikeout to end the threat.

Butler and Wisniewski both posted zeroes on the scoreboard in the third and fourth innings, and NDP failed to score in the top of the fifth as well. Then the Lions broke it open in the bottom half of the fifth.

Michelle Frailing coaxed a lead-off walk and then Carolyn Hildreth laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Frailing advanced to third on a Voelker ground-out. Senior Julie Peluso jumped on the first pitch she saw and lined a sharp single to center, scoring Frailing. With Peluso on second after a passed ball, Patinella lofted a lazy fly ball that hugged the right field line and dropped in for a RBI double as Peluso scooted home.

Butler reached on an infield single, and the Lions were still in business with two on and two out. After a pitch to Macy Rhodes, NDP catcher Taylor Nantz saw Patinella off of third base and gambled on a would-be pick-off, but her throw sailed over the head of third-baseman Caroline Ladzinski. Patinella scored and Butler scampered home right on her heels. Wisniewski got the next hitter to end the inning, but the damage was done as the Lions went to the sixth with a commanding 5-0 lead.

The Blazers did not go quietly, however, as they mounted a serious threat in the top of the sixth. Ladzinski got a one-out walk and Logan Battista hit a soft pop-up that dropped in for a single. Nantz received a free pass and NDP had the bases loaded with a golden opportunity to put a dent in the Maryvale lead.

Senior Mindy McGuire jumped on a Butler pitch and sent a screaming line drive down the left field line, but it curled foul. NDP head coach Emily Lissner, who was in the coach’s box a third, held up two fingers just inches apart, telling McGuire she had missed a hit by that slim margin. Had it stayed fair, it likely would have cleared the bases and left McGuire in scoring position, but luck was on the side of the Lions. With a 3-2 count, something had to give, and Butler bore down and fanned McGuire on a 59-mph fastball (according to a radar gun behind the plate). End of threat, end if inning. And with it, the Blazers knew their chances were dimming and almost gone, as you just don’t get that many serious scoring chances against Butler.

After Maryvale went down in order, NDP came to bat in the top of the seventh and Butler silenced the Blazer bats once again, enabling the Lion faithful to cheer yet another championship.

For Butler, it was three championships in four appearances in her high school career, this final one as a Lion and winning two with TC in the C Conference in her freshman and sophomore seasons. For Lion seniors Peluso, Voelker and Claire Ryan it was also three championships in four seasons.

“This one means so much because we’re seniors,” said Peluso. “It’s our last time, and the team really came together.”

NDP finished its season with a mark of 8-2 in the B and 9-3 overall. All three losses came at the hands of Maryvale Prep, by scores of 2-0, 8-0 and 5-0.

“We knew it would be a tough game,” said Messina. “We have a lot of respect for their team, Emily does a great job as a coach. Their pitcher is very tough and always makes it hard for us to score runs, so we knew it would be a battle today.”

For the season, the Lions didn’t just win, they dominated. Messina’s crew was 10-0 in the B, outscoring opponents by a combined 101-5. Add in the two playoff wins, both shutouts, and they were 12-0 with a scoring margin of 116-5. In a post-game team meeting, Messina told his team that the biggest game for them was an earlier 9-1 loss to A Conference finalist Seton Keough.

After that humbling defeat, the Lions bounced back to finish out the campaign with nine straight wins – and kept the B Conference title bowl in the Lion’s Den in Brooklandville.

IAAM B Conference Softball Championship
(at Harford Community College)
Maryvale Prep 5, Notre Dame Prep 0
NDP 000 000 0 – 0 3 4
MP 100 040 x – 5 6 0

Wisniewski and Nantz; Butler and Patinella.
2B: MP-Patinella.