ARCHBISHOP SPALDING CAVALIERS
2019 IAAM A CONFERENCE
No. 12 Cavaliers post two big innings en route to 7-1 victory over John Carroll (VIDEO HERE!)
by Gary Adornato
Archbishop Spalding High junior outfielder Jayla Neal had just one career high school home run entering Saturday’s IAAM A Conference softball championship, at Stevenson University’s Weinberg-Fine Stadium in Owings Mills.
Now, she has two and is celebrating an IAAM title with her teammates.
Neal came to bat in the third inning of a scoreless game with no outs, after teammate Jordan Johnson led-off with an infield single, and she promptly drove an offering from John Carroll School’s Emma Kropkowski high and over the left-center field fence for a two-run home run. No. 12 Spalding would go on to score two more times in the inning, on a RBI fielder’s choice grounder by Alexandra Robinson and an error, propelling the Cavaliers to a 7-1 win over the Patriots.
Caroline Wasko and Angela Sena scored the second pair of runs after delivering back-to-back singles immediately after Neal’s home run.
“That was only my second home run ever in high school,” said Neal, who stressed she was just looking to make solid contact. “I just really wanted to hit the ball.”
In addition to Neal, freshman pitcher Amaya Carroll was also a big star for the Cavs (10-4 overall) as she, in just her fourth high school game in the circle, limited the Patriots to just six hits and one run in a strong complete game effort.
Carroll, who got a pair of excellent outfield assists, one each from Neal and Johnson, to help her cause, struck out five and walked just two. Both walks came in the sixth when John Carroll (9-9) posed its most serious threat, outside of the single run it scored in the fourth.
John Carroll star Emma Ritter who laced a double into the left-center gap on the first pitch she saw in the first inning, led-off the JC fourth with an infield single, beating a bounder to second with a head first slide. She was sacrificed to second and then scored when teammate Brianna Botkin laced a line drive off the base of the fence in straight away center-field. Spalding’s Johnson retrieved the ball quickly, however, and fired a strike to second to get Botkin and take the steam out of the Patriot rally.
“Our defense has been really tight all year,” added Neal. “We don’t get nervous when we get down. We just keep our composure.”
With one down in the John Carroll sixth, Kropkowski lined a double over the head of Spalding right-fielder Madison Burns and then Carroll pitched around Ritter, who was already 2-for-2. This put runners on first and second. With Katie Levy at second as a courtesy runner for Kropkowski, Sarah Spaeth blooped an apparent base hit into shallow left-field. Unsure if the ball would be caught, however, Levy hesitated on her break to third and that cost her. Neal charged the ball, scooped it and fired to third for a force out. Carroll then walked Botkin to load the bases, with two down, but ended the threat with a strikeout of Courtney Hartman.
“On the inside I had nerves, but you really can’t see it when I am on the mound,” said Carroll who appeared as composed as a four-year starter in working her way through the few jams she faced. “I knew this was a really big game. I really wanted to do it for the seniors.”
Right before the final strikeout in the sixth, the Cavaliers called timeout and all eight position players gathered around their freshman pitcher and encouraged to finish what she had started.
“We were just trying to calm our nerves a little bit,” said Carroll of the mound conference. “We knew it was the meat of their lineup.”
Spalding added three runs of its own, in the home half of the sixth. Sarah Slaton led off with a single and then scored when Jordan Moore sliced a triple into the right-field corner. Kropkowski struck out the next two Cavaliers, but both batters reached base as the third strikes eluded catcher Kate Gromacki. Kropkowski got a third consecutive K for the first out, but Wasko followed with an RBI single and Sena plated the third run of the inning with a sac fly to center.
Carroll followed up with a 1-2-3 seventh and the Cavaliers spilled onto the field and into a celebratory pile.
Spalding first year head coach Delaney Bell, who once starred for the Cavaliers said she was not surprised to see her team score in bunches.
“We tend to be pretty streaky,” said Bell. “We will get a lot of runs in a couple of innings. They very much pull off of each other’s energy, so whenever we have a good inning, it just keeps going. The seniors did a lot today. They are more than half of our team, so that means everything.”
The coach also said the team prepared to be in the title game from the very start of the season.
“I’m super proud,” added Bell. “We wanted this all year. We talked about it from the very beginnings. At one of our first practices we said we were going to be here. They wanted to avenge last year’s loss and losing 1-0 was terrible. They didn’t want it to be this close this time.”
It was Spalding’s league-best 10th IAAM A Conference title. The Anne Arundel County school lost a 1-0 decision to McDonogh School in last year’s title match.
John Carroll coach Sherry Hudson also expressed pride and optimism for her program, which won its only league title in 2017.
“I am proud,” said Hudson. “Spalding is a good team every year. We’re up to that standard now where we’re trying to compete for the finals. We were down a few players today, but they did a great job. We went through some highs and lows this season. We lose four big seniors, but we had three freshman starting today. So, that’s a good sign.”
IAAM A CONFERENCE SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
AT STEVENSON UNIVERSITY/WEINBERG-FINE STADIUM
NO. 12 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 7, JOHN CARROLL SCHOOL 1
JC 000 100 0 — 1 6 1
AC 004 003 x — 7 9 0
Kropkowski and Gromacki; Carroll and Sena
2B: JC-Ritter, Kropkowski.