Huntingtown shuts out Westminster for 3A state softball crown; Eastern Tech falls short against LaPlata in 2A (VIDEO HERE!!)

Westminster senior Olivia Herman (center) holds the Class 3A state softball runner-up trophy during Friday night’s postgame ceremony. The Owls lost to Calvert County’s Huntingtown in the title match at the University of Maryland.

by Derek Toney

After his team’s error-filled performance in a loss to Sparrows Point High at the start of the season, Eastern Tech softball coach Jack Meyers was asked by a reporter whether it was one of their worst showings.

Meyers was confident the Mavericks would be a different team come May. Friday, Eastern Tech fell short in its bid for a state title, dropping a 3-2 decision to Charles County’s LaPlata in the 2A final at the University of Maryland.

Westminster’s came up shy of an ultimate turnaround, falling to Huntingtown, 5-0, in the 3A final. After their lacrosse teams captured state titles Thursday, the young Owls hoped to conjure one final magical moment.

But, Victoria Fletcher made their bats disappear. The junior, who’s committed to Lehigh University, allowed two hits and struck out nine as the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference program (23-1 overall) exorcised the demons of the 2016 title game defeat to Westminster, as well as last year’s final loss to C. Milton Wright.

“They haven’t let in a run in the tournament so we knew they were dominant,” said Owls senior catcher Olivia Herman. “We played our best. I couldn’t ask anything more from this team.”

Bailey Whalen’s infield single in the first and sophomore Maddie Olexy opposite-field bloop single to open the sixth were the only hits for Westminster (14-7). Whalen got to second on a wild pitch with Olivia Herman at bat with two outs before Fletcher fanned Herman to retire the side.

Westminster opened the second inning with a Laura Tipton walk. A sac bunt and ground out got Tipton to third with two outs, but Fletcher got Olexy to fly out to center to end the inning.

Jackie Coyle walked to leadoff the Owls’ fourth, and moved to second on a Herman roller to Fletcher. Fletcher struck out Tipton and sophomore Lisa Scanlon both swinging.

The Hurricanes got all the runs they would really need in the third inning with Fletcher’s RBI double, a RBI groundout from senior Callie Hilgenberg and Paxtan Perry’s run-scoring single. Hilgenberg squirted an opposite field RBI single down the first baseline in the fourth, and Alexis Mann’s RBI double in the fifth left Huntingtown in complete control.

“To get a run early would’ve been big for team morale,” said Owls coach April Sexton. “Once we got down 3-0, it was going to be a tough battle back. There were some shifts in momentum, but we just couldn’t make contact.”

Sexton, whose postseason run has been sparked by a sophomore-dominated roster, believed Huntingtown’s championship game experience was huge.

“They haven’t experienced anything like this before,” said Sexton, who moved into the varsity coach from junior varsity right before the start of the spring.. “They kept their composure throughout the postseason.”

The Owls, who won five games last spring after winning the 3A title, nearly tripled their win count, including a come-from-behind win over then-defending state champ C. Milton Wright in Wednesday’s state semifinals at Bachman Park.

Their ceiling is pretty high with 10 sophomores and two freshman set to return for their junior and sophomore season, respectively, next spring. Sexton said the Owls have a talented junior varsity pipeline.

“It has been an awesome year, and it has been a great end to all three of the seniors’ careers,” said Herman, who played her last game along with starting pitcher Jill Haines and Whalen. ”I think we’re going to take this experience, and the [title] before, through with us for the rest of our lives.”

Arguably the best public softball team the past five seasons, the 2017 Eastern Tech squad wasn’t the juggernaut like past squads. What the Mavericks lacked in talent, they compensated with tenacity which was on display Friday.

“From the start of the season going through some bumps in the road, coming together and getting energy, they weren’t afraid of the stage,” said Meyers. “They were right there.”

The Mavericks had the tying run at second with one out in the seventh, but LaPlata pitcher Ava Krahling struck out Miranda Burton and retired Sydney Edmond on a foul fly ball to left to give the Warriors their second 2A title in three seasons.

Jacyi Chamberlain, Sierra Sanderson and Devin Ruble each had a RBI double for LaPlata (21-3). Abby Heagy had a RBI single in the sixth for Eastern Tech, in its first state final since winning the 2A title in 2014.

The Mavericks (14-5) lost three straight state semifinal matches before defeating Frederick County’s Walkersville Wednesday afternoon at Bachman Park.

Getting to College Park was a dicey proposition after losing to eventual Baltimore County champ Sparrows Point in the second game.

“It was like a wake up call for us,” said Heagy. “We wanted to be there for each other and just work harder.”

The Mavericks gutted through likely disaster in the opening inning Friday, getting an out at home and sophomore Rilee Fazenbaker’s strikeout with the bases loaded to retire the side. Eastern Tech scored first in the second inning as Savannah Bucalo scored on Nina Metz’s misplayed liner to right field.

The Warriors answered in the top of third with Chamberlain doubling home Sydney Bales. Sanderson brought in Chamberlain with another double.

In the fifth, Bales opened with single and was sacrificed to second. After Fazenbaker retired Chamberlain on a comebacker, Ruble doubled in Bales.

Eastern Tech assistant coach Alexis Peay (left), Natalie Bates, Nina Metz and Rilee Fazenbaker watch LaPlata receive its championship honors during Friday’s Class 2A state final postgame ceremony. The Mavericks’ bid for a second title was thwarted by southern Maryland’s LaPlata.

Eastern Tech closed within a run in the sixth as Heagy singled home Edmonds, who opened the frame with a double. The Mavericks had runners at first and second, but Heagy was thrown out at third on a fielder’s choice and Krahling struck out Metz.

Anna Chmielewski opened the seventh with walk and senior Samatha Hargis pushed her over to second. Krahling got Burton and Edmond to end it.

It was the final game for seniors Hargis, Chmielewski, Casey Turner, Natalie Bates and Metz, but the Mavericks have  11 letter winners set to return next spring including starters Isabella Stewing, Fazenbaker, Bucalo, Heagy, Burton and Edmond.

“This is third Eastern Tech team to make the finals and fourth from Baltimore County since 1983, so they should be proud of what they did,” said Meyers.

State softball championship

at University of Maryland

3A final

Huntingtown 5, Westminster 0

Westminster 000 000 0 – 0 2 2

Huntingtown 003 011 x – 5 11 0

Haines, Sicinski (4) and Herman; Fletcher and A. Hilgenberg

2B: Huntingtown – Mann

2A final

LaPlata 3, Eastern Tech 2

La Plata            002 010 0 — 3 8 1

Eastern Tech     010 001 0 — 2 4 0

A. Krahling and Hanks; Fazenbaker and Burton

2B: LaPlata – Chamberlain, Sanderson, Ruble; Eastern Tech – Edmonds