On the heels of six dominant innings against Reservoir in the 3A state semifinals on Tuesday, Huntingtown’s Tori Fletcher said she could see the finish line.
And, three outs away from the Hurricanes’ third straight trip to the state championship game, Fletcher wanted to leave no doubt.
After allowing a leadoff single, the junior pitcher buckled down and struck out the side in the top of the seventh to close the door on a 6-0 victory over the Gators at Bachman Softball Park.
“We all really felt that adrenaline before the last inning, just knowing that we only needed three more outs to get back to the game we’ve wanted to be in all season. Considering the last two years, we’ve wanted that opportunity to finally finish it,” Fletcher said. “So yeah, I definitely had something extra at the end there.”
Fletcher ended the night with nine strikeouts, including at least one in each inning, and allowed just four hits — all singles. No Reservoir (17-6) batter advanced past first base.
The victory advances Huntingtown (22-1) into a state championship game match-up against Westminster.
Hurricanes’ coach Mike Johnson acknowledged that after losing in the finals two straight seasons, the season-long goal has been to return to that title game. But he was also quick to point out that his team never once got ahead of itself.
“By all means we’ve wanted to get back, to give ourselves another opportunity to prove that we can do it, but the kids deserve a lot of credit for not looking past this game or any of our playoff games for that matter,” Johnson said. “We didn’t really know much about Reservoir, but they worked their butts off the last two days preparing for this game. To get [to the final], we needed to win today.”
On the other side, a Gators’ team making its first state semifinals appearance since 2012 never managed to string together a rally. The team did however make several standout defensive plays to hang around, including a diving catch by centerfielder Holly Daum in the first inning that resulted in a double play that kept the game tied.
Huntingtown had its share of hits, finishing with nine, but never scored more than twice in a single inning. Instead, the Hurricanes methodically built their advantage and let their defense do the rest.
“I thought we handled ourselves well in warm-ups, very professional in the way we went about things, and I thought the first inning was great. But there’s no substitute for experience and I know Huntingtown has been here the past couple years,” Frisvold said. “They stayed with their game plan and we just couldn’t get our bats going today. And, you know, against a good pitcher that kind of thing is going to happen sometimes.”
With the shutout, Huntingtown has still yet to allow a run during this year’s playoffs. The team has outscored its opposition in its four games, 36-0.
Offensively against Reservoir, the Hurricanes ended up scoring the game’s first run in the bottom of the second when Taylor Beach singled home Callie Hilgenberg. The lead then grew to 2-0 in the third when Ashlyn Hilgenberg laced a two-out RBI triple down the right field line to score Elizabeth Poissant.
Things just kept coming from there. In the fourth, Callie Hilgenberg doubled and later came around to score on a wild pitch and then Jordan Paddy followed with her own double that later resulted in her scoring on an error. In the fifth, the Hurricanes pushed the lead to six courtesy of another big hit from Callie Hilgenberg.
“Our whole philosophy is to just win the inning. So it didn’t matter if it was just one run, we wanted to keep going up there and having good at bats and then come back out and let our defense work,” said Fletcher, who had a double of her own during the team’s two-run fifth inning.
While Reservoir never was able to mount a comeback, Frisvold said afterward she was extremely proud of her team for its resiliency all season and breaking through to win a region title.
“This is an amazing group of seniors that have been with me for four years and I’m going to obviously miss them. I’ve seen them grow as individuals and ball players … and they’ve really set the bar for the underclassmen and future Reservoir softball players,” Frisvold said. “The hope is that going forward, you are going to see many more Reservoir teams making it to this stage.”
Huntingtown 6, Reservoir 0
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Northwest 9, Howard 2 (4A State Semifinals)
The Lions jumped ahead early and finished with more hits than the Jaguars, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to avoid a seven-run loss at Bachman Softball Park on Tuesday.
Northwest used a three-run home run in the top of the third inning to take its first lead of the game and never looked back the rest of the way. Megan Ridenour and Skawnee Ronyak finished with three RBI apiece in the victory, while Kaylah Qassis added two RBI.
Amber Yuille pitched the complete game for the Jaguars, striking out five and picking up the victory.
In the loss, Howard seniors Shanya Gordon and Katie Unkle finished with three hits apiece. The Lions had temporarily taken the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning.
Northwest will play Severna Park — a 10-0 winner over Charles H. Flowers on Tuesday — in the 4A state championship game at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the University of Maryland.
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