It was one of the most improbable endings in the history of the state softball tournament.
Liberty let several crucial scoring opportunities slip away in the first six innings of Friday's Class 2A state championship against McDonough at Maryland's Robert E. Taylor Stadium.
The Lions, however, refused to quit and loaded the bases in the seventh with no outs and trailing by two runs. Rebecca Oneto tied the game with a single up the middle. Sammy Bost then stole third, but slid past the bag. The third baseman missed the tag, allowing Bost to get to her feet, and instead of trying to get back to the bag, she just took off for home, sliding safely for the walk-off 3-2 victory as three McDonough players scrambled around her.
The Lions, who were appearing in their first championship game in 29 years, clinched their first-ever softball title. Liberty pitcher Mackenzie Thompson allowed just two hits, both to opposing pitcher Jazzmyn Hayden.
"I tried to run really fast, but I over-slid the bag," Bost said. "I said to myself, 'I cannot let my team down,' so I just got up, and saw she was coming after me ... so [I thought], 'OK, I'll just go home.'"
Thompson allowed two runs on two hits, with 11 strikeouts and three walks over seven innings, and hit one batter. The junior had confidence her team was going to pull out the victory.
"This whole season we have not let up," Thompson said. "It was over until we scored the three runs we needed. It was sloppy, but we had to do whatever we had to do to win."
Hayden was also in control for much of the game before the deciding seventh. She allowed three runs on six hits with five strikeouts and three walks.
"Unbelievable," Liberty coach Chris Szocik said. "Everything just started working. We knew we could do it. The thing I stressed all year is you play to the end. You stay calm, you stay cool, you do your job."
McDonough opened a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Hayden hit an RBI double to right field. Liberty had a chance to tie the game in the second with runners on second and third with one out. Hayden got out of the jam with a strikeout and a pop out to second base.
Hayden made the Lions pay the next inning when she homered to left field. Liberty threatened again in the sixth when Natalie Gill singled and Thompson worked a 10-pitch walk. However, Hayden settled down and struck out the side to keep the shutout until the deciding seventh.
Sherwood 1, Chesapeake-AA 0: The Cougars started off the season with more losses in their first eight games than the past two seasons combined.
Chesapeake-AA, however, was committed to getting better, and after a loss to Howard on April 27, the Cougars reeled off 17 consecutive victories, surging to Friday's Class 4A state title game against Sherwood. But the impressive run ended with a loss to the Warriors, who won their first state championship in softball.
Chesapeake's Crystal White allowed no earned runs on three hits with four strikeouts and no walks over seven innings. Meggie Dejter, of Sherwood, pitched seven scoreless innings with five hits, six strikeouts and one walk.
“Their pitcher shut us down when she needed to,” Chesapeake coach Don Ellenberger said. “We had our chances but we couldn't put that one hit out there like we had all year. We're about as proud as we can be of them. At the beginning of the year, I don't think a whole lot of people thought we would be here.”
The Cougars, who won both the Anne Arundel and District V championships, finished the season at 20-6. Sherwood became the first team from Montgomery County to win the title since 1999 when Gaithersburg took home the trophy.
White did not allow a hit until the sixth on a single by Emily Hughes. However, the hit proved to be costly as Hughes eventually scored the game's only run on an error.
The Cougars threatened in the sixth when Olivia Ravadge and Jacqueline Richards opened the inning with back-to-back singles. However, Chesapeake was held scoreless when it could not get the ball out of the infield.
“It was an amazing year. I've never been so proud,” Ravadge said.