When South Carroll softball coach Matt Cannistraci accepted the Class 2A state runner-up trophy on Friday, he had the Cavaliers' seniors by his side.
Cannistraci had nothing but warmhearted things to say about those girls, a group of leaders that paved the way for the Cavaliers' softball team this season.
"The seniors were incredible this year," Cannistraci said. "We decided not to pick team captains, we decided to use the seven seniors as a leadership group and they led by example the whole entire year. They were out, they were hustling, they were working hard and doing everything they needed to do to help the underclassmen.
"I couldn't ask for seven better girls."
South Carroll advanced to the state final for the first time as a program and came in on a nine-game winning streak. Their opponent, North Caroline from the Eastern Shore, was undefeated through 23 games and the Bulldogs didn't give that record up as they downed the Cavs 8-1 for the 2A title at the University of Maryland softball complex.
The Bulldogs (24-0) registered 12 hits and senior pitcher Breanna Bishop collected nine strikeouts. The Cavaliers had six hits and junior pitcher Chloe Sharman struck out four batters.
"I am extremely proud," Cannistraci said. "I don't think they can ever know how proud I am of this group. Like you said, this is the first time we've made into the finals and they just worked their butts off. We went on a nine-game winning streak and unfortunately we lost this one but this team was so resilient the whole season. They fought up to the very last at-bat, the very last run and I just can't express how proud I am of this group."
North Caroline had two outs in the first inning when junior baseman Kendall Dixon stepped up to bat. She ripped a Sharman pitch into left field and over the fence for a home run to start the Bulldogs' momentum. They built a 4-0 lead through five innings with a run in the third and two in the fifth when junior shortstop Megan Robbins nailed a RBI double with two outs.
Carroll caught two straight fly balls and Sharman struck out her third batter to send the game into the final inning.
North Caroline's next three batters singled and Bishop hit an RBI double to bring in two runs. The Bulldogs scored twice more to put them ahead of South Carroll 8-0.
SC freshman shortstop Sydni Carroll's RBI single in the seventh brought home Anna Lomax, Katlyn Davis' courtesy runner, to avoid the shutout.
South Carroll (18-6) captured its first county title win in 35 years this season. Then the Cavaliers claimed their second regional crown in four seasons to reach the state tournament. Sharman blanked Southern-Anne Arundel 2-0 on Tuesday to get her team into the state final, but SC came up one win shy of obtaining the program's first championship.
"It's been amazing, especially since we have the whole team to support us," Cavs senior outfielder Marlee Carroll said. "I always know they'll have my back and we have each other's backs. I'm just so glad I got to have this ride with them and nobody else."
North Caroline 101 020 4 — 8 12 0
South Carroll 000 000 1 — 1 6 0
NC-Breanna Bishop and Sarah Mast; SC-Chloe Sharman and Devin Scales. 2B: NC-Megan Robbins, Bishop, Aubree Strange. HR; NC-Kendall Dixon. WP-Bishop. LP: Sharman.