This was going to be the year.
Century softball’s 11 seniors were pointing toward the 2022 season, believing this was their chance to accomplish something special.
“I feel like we knew something good was going to happen this year, just because of the 11 seniors,” Lucy Murr, one of the 11, said.
As the regular season winds down, the Knights are in position to close out the special season they were looking for. As of Tuesday, Century sits 9-5 overall and 8-1 in Carroll County — good for first place.
“They got each other’s back,” coach Kim Perdue said. “They’re willing to fight as a team. It’s taken a little bit of transition from the very beginning. With 11 seniors and 11 leaders, it can be hard to find your way but we found it at just the right time.”
The year didn’t start off special. The Knights stumbled out of the gates 1-3, splitting their first two county games including a 4-3 loss to Francis Scott Key. But they quickly got back on track.
Murr called Century’s April 4 game against Manchester Valley the “turning point.” At that point, Manchester Valley was sitting in first place, 3-0 in the county, averaging more than 14 runs a game. Starting pitcher Hannah Zabik held the Mavericks to one run in a 7-1 Century win. The Knights are 8-2 since and haven’t lost in county play.
Ask the players what’s behind their winning streak and the answer that keeps coming up is “chemistry.”
“I think we’re a very strong team, especially with 11 seniors on the team,” Murr said. “We know each other so well and we played together, some of us even before high school and outside of high school. I think were very strong with teamwork, working together to win games.”
Century’s last three wins, a revenge victory over FSK in addition to wins over South Carroll and Manchester Valley a second time, have all come in dramatic fashion, with the Knights taking the lead in the sixth inning or later each time.
“I think we know that we will push through,” said Zabik, who had a walk-off two-run double Saturday against South Carroll. “We will try hard, try our best for everything. Once we’re not hitting for a few innings, we’ll be like, ‘Next inning we got it, we can do it.’ And we just end up coming back.”
It’s not one player providing the heroics, rather a different Knight stepping up each game. Wins have come in a variety of ways, but somehow, the wins keep coming.
“We can be struggling, we’re not an early hitting team,” Perdue said. “Historically, all year long that’s been our Achilles [heel], but we’ve found ways to win games in the end. And it’s unique ways, too, it’s not the same way each time.”
Monday against Manchester Valley, it was junior Emma Zuckerman’s turn to step up. With the game — and first place — on the line, Century was scoreless into the bottom of the sixth when Zuckerman hit a three-run home run.
“I think it comes down to having trust in your teammates,” Zuckerman said. “If it wasn’t for the two girls on base, we wouldn’t have went up. It’s nice knowing you can trust your teammates.”
Said Perdue: “I think it’s learning your players, knowing when to put people in situations where they can succeed. This team’s got some unique talents and different ways we can use them in different games. It comes with being a team and finding ways you can contribute.”
The players take comfort knowing anyone in the lineup is capable of coming through when needed.
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“It’s nice because we can always trust our teammates to pull us through if we have a rough game or are in a slump,” Zabik said. “It’s nice to trust our teammates.”
Caylee Clark leads the team with a .476 batting average. Zabik and Zuckerman each have two home runs, with Zabik leading in RBIs with 17. Zuckerman is right behind her with 14.
“Its huge knowing you can have confidence in your team,” Zuckerman said. “If you get down, you know there’s someone right after you that can get a hit.”
To have a chance to rally for wins, strong pitching is needed. That’s where Zabik comes in. The senior is 7-1 with a 1.67 ERA. She’s struck out 90 batters in 67 innings.
“Hannah, we can always trust the fact we’re going to get good pitching right up until the end,” Perdue said. “So the bats just have to do their job.”
As the regular season winds down, Century is in position to accomplish a lot of their preseason goals, and close out that special season the 11 seniors were pointing to. But there’s still work to be done.
“We’re not gonna give up,” Zuckerman said. “We’re not gonna get cocky and in our heads. It definitely helps knowing we can win, but we’re going to still put in the work to make it happen.”