Rising Sun softball coach Paul Taylor has a powerful lineup. He expects his players to hit he ball hard and hit home runs.
What he did not expect was his No. 9 hitter getting in on the action.
Grace Boyd hit one of three Rising Sun home runs to back up pitcher Cadence Williams’ standout performance as the Tigers beat Century, 8-0, in a Class 2A state semifinal at Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie.
Rising Sun faces the winner of Wednesday night’s second 2A semifinal between Calvert and Walkersville for the state championship.
“Very proud of the girls, they hit the ball hard,” Taylor said. “We’ve been hitting the ball hard all year; we’ve always been a power-hitting team and it showed today, three home runs. Really, we got one from someone who hasn’t hit one all year and she got a hold of one today, Grace Boyd.”
No. 8 hitter Jayden Simpkins also homered for Rising Sun.
“The two, we didn’t expect that. So it was nice to see,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, Century coach Kim Perdue was emotional about a team that went as far as any in program history.
“They’re a special group, and it’s unfortunate it ended like this but it ended against a very, very good team from Rising Sun,” Perdue said. “We were not the better team today, and that’s OK. We have a county title, we have a regional title. This is a very special team that I will remember forever.”
Rising Sun wasted little time displaying the power Taylor raved about. Samantha Dixon led off the bottom of the first with a line-drive single. Jordan Lynch followed with a two-run home run.
“Jordan Lynch, that’s what she’s been doing for us all year,” Taylor said. “That’s why she bats second, she sets the tone every game. She lets the other team know, we’re coming to hit. That’s what it does for us. It just gets the momentum rolling.”
Falling behind that early affected Century. Pitcher Hannah Zabik struck out 10, but Rising Sun was able to take advantage of a few mistakes to get hits and put runs on the board.
“We have a game plan and the game plan certainly isn’t to start it like that,” Perdue said. “But Hannah’s going to battle through anything. My confidence is always with her, the bats just didn’t wake up today.”
Boyd homered in the second and Simpkins hit a two-run shot that made it 5-0 in the fourth, but the first homer was all Williams needed. The junior threw a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts.
“Her and Bri Cole, the catcher, they work well with each other,” Taylor said. “I think she knew she could overpower some of them and she knew how to mix it in at the right time. And she trusts her defense, too. She knows our outfield is solid, so if she makes a mistake she’s got backup.”
When asked what Williams was doing to keep her hitters in check, Perdue was succinct in her answer: “A lot.”
“She was mixing pitches well and she just found the strike zone,” Perdue said. “We just had a really hard time finding our way against her. She pitched a great game.”
Rising Sun added another run in the fourth and one in the fifth off Century errors to lead 7-0. The Tigers got their final run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly.
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Century’s bats were kept silent until the sixth inning. Julia Dean and Zabik had back-to-back two-out singles to try to start a rally, but a strikeout ended it as quickly as it began.
Century finished 16-7 in one of the best seasons in program history. Perdue says her team will be remembered for more than just its accolades.
“A lot of perseverance,” she said. “We’ve had a tough season, a lot of ups and a lot of downs and these kids have fought and fought and fought. The fact that we got to where we are is a testament to how hard they worked.”