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Back In Times: Liberty’s wild softball state championship win one for the ages

Liberty players surround Sammy Bost (red helmet) after she scored the game-winning run. Behind Bost are teammates MacKenzie Thompson (13) and Krysta Valenzia (9).
Liberty players surround Sammy Bost (red helmet) after she scored the game-winning run. Behind Bost are teammates MacKenzie Thompson (13) and Krysta Valenzia (9).(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Former Liberty High School softball star Sammy Bost holds the NCAA record for consecutive stolen bases, a streak that reached 97 in a row before she got thrown out after sliding past second base.

Her standout career at Lebanon Valley College included 100 stolen bases in 101 attempts, with the one blemish coming April 9, 2017 in a game against Albright. Bost knew the feeling of going a little too hard and fast in trying to steal a base — five years earlier, May 25, 2012, she did the same thing in the final moments of Liberty’s Class 2A state championship game against McDonough.

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That slide had a very different ending, however.

The Lions trailed 2-0 going into their final at-bat at University of Maryland’s softball facility. Jazzmyn Hayden, McDonough’s senior pitcher, had blanked Liberty for six innings, and the Rams were three outs away from a title. The Lions may have had doubts they could rally, but Bost said they did their keep the faith.

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“That definitely kind of runs through your head, but you always want to try to push that out and just keep that positive attitude going,” she said. “Anything can happen ... up until that last out, you never know.”

Meanwhile, Liberty coach Chris Szocik knew his team needed one baserunner to get things going, after the Lions squandered some early scoring chances. Bost & Co. won’t soon forget what happened next.

Rebecca Weinschenk led off in the home half of the seventh inning, and beat out a bunt hit to reach base. Szocik might have called that lucky at the time — the first-base umpire called Weinschenk out on a bang-bang play, but quickly changed his mind and ruled her safe.

Kayla Maggio followed with a walk, and Bost was up next. Szocik remembered asking Bost to lay down a soft bunt in an effort to get his speedster aboard for a bases-loaded, no-out situation. It worked, and Rebecca Oneto’s two-run single one batter later tied the game at 2-2.

Again, fortune appeared to be on Liberty’s side ― McDonough drew in its infield with the bases loaded, and Oneto’s game-tying hit landed safely in shallow left-center.

Natalie Gill came up next, with runners on first and second, but she never got a chance to deliver the clutch hit.

Szocik said he wanted Gill to fake a bunt while Bost and Oneto went for a double-steal.

“I was thinking it was worth the gamble to get [Bost] to third ... anything to get her home and win the game,” Szocik said. “We had the momentum at that point.”

Eight years later, Bost saw the play a little differently.

“Looking back on it, I probably shouldn’t have been stealing,” she said. “And everyone, I think, in the whole stadium, knew I was stealing.”

Nobody in the stadium likely guessed Bost’s charge into third would carry her past the bag, leaving her vulnerable to be tagged out with McDonough third baseman Molly Simpson holding the ball.

That’s when a crazy seventh inning got even crazier.

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“As soon as I saw the third baseman had the ball, I was like, there’s no way I’m going to be able to get back without getting tagged,” Bost said. “When I picked my head up and looked at home, at that point I was just going to start going.”

Liberty players surround Sammy Bost (helmet) after she scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
Liberty players surround Sammy Bost (helmet) after she scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Szocik said he implored Oneto to get to third, assuming Bost was about to get tagged out. Bost recalled her youth softball rundown practices, in which she wound up being the runner most of the time because of her speed.

There would be no rundown.

In the commotion of the moment, McDonough didn’t have a defensive player covering home plate (Rams catcher Vicki McKenzie had strayed up the base line during the steal attempt). Bost said she saw a lane to run toward home while Simpson chased after her. Three McDonough players converged near the plate, and Bost slid in to give Liberty a 3-2 win.

“It was kind of like a miracle. It was meant to be.”


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And then, bedlam.

McDonough argued the play, with coach Julie Snavely telling a Washington Post reporter after the game she saw Simpson tag Bost at third. Bost said at the time she didn’t feel herself get tagged. Szocik agreed.

The Rams also disputed the game-winning run, claiming Bost eluded their grasp by going out of the base line.

The play stood, and the Lions celebrated their first state championship after getting back to the final for the first time in 29 years.

“I’m glad my heart’s healthy, because that was tense at the end,” Szocik said after the game. “They kept their cool, they kept their heads, they did what they needed to do. It was kind of like a miracle. It was meant to be.”

Liberty pitcher Mackenzie Thompson allowed two hits and struck out 11 in a complete game. Hayden had both hits for McDonough, an RBI double in the first inning and a solo home run in the third.

Bost praised Thompson, the Times Player of the Year in 2012, for keeping the Lions close like she did in nearly every game that season. The Lions finished 21-2 and put a stamp on one of the more remarkable state championship games ever.

Liberty junior Mackenzie Thompson throws a pitch to Westminster's Kim Robinson during their game in Westminster Wednesday, May 2, 2012.
Liberty junior Mackenzie Thompson throws a pitch to Westminster's Kim Robinson during their game in Westminster Wednesday, May 2, 2012.(DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

“My dad and I, my whole family, didn’t sleep for the next week because we were still so excited from it,” Bost said.

That Liberty team was a mix of college-bound stars and role players who came through in clutch situations, Szocik said.

The coach remembers Weinschenk working on bunts throughout the year, then delivering when it mattered most. He and Bost recalled first baseman Taylor Bland, who needed duct tape to repair her glove on the eve of the state championship.

There are more stories, more memories to share between those Lions who came together during the 2012 season. Szocik said Liberty fielded a better team the following year, but that squad bowed out in its first playoff game.

“So much has to go right,” he said. “So many variables.”

And that is what makes Liberty’s 2012 run to a title special.

“Those memories of playing on that team, and those girls on that team ... I think if we all got together right now, it would feel like it was yesterday,” said Bost, who experienced her share of big-time games at Lebanon Valley. “We won our conference championship, and we went to NCAAs, which was very exciting. But I think that game is probably the one that I’m going to remember the most.”

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