Softball: After pair of shutouts, Westminster headed back to 3A state tourney
By Kyle McFadden
For the Carroll County Times|
May 21, 2018 at 9:00 PM
NEW MARKET — As each inning passed during Monday’s Class 3A West Region title game against Linganore, Westminster pitcher Emily Sicinski paced the dugout with nervous energy.
“I was on the verge of tears,” said Sicinski, a sophomore getting her first taste of championship softball. “I really was.”
But with every defining out — from hard liners to routine plays — Sicinski’s jitters were soothed by her team’s pristine defensive play. Westminster didn’t miss a beat in the field Monday, defeating Manchester Valley 5-0 in the 3A West Section 1 final and then playing 30 minutes later to squeeze out a 2-0 victory over host Linganore to claim the region title, its second in three seasons.
Westminster (13-6) advances to play C.Milton Wright on Tuesday night at 7 at Bachman Park in the state semifinals.
Over those 14 innings Monday, the Owls committed just one error and worked out of a bases-loaded jam three times. Sicinski pitched seven innings, scattering seven hits and two walks. She also struck out one batter, and leaned on the robust defense behind her.
“My defense was there for me,” Sicinski said. “They really had me. They had my back. … [This is] an honor. My nerves, I can’t stop smiling right now.”
Senior Jill Haines pitched against Manchester Valley in the first game, yielding four hits and two walks over seven innings. She also struck out one and produced 14 of 21 outs on the ground.
Against Linganore, Westminster took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Alyssa Dixon reached base on a throwing error and came around to score on a double from Jackie Coyle. The Owls stranded two that inning and sat on their slim lead until the fifth, when Coyle reached base again on a rocket double to deep center to score their last run of the day.
Lead-off hitter Sophia Griffith hustled out an infield single in the following at-bat to bring home Coyle.
That was all the offense Westminster needed, as Sicinski and her defense wriggled out of bases-loaded jams in the bottom of the second inning and bottom of the fifth.
Against Manchester Valley, Dixon had the Owls out to an early 1-0 lead before a four-run, eight-at-bat sixth inning busted the game open. Laura Tipton, Haines, and Griffith (two RBIs) manufactured runs in the put-away inning.
Between the Mavericks (9-9) and the Lancers (16-3), Westminster stranded 13 runners, a byproduct of keeping hitters off-balance.
Westminster catcher Olivia Herman plays a big role in that, too, being the signal-caller behind the plate and keeping her pitchers in tune.
“That’s been really important, especially with the younger girls: To keep them composed in the big games,” Herman said. “We’ve really been able to step up this year.”
Even after starting the season with a coaching change and back-to-back losses, Westminster coach April Sexton, who came up from the junior varsity team a few weeks before the season, didn’t have any doubt even in the most turbulent circumstances.
“I knew we could do it,” Sexton said. “We have a solid defense. … Boy did they come through today.”
As for Manchester Valley, coach Mike Hernandez said it couldn’t string together the timely hit and couldn’t score after having the bases loaded with no outs in a pivotal fifth inning.
“That hurt. That was three of my best hitters,” Hernandez said. “[Haines] got them out. We couldn’t put the ball in the outfield. That was the inning. That was the make-or-break inning right there.”
Jacquelyn Gouge finished 1-for-3 with a double for Man Valley, which looks to build on the playoff run for next season.