Sunshine and temperatures in the 70s tend to make everyone happy, particularly the members of South Carroll's softball team.
The spring season can pose its own natural challenges, and coach Matt Cannistraci said it's no surprise his team started the year with four losses in its first five games — and Cannistraci knew the reason for the struggles.
"The weather," he said flatly. "They are not a cold-weather team."
Late March and early April weren't all that kind to fans of spring, but things have changed in May. So have the Cavaliers, who extended their winning streak to nine games with Tuesday's 6-0 victory at Westminster.
The outcome was beneficial to Century, which clinched the outright Carroll County Athletic League championship because of SC's win. Because Century split its regular-season series with Westminster, the Knights (8-4) would have shared the crown with the Owls (7-5) had Westminster beaten the Cavs.
SC pitcher Chloe Sharman was a big reason why that didn't happen — the senior tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out seven while scattering four hits, one day after she fanned 13 and hurled a one-hit shutout against Tuscarora.
The Cavaliers (11-6, 7-5 county) have leaned on the reigning Times Player of the Year during their streak, and Sharman has delivered as warmer days have arrived.
She threw a five-inning perfect game April 23 in a county victory against Francis Scott Key, two days after reached 400 career strikeouts in a win over Winters Mill.
Sharman twirled a seven-innning no-hitter April 13 to beat McDonogh 1-0, before SC's win streak began, but suffered an 8-0 loss to Liberty in her next game. South Carroll was 2-5 at that point, and 1-5 in county play, but Cannistraci said he saw something change the following day when SC beat the Lions 5-4 in Winfield.
"I think somewhere along the line it just clicked that, 'Hey, we've got to do more,'" the coach said. "And then, we started hitting."
Victoria Holston had three hits Tuesday and Sharman added two, as did Maddy Hoffman. Sydni Carroll reached base three times and scored three runs, and the Cavs sent 10 batters to the plate in the second inning to establish an early 5-0 lead.
"We definitely started [the year] with a target on our back," Sharman said. "We had just come from … we had a tough loss in the state finals. And we lost a lot of seniors. But after we lost [early on], we kind of flew under the radar a little bit. Me and Vic and all the other captains, we were like, 'We need to do what we did last year.'"
Added Holston: "We needed to get our game together."
Westminster (10-6) got doubles from Bailey Whalen and Olivia Herman, but couldn't scratch out a run. Owls coach April Sexton said her players were disappointed they fell short in their chance to share the county crown, but she made sure to tell them Tuesday's game wasn't the end of anything.
Westminster is the top seed in Section 1 for the upcoming Class 3A West Region playoffs, which begin Thursday.
"It was a tough loss, and they weren't to hang their heads low," Sexton said. "They could be upset about, but they needed to get over it. I told them from here on out, it's one game at a time."
Same goes for South Carroll, which reached the 2A state title game last season before falling short. Sharman and Holston said the Cavs talk about their 8-1 loss to North Caroline all the time, just so everyone on this year's squad knows what's at stake starting this week.
"I've been on this team since I was a freshman, and every year we've gotten better," Sharman said. "And I think that this year is our year."