Allegany softball pitcher Abi Britton did her job in the top of the first inning, sitting down South Carroll’s first three hitters with two strikeouts and a groundout. When she returned to the circle in the second inning, she had a four-run cushion.
For the ace sophomore, it was more than enough.
Britton was nearly unhittable in Wednesday’s Class 1A state semifinal against the Cavaliers. She struck out 14 in a one-hitter as Allegany, last year’s state runner-up, earned a rematch against champion Patterson Mill with a 9-0 semifinal win over South Carroll.
“I’m so proud of the kids. Abi pitched a great game,” Allegany coach Dave Winner said. “We hit the ball good. Even when we didn’t get on, we didn’t strike out, we hit the ball solid all night. I was just so proud of the girls and just blessed to be with this team. Going to the state championship all season was our goal and we’re back.”
South Carroll had been playing as well as anyone the past month, shaking off a 2-8 start to win eight of its next 10 and earn a regional championship and a trip to the state semifinals. But Britton was too much to handle.
“They worked hard, they made a huge comeback this season,” South Carroll coach Kayla Holston said. “They come out today, we didn’t play our ‘A’ game but they didn’t give up on themselves either.”
Britton gave herself support in the bottom of the first, driving in Allegany’s first run with a double. Skyler Porter singled in another run before Ava Strother drove a home run over the center field fence, giving the Campers a 4-0 lead after one.
With four runs behind her, Britton was at ease returning to the circle.
“It definitely relaxes me. I was really grateful for that four-run lead, because it gives me a chance, if I do make a mistake, I know they’re going to come back on offense and score more runs for me,” Britton said. “They’ve been like that all season, when I needed them, they stepped up.”
The power surge continued in the second as Kylie Hook led off the frame with a home run. The Campers tacked on two more to lead 7-0 after two innings.
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“Even the girls, six, seven, eight and nine hit,” Winner said. “Two girls that hit home runs were our six and eight hitter.”
But after that, South Carroll (10-11) and junior pitcher Maddie Karns settled down, holding the Campers to no runs and only one hit over the next three innings.
“This game didn’t show what we were made of,” Holston said. “They still came out, they held them down after the first two innings. They didn’t stop. But our bats weren’t there. You can’t win a game if you don’t score runs and hit the ball.”
That was mainly due to how well Britton was pitching.
“I worked a lot of my curveballs, which is my strength pitch. I really just worked with what was working, my changeup, offspeed pitches, obviously my curveball, then some fastballs, which worked for us,” Britton said. “And luckily my defense was there to back me up when I needed them.”
South Carroll got its only hit on Sydney O’Clery’s bunt single in the sixth inning. But Britton wouldn’t let anything come of it.
“I think just the speed and the way she moved the ball around was something we haven’t seen a ton of,” Holston said. “We’ve seen good pitchers, but she’s by far one of the best we’ve seen this season.”