Between innings, before South Carroll's softball team bats, the players gather for a quick huddle and end it with a unified cheer.
The Cavaliers implore each other to make their bats en fuego, meaning they want to get hot, rack up extra-base hits, and turn the opposing pitcher's head. They might not have gone full en fuego Friday afternoon against reigning county champion Manchester Valley, but a focused approach at the plate was more than enough to complete a 7-1 victory one day after being shut out by rival Liberty.
"We just want to work harder and harder until we get that win," said SC senior Sam Amateau. "Every loss just makes you madder and want to work harder."
Thursday's setback was a 4-0 blanking against the Lions, who also beat SC 3-2 on April 18. South Carroll (9-4, 7-3 county) had won five in a row before losing to Liberty. But coach Matt Cannistraci's team has traded wins and losses since then.
South Carroll broke Friday's game open in the fourth inning by sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring four runs on five hits (all singles). In fact, 13 of the Cavs' 14 hits were singles.
Sydney Ruckel and Morgan Alder had RBI singles in the fourth. Victoria Holson drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. Marlee Carroll moved a pair of runners into scoring position with a sac bunt. And the Cavs scored a run when Manchester Valley (10-3, 7-2) was called for obstruction during a rundown on the third-base line. Amateau came in on the play, and finished with three hits and three runs scored.
Carroll had three hits as well and scored in the fourth on Katlyn Davis' RBI double to left (she was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple).
"The energy today was much better," said Carroll, who smiled when talking about SC's offensive approach. "It's like a domino effect."
Carroll had a two-out RBI single in the first inning, scoring Amateau and giving the Cavaliers the early lead. SC pitcher Chloe Sharman retired the first seven batters she faced before Corinne Corsaro singled in the third. Kassidy Johnson, a freshman, came up with two outs and launched a triple down the left-field line that scored Jordan Diggs for the Mavericks' run.
Unfortunately for them, South Carroll led 7-1. And the Cavs swept the regular-season series by a combined 17-1.
"I don't understand what was going on, but we were flat," MV coach Mike Hernandez said. "We didn't play all week [and] we've been practicing, but I thought we were flat. Today we just got outhit, out-pitched, outplayed. You name it, we got 'out-ed.'"
Johnson had two of Man Valley's six hits and Lauren McGuire reached base twice.
Despite the loss, the Mavericks remain in first place in the county standings. They're scheduled to resume a suspended game Saturday morning against Winters Mill (the Falcons lead 7-5 in the top of the fourth).
South Carroll and Winters Mill split their regular-season series, and both are 7-3 in county play. Manchester Valley gets the Falcons again next week, along with Liberty.
"Our destiny is controlled by [us]," Hernandez said.
Meanwhile, the Cavs play Century on Saturday and Francis Scott Key on Wednesday. Cannistraci said he was pleased with SCs turnaround after absorbing a shutout against Lions ace Lexi Trail on Thursday.
"This is a good team," Cannistraci said about Man Valley. "Today they came out with more enthusiasm, and I could see in their [eyes] that they were ready for it."
South Carroll 104 101 0 — 7 14 1
Man Valley 001 000 0 — 1 6 1
SC-Chloe Sharman and Devin Scales; MV-Rachel Heron, Megan Cappadora (4) and Brooke Davis. 2B: SC-Katlyn Davis. 3B: MV-Kassidy Johnson. WP: Sharman. LP: Heron.