South Carroll's mission since early March, when softball practice began, included making a trip to the state tournament and going after the program's first championship.
The Cavaliers are one win away from achieving their goal, but it likely won't be easy when they face North Caroline tonight at 8 at University of Maryland.
The Cavs (18-5) take a nine-game winning streak into their first state final to meet a team from the Eastern Shore that hasn't lost a game this season. North Caroline (23-0) is back in the title game for the first time since 2005, when the Bulldogs claimed their program's fifth championship.
North Caroline has 11 state tourney appearances to South Carroll's two, but the Cavaliers don't seem worried about any disadvantages on paper.
"It feels really great to break history," said SC junior pitcher Chloe Sharman. "And we're just one step away, one step closer to getting to where we need to be to get that title."
Sharman has three playoff shutouts, the most recent being a 2-0 victory over Southern-Anne Arundel in the 2A state semifinals Tuesday at Bachman Park. Meanwhile, North Caroline prevailed in extra innings over Eastern Tech 3-2 in the other semifinal to set up Friday's title clash.
The Bulldogs won the Bayside Conference title for the second time in three seasons, backed by a potent offense. North Caroline racked up 278 runs, scoring 12.1 per game, and senior Brea Bishop leads the way.
She entered the state tournament with a .538 batting average, six home runs, and 49 RBIs. As North Caroline's ace pitcher, she was 15-0 with 119 strikeouts before facing Eastern Tech.
Bishop has been the benefactor of more than enough offense — North Caroline won by "mercy rule" 14 times this spring, and scored 20 or more runs in a game three times.
South Carroll, meanwhile, averages 6.4 runs per game behind Sharman and features a rather balanced lineup. The Cavaliers got seven of their nine hits against Southern from the bottom three batters in their lineup, one that features the county's leading hitter in freshman Sydni Carroll and boppers in seniors Katlyn Davis and Devin Scales.
Davis, junior Victoria Holston, and senior Morgan Alder gave Southern fits Tuesday from their 7-8-9 slots. Alder's RBI double in the second inning set the tone and gave Sharman all the runs she needed.
Sharman struck out eight Southern batters and got many of them to swing under her array of pitches. The result was plenty of pop-ups and fly balls, a easy task for South Carroll's sturdy defense.
On Friday, Sharman and her teammates will need to clamp down on a North Caroline offense led by Bishop, junior Sarah Mast (.561, 32 RBIs after regionals), and junior Megan Robbins (.507, 34 RBIs). Junior Kendall Dixon was hitting .493 with 25 RBIs before the state semifinal.
Yet nothing seems to faze these Cavaliers, who this spring won their first county championship in 35 years claimed their second regional crown in four seasons.
"I think we're just kind of thankful to have this opportunity," Alder said. "Very much so."