Something happened in Wednesday’s Class 1A state semifinal softball game that doesn’t usually happen: A team stood up against Patterson Mill ace pitcher Madison Knight.
Knight, who has committed to play softball for Syracuse next year, gave up a home run and two singles and had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam to lead the top-ranked Huskies to a 9-1 win over Boonsboro out of Washington County.
To say the Huskies (21-0) and Knight aren’t used to trailing, which they did 1-0 after the top of the first inning, would be a bit of an understatement. Patterson Mill, the defending Class 1A state champion, has won 44 straight games over two seasons. This marked only the second time in the Huskies’ 21 games this year that they’ve trailed.
Knight paced the Huskies with 12 strikeouts.
Patterson Mill faces Allegany, a 9-0 winner over South Carroll in the other semifinal, in Friday’s Class 1A state championship. That game will be played at 5:30 at the University of Maryland’s softball stadium in College Park.
“We definitely got punched in the mouth,” Huskies coach Jeff Horton said. “That hasn’t happened very much to us, so I was pleased to see how we bounced back from that. This may be a good thing for us, it makes us battle-tested.”
Knight started out the inning doing what she usually does. She struck out Boonsboro’s first hitter, Sage Haller. Then the wheels started to come off.
Haylee Hartman hit the ball over the center field fence for a home run and give the Warriors (18-6) a 1-0 lead. Knight seemed a little frazzled and gave up singles to Sydney Hartle and Emily Burker. MacKenzie Griffith reached base when catcher Izzy Heibler dropped a called third strike, loading the bases. After that, Knight settled down and struck out the next two batters.
“As a pitcher, home runs happen,” said Knight, who said the solo shot was the first she’s given up this season. “When the bases were loaded, I just told myself one batter at a time, one at-bat at a time. I knew my teammates needed me.”
Patterson Mill tied the game in the bottom of the third. The top-seeded Knights got a one-out double to right field from Ali Kirsch. After a single by Audrey March, Kirsch came around to score, sliding under the tag of Boonsboro catcher Hartle to tie the game.
The Huskies took the lead for good in the bottom of the third. Mackenzie Knight, Madison’s sister, singled and stole second base. After a groundout and an intentional walk to Madison Knight, Tara Caprinolo doubled down the right field line. The hit scored Mackenzie for a 2-1 lead. Lily Hofmeister followed with a single, scoring Lexi Gresko, who was pinch-running for Madison. The final run of the inning scored on an Olivia Sears groundout, giving Patterson Mill a 4-1 lead.
From then on, Madison Knight was in command. After giving up a double to Griffith, the last hit she would surrender, Knight struck out the next three batters. In the fifth, she struck out two more. She added one strikeout in the sixth and one in the seventh.
The Huskies added one run in the fifth and four in the sixth to close out the scoring.
“I’m proud of our team and how we fought back. We’d only trailed once before this [against Rising Sun], and we bounced back then, too,” Madison said. “You have to tip your cap to [Hartman]; that was a good pitch she hit for the home run.”
Patterson Mill faces Allegany in a rematch of last year’s state championship game, a 4-1 Huskies win over the Campers.
“They were the champions entering the championship last year, and we beat them,” Horton said. “Now they’ll be out for a little revenge. I feel like we’ve played with a target on our back all year, so it should be a great game. All we need is one more.”