Through the first four innings of its 3A state semifinal matchup against visiting Damascus Wednesday, Reservoir hit just one ball out of the infield.
The Gators, however, made sure to make the most of it.
Sophomore Courtney Johnson found a hole through the left side for a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth inning and advanced to second base courtesy of a fielding error. One batter later, on a come-backer to the pitcher by Rhiannon Little, Johnson came around to score on a throwing error for what ended up being the only run to cross the plate all afternoon in a 1-0 Reservoir win.
That one run turned out to be all that pitcher Kylee Gunkel (six strikeouts, five hits and no walks) and the defense behind her needed. Damascus (11-3) had a hit in five of its seven innings, but the Gators never let a run cross the plate.
The victory advances Reservoir (15-0) into the state championship game — the first time in program history — against Chesapeake (15-1) at the Bachman Sports Complex on Friday at 11 a.m.
“Our goal today was to pound the ball down because with the hard infield mistakes can happen. We talked about anticipating a close game and needing to maybe do different things, but most of all when the opportunities present themselves find a way to push a run across any way you can,” Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold said. “At the time, there was no way of knowing how many chances we were going to have, so when we got Courtney into scoring position with less than two outs it was critical to take advantage.”
For a Damascus program playing in the state semifinals for the first time since 2013, all the ingredients were there against the Gators, including stellar pitching from Bella DiGiandomenico (nine strikeouts in six innings, with three hits and no walks allowed) and consistent runners on base. The big hit, however, proved elusive.
“I just told them, ‘Don’t hang your heads.’ We are a young team; we will be back,” Damascus coach Lindsay Burns said. “I hope they let this make them stronger, so we can come back next year more experienced and even better. Unfortunately, today didn’t fall in our favor, but we put the ball in play and kept pushing until the end.”
Staked to the one-run lead in that fourth inning, Gunkel said she felt like it was then on her shoulders to do the rest. The senior hurler, who has now helped Reservoir register shutouts in each of its four playoff games this spring, came through with big out after big out.
“I have a phenomenal defense behind me and I just had to trust them and trust myself,” Gunkel said. “If I stepped it up pitching, I knew they would do the same when I needed them.”
The best scoring chance for Damascus came in the top of the sixth, as Anna Lightsey (2-3) led off with a single and Riley O’Leary followed by reaching on an error to put runners on first and second with no outs.
But Gunkel secured a pair of pop outs then, after the runners advanced to second and third, she got out of the inning with a strikeout of Hanna Schmitz — who had singled earlier in the game.
“That inning was a little nerve-wracking, but I just kept telling myself it was time to push. If I let up for one second, then I knew I was going to get hit,” Gunkel said. “I tried to use that nervous energy to push myself and get out of that for my team.”
In the seventh, Gunkel set Damascus down in order with a ground out and two straight pop outs to set off a celebration on the field.
In addition to Johnson, Maggie Frisvold and Kayla Ecker also registered hits in the victory for Reservoir.
Looking ahead to entering the uncharted territory of a state final against a Chesapeake program that played for a state championship as recently as 2019, Julie Frisvold said maintaining routine is going to be critical.
“Tomorrow we are going to go through our practice like we always do and then go into Friday’s game against a great team just trying to maintain that steady,” she said. “You will hear me yell, ‘Ready, ready, ready, steady.’ That’s because if you maintain steady you can get out of almost any situation that you are faced with. We showed it today and I hope we can keep it going into Friday.”
Reservoir 1, Damascus 0
.. 123 456 7 R-H-E
Da 000 000 0 0-5-4
Re 000 100 x 1-3-1
No. 4 Marriotts Ridge 14, No. 1 Huntingtown 4 (3A semifinals)
After neither team scored for almost 10 minutes to start the game, the Mustangs (9-1) hit their stride and never slowed down on the way to the semifinal victory over the Hurricanes. Maisy Clevenger scored a game-high six goals to lead the way offensively, while goalie Grace Hejeebu finished with six saves to anchor the defense.
Marriotts Ridge advances to face C. Milton Wright (13-1) for the 3A state championship on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Loyola University. Marriotts Ridge is aiming to win its first state title since 2014, while CMW will be attempting to win for the first time since 2004 (the team was a finalist in 2019).
Goals: MR — Clevenger 6, L. Fisher 2, Bender 1, Huelskamp 1, Held 1, Lettinga 1, Parsons 1, Albert 1; Hu — Schiemer 2, Zeruto 1, Pike 1.
Assists: MR — Merrill 1, Lettinga 1; Hu — Ciardiello 1, Pike 1.
Saves: MR — Hejeebu 6; Hu — Cox 2, Gray 1.
Halftime: 8-1 MR.
No. 5 Chopticon 2, No. 1 Centennial 0 (3A semifinals)
Scoring a run in the third and another in the seventh, Chopticon (12-1) put an end to the host Eagles (13-2) 11-game winning streak on the strength of a two-hit shutout performance from pitcher Tyler Quade. Quade struck out nine and became the first player all season to hold Centennial scoreless.
The Braves will play Atholton in the 3A championship Friday at 10 a.m. at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Chopticon scored in the third inning when Shawn Cameron’s groundout scored Blake Adkins. The Braves then added an insurance tally in the seventh when Philip McCarthy launched a solo home run.
Conarie Steinbach pitched valiantly for Centennial in the loss, allowing just three hits and striking out four in a complete-game effort.
TM — 123 456 7 — R-H-E
Ch — 001 000 1 — 2-3-3
Ce — 000 000 0 — 0-2-1
No. 6 Atholton 4, No. 7 Linganore 3 (3A semifinals)
The Raiders (12-3) scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning and then worked around a two-on with one-out situation in the top of the seventh to advance into the state championship game on Friday at 10 a.m. against Chopticon.
Atholton’s Jason Drucker scored on a ball hit by second base by Dustin Eidson in the sixth to break a 3-3 tie.
The game ultimately ended on an interference call as Atholton was attempting to turn a double play on a grounder to short and the runner sliding into second made contact with the fielder. After a conference between the umpires, it was determined that the runner illegally prevented the throw to first and he was called out. The Raiders stormed the field for a dog pile on the pitcher’s mound.
Drucker (2-3, 2 runs, 2 stolen bases, RBI), Liam Snow (2-4, double, run) and Tony D’Angeli (2-3, RBI) all had multi-hit days to pace the Raiders’ offense. Devin Hollingsworth scored the team’s other run.
Starting pitcher Kurtis MacKenzie went 4.1 innings, striking out five before allowing all three of the runs scored by Linganore in the fifth inning. Diego Carrion came on to get the last two outs of the fifth, while Scotty Vaszil (2 strikeouts, 1 hit, 3 walks) earned the win by pitching the final two frames without allowing a run.
The Raiders are returning to the finals for the first time since winning the program’s only state title in 2002.
TM — 123 456 7 — R-H-E
L — 000 030 0 — 3-4-2
A — 021 001 x— 4-6-1