For the longest time, it appeared that the state's softball record book would slam shut on No. 1 Chesapeake.
That is, until the eighth inning, when senior Stacey Necessary scored on a throwing error, and Chesapeake became the first 4A school to win four straight state titles with a 1-0 victory over second-seeded Northern of Calvert County at Randazzo Park in Severn.
Necessary reached with one out when she singled to the left side of the infield. She stole second, and Michelle Manner popped out.
With catcher Natalie Black batting, Necessary broke for third. The throw from Northern catcher Whitney Dunn sailed into left field, and Necessary raced home with the winning run.
"After I stole second, [Coach Dennis Thiele] signaled to me with his hands to go for third. Even the batter doesn't know that I'm going," she said. "I dove head first and the ball went by me, and I heard Mr. Thiele yell."
Until Necessary's heroic sprint, the night had been filled with frustration for Chesapeake, winners of 41 games in a row, and five of the last six state titles.
In the first inning, Tracy Starke walked, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. A strikeout and two ground outs ended the inning, and the threat.
In the second, Jaime Long led off with triple over the head of left fielder Debbie Sydnor. Lori Congdon bunted back to the mound, and the next two batters struck out.
And in the fourth, Long walked with two outs and went to third on a throwing error by Dunn -- Northern's only senior.
But what looked like a breakthrough for Chesapeake quickly turned into another disappointment when Michelle Arch grounded out on the first pitch from sophomore Kelly Shipman.
It appeared that Northern (20-2) would be the first to score when it loaded the bases in the fifth with two outs. But Congdon struck out Marnie Oursler looking on a 2-2 pitch.
Chesapeake put another lead-off batter on in the sixth, when Manner singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. But again, no run would score.
The Cougars managed just three hits, but Congdon kept them in the game by striking out 14. She gave up four hits and walked two.
Just when it looked as though the game would continue long into the night, Necessary put an abrupt end to it.
"I planned that," Thiele said, laughing. "When Necessary got on second, I said, 'The catcher hasn't thrown to third all night. She'll throw it away.'
"Seriously, it just worked out that way."
It worked out perfectly for a team that forced its way into the record book.
"It feels great," Thiele said. "It just feels great.
"This is the most exhilarating game we've ever played here."