It became obvious early yesterday afternoon: the only thing that could stop top-ranked Archbishop Spalding from the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown was the weather.
The Cavaliers put up three runs in the first inning against Mount de Sales and then all that was left was whether sophomore pitcher Jessica Saunders would finish the day perfect.
After Saunders retired the first 18 Sailors in order, disrupted with a 30-minute delay due to lightning in the third inning, Cynthia Clark led off the top of the seventh with a bunt single. That was all Saunders and the Cavaliers would surrender in coming away with a 3-0 win at Towson University.
New league, same old results. In the 90s, Spalding captured 10 regular-season titles and eight tournament championships playing in the Catholic League.
The Cavaliers have picked up where they left off with the sweep in the IAAM, and while Saunders was close to perfect yesterday, they have been this season improving to 23-0.
All that remains for the Cavaliers is a bid for their third straight Independent Schools state championship, which begins May 24.
Spalding coach Linda Taylor was asked to stack up this group with all the others.
"That's a tough question," she said. "I've had so many quality players and teams come and go. This team is the most well-rounded I've ever had and it has more depth than any other. I just have so much confidence in each of the players, it's making my job easy."
Christine Sheridan helped yesterday with a double down the third-base line that scored two in the first. She moved to third on a wild pitch and then made it 3-0 when Saunders grounded out to second.
"It was an inside pitch and I just turned on it, luckily it stayed fair," said Sheridan, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles.
Saunders improved to 14-0, striking out the side twice and finishing with 12 strikeouts. She has 166 in 111 innings this spring.
Losing the perfect game came quickly in the seventh. Clark, on a 2-0 count, put down a bunt that died in front of the plate, and she easily beat the throw to first.
Overshadowed was a solid performance from Sailors freshman pitcher Jessica Taylor, who allowed just three hits and no runs after the first inning
The loss ended a fine run from a young Mount de Sales team. After dropping a number of one-run games early in the season, the Sailors (10-11) won seven straight going into yesterday.
"Saunders deserved this one, she can thrown the ball. But our kids never stopped," said Mount de Sales coach Pete Waskiewicz. "We won seven in a row to get here, and beat some quality teams. That's a good reward for everyone."