Vying for championships is becoming a habit for the Archbishop Spalding softball team.
The top-ranked Cavaliers earned a chance to grab their 12th consecutive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland Conference/Catholic League title after defeating visiting and No. 7 Mount de Sales, 3-1, in an IAAM A Conference Tournament semifinal at Randazzo Park in Severn yesterday.
Archbishop Spalding, which has won three straight Independent Schools state crowns, will meet 13th-ranked McDonogh in the championship final tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at Towson University.
As far as Cavaliers pitcher Jessica Saunders is concerned, getting an opportunity to win another IAAM championship never gets dull.
"I look forward to it every year," she said. "I don't think I ever get tired of it."
Conventional wisdom might have said that Saunders would have been too tired to pitch against Mount de Sales after throwing a no-hitter in five innings against Mercy on Tuesday.
But the junior right-hander (12-0) was up to the task, scattering two singles and striking out eight Sailors.
Her counterpart, junior Mary Ellen Morse (6-5), gave up just three hits and fanned six Archbishop Spalding batters, but was victimized by errors that contributed to two unearned runs in the first and fifth innings.
The Cavaliers (22-2) scored the game-winning run in the third inning when junior Meg Cowen opened the inning with a bunt single. After a sacrifice bunt moved Cowen to second base and she stole third, a fielder's choice by junior Christine Sheridan allowed Cowen to slide across home plate.
Mount de Sales (12-9) rallied to score a run in the top of the seventh, but the damage was too much for the Sailors, who finished their most successful season.
"They've been at No. 1, and they know what it tastes like," said coach Pete Waskiewicz, who will lose just five players to graduation. "We'll be back here again."
No. 13 McDonogh 1, No. 14 Catholic 0: In a pitching duel, Jamie Schwartzberg's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted the host Eagles (15-6) over the Cubs (12-8-1) and into their first IAAM Tournament final.
With two outs in the inning, Dani Woods drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Cubs pitcher Kelley Tiesi. Schwartzberg then singled to center field to drive in Woods.
McDonogh sophomore Mia Zappacosta (13-5) struck out 10 and allowed just one hit. Tiesi (12-8) fanned eight and gave up two hits.
Eagles coach Mickey Deegan said she is aware that her squad will be the underdogs against Archbishop Spalding.
"We had a goal to be in the top three of our division. We got in the top two," she said. "If the pitching and defense is there, we have every chance to win."