The end could be the beginning for the McDonogh softball team.
Making their first appearance in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference tournament final, the No. 13-ranked Eagles broke Archbishop Spalding's 11-year grip on the metro private schools championship by upending the No. 1 Cavaliers, 2-0, at Towson University yesterday.
McDonogh, which had never won a Catholic League/IAAM title in its 13 years of participation, broke through yesterday with a surprising performance that capped a 16-6 season.
"I think [winning the crown] will help show Maryland who we are and give us a presence in the state," said junior Jamie Schwartzberg, whose triple sparked a two-run first inning for the Eagles. "We're not going to be pushed around any more."
Added coach Mickey Deegan, who plans to retire this month to focus on her new duties as the school's athletic director: "I think we served notice today that we're going to be around for a while. ... We really like being No. 1, and we're going to work hard to stay here."
McDonogh, which will lose only two players to graduation in a few weeks, relied on the pitching prowess of sophomore Mia Zappacosta.
Zappacosta, who improved to 14-5, only struck out six Archbishop Spalding batters, but induced them into weak pop-ups and dribblers to her infielders courtesy of a devastating changeup.
"I only have two pitches, so I knew that I would have to get my changeup over," Zappacosta said. "I didn't feel like I had it going during the first couple of innings. So I worked on some practice throws."
Zappacosta's outing overshadowed an 11-strikeout performance from Cavaliers junior Meg Cowen, who gave up both runs in the first inning.
After Zappacosta drew a one-out walk and Cowen fanned freshman Dani Woods, Schwartzberg smashed a triple to left field to drive in Zappacosta. The next batter, junior Ann Parker, blooped a single to center field to score Schwartzberg.
The loss ended Archbishop Spalding's 11-year run in the Catholic League/IAAM, which included three consecutive Independent Schools state titles.
Coach Linda Taylor said she thought the team to score first would have the advantage.
"I always emphasize the first run because it is crucial," said Taylor, whose Cavaliers (22-3) will compete in the Independent Schools state tournament next week. "McDonogh got it today. McDonogh outplayed us and deserved to win."