McDaniel's softball team adheres to what coach Phil Smith calls a "three-second rule."
No matter the play or situation, the Green Terror try to let the moment pass in a hurry so they can focus on the next one. Maybe Smith and his players will one day look back at Sunday's Centennial Conference championship and call it the "3.5 second rule."
McDaniel was one strike away from dispatching Gettysburg and winning the program's fourth conference tourney crown. But the Bullets eventually loaded the bases, and Terror pitcher Caroline Brehm walked in the tying run in the seventh inning.
Gettysburg jumped for joy at tying the score. McDaniel catcher Caitlin Justice started out toward the pitcher's circle, but Brehm motioned her back.
One-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three.
And maybe one more quick exhale.
"I even had to do it that time," Smith said.
Brehm got out of trouble, kept Gettysburg in check for two more innings, and waited for her offense to pick her up. And they did — Stacie Maring's flyout to right was deep enough to bring home Lindsey Miller from third in the ninth inning, and give the Green Terror a thrilling 2-1 win on their home field.
Maring, a junior outfielder and former Times all-county player at South Carroll, drove in both runs for the Green Terror (29-10). Her RBI double to right-center in the fifth put McDaniel on top 1-0, and with Brehm mixing her pitches well McDaniel seemed poised to post a shutout win.
But the Bullets (30-14) stayed alive in the seventh. Meghan Hisgen reached on an error to start the inning, and pinch-hitter Mykaela Twitchell worked a full count before lacing a one-out double off the fence in left to put runners on second and third. Brehm walked Sam Misurell, the No. 9 hitter, and Melissa Tighe drew another walk to bring Hisgen home.
Justice's attempt to slow things down by going to the circle with Brehm was quickly dashed. McDaniel's senior pitcher, the Centennial's all-time wins leader, recognized the moment.
"I don't know, it kind of all happened really fast," said Brehm, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "It was really hard, but I felt really good. I felt really confident we could do it."
She got Jamie Abell to ground into a fielder's choice and end the inning. Gettysburg had but one more baseunner after that.
Miller opened the ninth for McDaniel with a single up the middle, and Bullets freshman pitcher Aileen Reilly plunked Taylor Fletcher three pitches later. Justice popped to third for the first out, but Roxana Aviles walked to load the bases for the Terror and bring Maring back to the plate.
She was 1 for 4 and hit the ball to the right side in each at-bat before stepping into the batter's box in the ninth. So Maring said she knew where the ball was going if she made contact.
"I knew she was pitching outside the whole game," said Maring, a right-handed hitter. "I just wanted to take the ball, get something I could drive to right field. The first pitch had been there the whole time ... it worked out for us pretty well."
Maring took Reilly's fastball to right field, where Steph Zengel ranged toward the foul line and made the catch. But Maring knew something else — Miller, her roommate and a Gettysburg native, had plenty of speed (10 for 11 in stolen base attempts) to score.
Miller touched the plate and raced out toward first to hug Maring. A few minutes later, Maring found her father, Gary, for another emotional jump-and-hug.
Maring started her college career at Dickinson, but transferred to McDaniel before this season.
"We just really wanted this," she said. "We came into the season in February with a plan to host conferences and win it on our home turf. It was really hard watching [women's] basketball, that situation. So we didn't want that to happen to us.
"We just kind of were, like, 'We just want this more, and we deserve this for all our hard work."
McDaniel, a team with all of three seniors, will find out its NCAA tourney opponent and location today thanks to three Centennial tourney wins (the Terror beat Muhlenberg 8-0 on Friday and Gettysburg 10-1 on Saturday to get to Sunday's final and a second game with the Bullets). The Terror have Carroll representation, too, with Maring, freshman infielder Olivia Kipe (Manchester Valley), and senior infielder Megan Liebknecht (Francis Scott Key).
It all comes together, Smith said, and it's coming together at the right time.
"I like the way they bounced back. They've been doing that," Smith said. "They're a young team, and they've matured very much ... which is a good sign. So they're growing up."
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