Seven-year-old Norah Hart walked up to a girl at softball practice and asked her if she wanted to throw the ball around. That girl, Joey Sears, ran away.
Now, almost a decade later, they’re sisters — and each just one step away from their dream.
“Now, we’re cheering each other on for our state finals,” Hart said. “It’s crazy.”
Hart, who plays for Class 3Afinal-bound Chesapeake, called her stepsister Joey immediately after her semifinal game on Wednesday. The Cougars just beat Northern-Calvert in come-from-behind fashion, while Sears’ North County squad had just taken down 2019 state champion, Sherwood to clinch a berth in the Class 4A championship game.
“We were so excited for each other,” Hart said. “It’s pretty much like we push each other forward. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses; we just pick each other up.”
Hart says she can’t remember a time before she and Sears played softball together. The two signed up for Lakeshore Lightning in elementary school and stuck together in the program ever since. That’s where their parents met, and, in 2017, they got married.
Sears bounces back and forth between her blended family and her father, Dustin, and her mother’s in a house zoned for North County. Meanwhile, Hart attends Chesapeake. But as both of their teams journeyed through the season, they were there for one another — even when their paths merged.
North County and Chesapeake met on May 28 to decide which would be the last undefeated team in Anne Arundel County, and the Knights won, 1-0, on a walk-off in extra innings. The sisters played on opposite sides but, really, they were on each other’s team.
“We’ve always played with each other so it was fun getting to play against one another. She would look at me in the field and just smile and laugh,” Sears said.
When Chesapeake and North County split into their individual playoff brackets, parents Windy and Dustin Sears took turns spectating each daughter’s games. They had plenty of experience; with six children between them, they’ve always had to employ a “divide and conquer” strategy to support them all.
“We’re constantly just back and forth like, ‘Hey, what’s going on there?’ ‘Top five, 3-1 here, what’s going on there?” Dustin Sears said.
“We hope for the best,” Windy Sears said.
Windy Sears has gotten the luckiest. Both parents were in attendance to watch Sears hit an inside-the-park home run against Old Mill in an 11-0 regional semifinal win on June 9. But only the mother was in Pasadena when Hart hit a three-run homer that sparked Chesapeake’s 9-3 win over Bel Air in Tuesday’s state quarterfinal. Even Hart, if her game with Chesapeake ends early, high-tailed it out of wherever she played to watch Sears a few times during the playoffs.
The energy in the sisters’ blended household has been intense this week, Sears said. The dinner table is set every night with conversations about the day’s games or what comes next. Seventeen members of the family are coming out on Friday to watch the two compete in their respective championship games.
Chesapeake plays Reservoir at Bachman Spots Complex at 11 a.m., while North County plays Catonsville on the same field at 2:30 p.m.
“Everyone’s been so excited, and our family is so happy with us. It’s really exciting being able to both get to states and our family being able to cheer us on,” Sears said. “Because we’ve both been wanting this since we were so young.”
As a freshman on North County, Sears watched her stepsister reach the 3A state final with Chesapeake in 2019. While the Cougars would fall to Huntingtown, the seed rooted in Sears’ spirit.
“I always tell myself to make it to states at least once. Watching her do it freshman year, I saw how cool of an experience it was,” the Knights junior said, “and I wanted to go. Now, it’s finally a dream come true.”
Of course, both Hart and Sears want their titles — the girls and their teams wouldn’t have made it this far without that hunger. As much as fate could have both 3A and 4A crowns ready in their immediate future, they know there’s a possibility one sister wins and the other doesn’t. There’s the possibility neither do.
Making the state final is itself the accomplishment, Sears said, and they’ve both already done it. Sears plans to watch her sister play and rush back to North County to ride the bus back to Bachman with her teammates. Win or lose, Hart will stick around to watch North County rather than go off somewhere with her teammates. They’ll get dinner after.
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“I think that no matter who wins or who loses. If one of them wins, the other will just be so excited for them about that,” Windy Sears said. “Even if they lost, [that other win] will overcome some of that. ‘Hey, my sister just won.’”