South River softball has been a patient team, knowing the right time to strike will come. Rose Riley embodied that when she watched Bri Ford’s fly ball hit a Laurel glove and fall. The senior pounced, racing home and — with her team — stepped into another piece of program history.
A dominant 11-1 victory over the fifth-seeded Spartans in the Class 4A state quarterfinal sends the fourth-seeded Seahawks to their first semifinal appearance since 1994.
“I never, from the beginning of the season, would have seen it this way,” Riley said. “I think it’s just validating to be able to show that we have created this team.”
The South River seniors were well aware that they would never play on the Seahawks’ home field again. They’ll end their careers either at Bachman Sports Complex in Tuesday’s semifinal, or the University of Maryland next weekend in a state championship game.
“I think wherever it is we finish, we’re going to bring the same confidence we always do,” Riley said, “and that’s the confidence and cheering each other up and making sure no one gets down. We can bring that anywhere. That’s what’s going to keep us alive.”
There will be an Anne Arundel team in the Class 4A state final. The Seahawks (20-4) face Severna Park in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday. And despite South River’s two-win advantage over the Falcons heading into the game, coach Tim Williams is nervous.
“There’s no surprises, right? You know what you’re getting,” Williams said. “They’re a good hitting team and we were able to keep them at bay the last time. We had two grand slams last time, but that’s rare — and chances of us piling those kinds of runs early on are not as high, especially in a game with these kinds of stakes.”
Senior ace Ford tossed another five-inning complete game, limiting the Spartans to three hits and a walk while dealing eight strikeouts. She also brought home a run.
“I knew I had backup, but obviously the stress was there,” Ford said. “But I felt confidence in my pitching.”
Ford shut down Laurel’s top three so quickly she was practically up to bat by the game’s official start time.
The third-hitter knocked home the first run on a sacrifice fly — senior Gracelyn Solarz (3-for-4) scored the first of three Seahawks runs in the first inning.
When the Spartans did manage to string something on the base paths, the Seahawks erased it, ending the third inning with a double play.
First baseman Courtney Little (2-for-3) tapped home the first of six runs in the bottom of the third. The Seahawks took advantage of overthrown pitches and throws that let three runs cross the plate.
“We’ve had some miscues, base-running or people getting ahead of themselves or falling asleep a little bit at times, but it was very good today,” Williams said. “And it’s been good the last couple games.”
Up 9-0 entering the fourth, South River had two goals — keep Laurel completely silent and get out of Saturday’s heat.
Ford kept up her end of the bargain, rattling off another two strikeouts on the top side. Little provided the offense in the bottom.
She snapped a hard ground ball to left field, racing around to second as another error skittered around the Spartans. Meanwhile, Harris rounded third and crossed home, the vital 10th run to end the game in five innings in hand.
The Seahawks needed just one out to finish it in the top of the fifth, but a bobble allowed Aaliyah Murfree to reach first and Arly Sosamejia to cross home.
So, the bottom of the fifth it was; one more inning these seniors would ever have to play on their home dirt.
Ford approached the plate with three Seahawks on base, imploring their pitcher to make it count. So, she did. And Riley came home. And a bucket of precious ice was dumped on a winning coach on a hot day.
“We’ve got a special group of kids and things are rolling for us right now,” Williams said. “Just looking forward to hopefully getting there.”