The undefeated Patterson Mill softball team had to figure out a different way to win a big game Thursday at rival Rising Sun.
Finding themselves trailing for the first time this season — down a run in the sixth inning — the No. 6 Huskies didn’t panic. They scratched across two runs in the sixth, and star pitcher Madison Knight and some fine defense handled the rest in a 3-2 win over the Tigers in Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division play.
After the game, there was plenty to celebrate. The Huskies (14-0 overall, 13-0 conference) clinched their second straight conference crown, while Knight, on her 18th birthday, finished with 16 strikeouts to surpass 400 in her three-year career. After going 22-0 and claiming its first Class 1A state title last season, Patterson Mill has won 37 straight games.
“We all had to work together,” Knight said. “We all knew we were down and we had to come back and it was a great team win.
“It’s been a first for a really long time and we just knew we all had to work together — piece by piece. It didn’t have to be hits, walks, getting hit by pitches – just finding a way to get on base.”
Twice now this season, Rising Sun has given the Huskies a significant test. On April 4, Knight hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to help Patterson Mill claim a 2-0 win.
On Thursday, the Huskies got a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Tigers battled back. Rising Sun scored the tying run in the fourth, as Jordan Lynch led off with a triple and scored on a fielder’s choice to hand Knight her first earned run allowed this season. The Tigers scratched across the go-ahead run in the fifth when Bri Cole worked a walk with the bases loaded.
After the inning, Patterson Mill coach Jeff Horton huddled his Huskies in front of the dugout.
“I told them, ‘This was the first time we’ve gotten behind and we’re heading into the playoffs, so how are we going to respond?’ As a team, were we going to be able to dig deep enough to pull it out,” he said. “It was about heart and the desire to win, and they showed that they could overcome that adversity and have that desire to win.”
Rising Sun pitcher Cadence Williams, who finished with 18 strikeouts, got off to a rough start when she hit leadoff batter Savannah Reedy with a pitch. The Tigers elected to intentionally walk Knight, who came into the game hitting .568 with nine home runs. Tara Caprinolo, who drove in the Huskies’ first run with a single and reached base three times, walked to loaded the bases. Ali Kirsch grounded a sharp grounder to shortstop Sam Dixon, whose hurried throw to home plate was off the mark, allowing Reedy to tie the game. Lily Hofmeister followed with a long fly to center field that was dropped, scoring Knight to make it 3-2.
Re-energized with the lead, Knight struck out the side in the sixth before surrendering a leadoff single to Jayden Simpkins in the seventh. But after Grace Boyd struck out, Huskies catcher Izzy Hiebler picked up a sacrifice bunt attempt by Dixonand fired a strike to third baseman Hofmeister to get Simpkins trying to advance.
“It’s a great win for the team. It just took a lot of heart and figure out who wanted it more. We pulled together and got the big win,” Caprinolo said. “Heart won that game today.”
Afterward, the team presented Knight (14-0) with a chocolate “400″ to celebrate her strikeouts milestone and birthday.
With the regular season winding down — the Huskies have four games remaining before they go to work on defending their state title — Knight is appreciative of the push that comes from Rising Sun, which fell to 12-2 overall and 9-2 in conference play.
“I’m just thankful we have this team to play against. This is the best team to play to get ready for the playoffs,” Knight said. “And this win is a fantastic birthday present.”
PM 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 -- 3 2 0
RS 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 -- 2 5 2
Knight and ; Wiliams and Cole
3B: RS -- Lynch