With one swing, Marley Connor became a part of Crofton High softball history Tuesday evening.
The No. 3 Cardinals, in their second full varsity season, claimed their first Anne Arundel County championship with a 10-1 rout of second-ranked Northeast at Bachman Park in Glen Burnie. Bethany Steers drove in three runs for Crofton (14-4 overall), including a home run.
The Cardinals scored the game’s final 10 runs over their final four at-bats against Northeast (17-2), which went undefeated en route to the Anne Arundel regular season crown. The Eagles swept Crofton to the tune of 10-3.
How does the old adage go? It’s tough to beat a team three times in one season.
“This game, we’ve been waiting for it all season,” said Crofton junior India Stokes, who went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and made a handful of stellar plays in the field from her shortstop position. “We came, and we brought what we needed to bring, and I think Lynsie and Kristen pitched a great game. Our bats were alive, and we scored when we needed to score.”
Crofton trailed, 1-0, in the fourth when Connor changed the Cardinals’ fortunes. On a 2-ball, 2-strike count, she hit a titanic shot over the right-center field fence off Northeast starter Jenna Burroughs.
Connor walked in her first at-bat.
“I didn’t expect them to pitch to me, or at least give me any good pitches. So everything they threw me was off the plate,” said Connor, who finished 3-for-4 with 2 RBI. “The first pitch I fouled, I was just lucky they didn’t catch it. I got too far underneath it. I got the same pitch my next pitch, and I just made the adjustment I needed to make and got on top of it, and I drove it.”
The Cardinals took their first lead in the contest on Lynsie Herman’s two-out opposite field triple to left field, followed by back-to-back singles India Stokes and Simone Singleton. Stokes brought home Herman with a sharply hit ground ball to left field.
Singleton then drove in Stokes with a ground ball up the middle and scored herself on the play on a throwing error to second base for a 4-1 lead.
Steers put the finishing touches on the championship win with her 3-run home run blast to left field, capping a 6-run seventh inning. Kristin White, Connor, and Stokes added run-scoring hits in the prolific inning.
The Eagles only allowed 12 runs over their 12 games in Anne Arundel County regular season league decisions including a 5-0 victory over Crofton on April 14. Northeast won the other match, 5-3, on March 22.
The final 12 Anne Arundel games on a team’s schedule count towards the regular season standings.
“Listen, this is Anne Arundel County softball; it’s hard to beat a good team three times,” Northeast coach Joe Hart said. “We had a couple of mishaps. We had a couple of things where we threw the ball around a little bit and got a little crazy. We’re alright. Hats off to them tonight. It was their night, not ours.”
The Eagles started the contest on a positive note as Burroughs stranded two runners in scoring position in the top of the first inning before Presley McGinty slapped a run-scoring triple to deep center field to plate Caitlyn Cornwell for a 1-0 advantage. Cornwell, who’s headed to the University of Maryland, led off with a single and then reached third on the play when the left fielder could not corral her hit, resulting in a two-base error.
McGinty was stranded at third as lefty Herman worked back-to-back strikeouts and a groundout to end the early threat. Herman and reliever White limited the Eagles to four hits.
Then came Connor, whose epic blast ignited a historic night for the Cardinals, who head into the state postseason with confidence.
“To me (winning the county championship) it means literally everything to me,” said Stokes, whose team will next compete in the Class 3A South Region 2 playoffs. “This is our dream team right here, and if we were going to win, this was our year. We all said last year and this year, this was our year, and so far, it’s our year.”
“Once we got the momentum going, it was really hard for them (Northeast) to get an out, and they got into their heads a little bit, and the wheels fell off the wagon,” Connor said. “The hits tied together and led to runs. I really think we can go places this year, deep in the state playoffs. I think we can really go far as long as we keep it together.”
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
at Bachman Park
NO. 3 CROFTON 10, NO. 2 NORTHEAST 1
Crofton 0 0 0 1 3 0 6 - 7 12 2
Northeast 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 1 4 4
WP - Lynsie Herman; LP - Jenna Burroughs.
2B: Crofton - India Stokes, Marley Connor, Kristen White.
3B: Crofton - Lynsie Herman; Northeast - Presley McGinty.
HR: Crofton - Marley Connor, Bethany Steers.
RBI: Crofton - Steers 3, India Stokes 2, Connor 2, White, Simone Singleton; Northeast - McGinty.