It’s no surprise that No. 4 Archbishop Spalding captured its fourth straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference softball championship Tuesday night at the Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie.
After all, the top-seeded Cavaliers (12-2) are hardly strangers to celebrating titles, considering that they entered the contest against fifth-ranked John Carroll (14-3) seeking their fourth straight and IAAM record-13th crown.
It’s the way that Spalding prevailed, 6-3, over the Patriots that had some people shaking their heads in disbelief after the game.
All of the Cavaliers’ runs were scored because John Carroll had a rough time making simple plays, allowing junior first baseman Sydney Lanasa’s popup to drop a few feet from home plate in the opening inning for a single that fueled a three-run rally.
Even more harmful to the Patriots was a two-out, bases-loaded popup that was mishandled and allowed three more runs to score to snap a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning.
All in all, John Carroll did more harm to itself than the Cavaliers inflicted on the second seeds.
Losing pitcher Juilia Wilkes deserved a better fate, scattering seven hits and allowing three earned runs — two of which came after the first fielding miscue that was scored a single.
Freshman third baseman Taylor Codi and sophomore second baseman Ryanne Clarke both stroked RBI singles to build the Cavaliers’ 3-0 first-inning advantage.
After that, though, Wilkes settled down and appeared to have worked her way out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth when she induced junior right fielder Taylor Barchanowicz to hit a popup 20 feet up the third-base line that was dropped.
Spalding coach Delaney Bell conceded that it was “a very strange” game.
“It’s an interesting win,” she said. “We teach the girls that you’re going to run the ball out no matter what and that we were going to put pressure on them — and that’s what we did. You have to give credit to our base-runners, because they were prepared and they kept pushing.”
To be sure, the Cavaliers helped themselves with some excellent defensive work, especially in the fifth inning on a pair of diving grabs in foul territory by sophomore left fielder Cecilia Prince and junior catcher Danielle Kallas.
“I think all of our girls sometimes hate us in practice because we expect them to dive all the time even if they can’t get to (the ball), so they get used to it,” Bell said. “And I think it shows in games like this.”
Winning pitcher, junior Mackenna Dean, who wiggled out of early jams, allowed five hits in the first two innings and was touched for a run in the third after junior shortstop Sophie Anderson doubled to right center and scored on a wild pitch.
The right-hander gave up two more runs in the fourth on a double by freshman right fielder Savannah Claycomb, after sophomore catcher Julianna Aragon led off with a single and junior designated player Sydney Barker’s bunt put two runners on base.
In the seventh inning, Dean walked senior outfielder Mykaela Getz, made a throwing error and hit sophomore first baseman Ryan Pindell to load the bases.
However, she retired Aragon on a fly to center to wrap up the victory.
“We haven’t seen (Dean) in a pressure situation like this,” Bell said. “She started a little shaky, and the strike zone was a little small. But she stepped up and it didn’t bother her. She did really well.”
Dean said that she felt empathy for the manner in which the Patriots lost the game.
“I’ve been in their shoes before,” she said. “I know how it feels. They definitely fought hard.”
“I kept praying in the circle,” Dean said, describing her reaction to the seventh-inning drama. “And I also knew my defense was behind me. It was a team effort and we all did our parts, and we came out with a win.”
John Carroll coach Sherry Hudson said that the Patriots’ mistakes were the difference.
“Two infield fly balls with two outs,” she said. “You have to catch those if you want to win championships.”
She praised Wilkes for her effort in the circle.
“That game could have gotten out of hand,” Hudson continued. “(Wilkes) stuck with it and did a good job of keeping us in the game.”
IAAM A CONFERENCE SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
(AT BACHMAN PARK)
NO. 4 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 6, NO. 5 JOHN CARROLL 3
JC 001 200 0 — 3 9 1
AS 300 030 X — 6 7 1
Julia Wilkes and Juliana Aragon, Laura Hughes (6); Mackenna Dean and Danielle Kallas
2B: JC-Savannah Claycomb