Since leaving the University of Maryland’s softball stadium nearly a year ago after losing in the Class 2A state final, Rising Sun has been focused on getting back and ending its championship drought.
The Tigers are a win away from completing their mission. No. 4 Rising Sun is headed back to College Park after eliminating Eastern Tech, 7-0, in a 2A state semifinal contest at Bachmann Park in Glen Burnie.
Kelsey Barks finished with three RBI and Faith McCullough and Cadence Williams combined on a two-hitter for the Tigers (22-1 overall), who ran their winning streak to 21. Jordan Lynch and Jo McMillan each had two hits.
“Last year, it didn’t end the way we wanted to. This year, we’re going to win it,” said McCullough. “We have eight seniors and we’re going to go out with a bang…there’s no other ending we’re going to accept.”
McCullough, who will play for Towson University next spring, struck out six and walked one over four innings. Williams, headed to South Alabama, pitched the final three innings, striking out six and allowed a hit.
The UCBAC Chesapeake champion Tigers pushed across five runs between the second and fourth innings to secure their second consecutive trip to College Park. Rising Sun will rematch with Calvert from Calvert County, Friday afternoon at 5:30.
Last year, Rising Sun rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the sixth to force innings before Calvert emerged, 5-4, in eight innings.
The Tigers last won a state title (1A) in 2003.
“We’ve been on a mission from day one. We lost that first game and it drove us for the rest of the year,” said Tigers coach Paul Taylor.
Sophomores Audrey Coker and Grace Himmelman each singled for Eastern Tech (15-5). The Mavericks only graduate pitcher Malorie Gogel, who will play for Notre Dame of Maryland next season.
Eastern Tech’s previous state semifinal appearance was in 2019.
“The girls had this set in their minds at the beginning of the season,” said Mavericks coach Giselle Alvarez, who was the starting center fielder on the 2014 2A state championship team. “I’m really proud of the girls…it’s been a lot of determination and hard work.”
No. 2 Northeast and seventh-ranked Patterson Mill’s championship pursuit came to an end in Glen Burnie.
The Huskies were able to climb out of a four-run hole against North Dorchester in a 1A state semifinal, but the Eastern Shore squad got the decisive run in the bottom of the seventh for a 5-4 victory.
“At the end of day, we showed the heart this program has,” said Patterson Mill coach Jeff Horton. “We don’t have the Gatorade Player of the Year, we don’t have this or that, but we have a good team. They’re going to fight to the last pitch and that’s what they did today.”
Isabella Heibler went 3-for-3 for the Harford County school, and Kelsey Price added two hits, including a leadoff double in the seventh with Patterson Mill down 4-2. She scored on a passed ball and Paige Caprinolo’s groundout, scoring Kenzie Knight to tie the game.
North Dorchester’s leadoff hitter Anna Hopkins opened the bottom of the seventh with a single that bounced off the glove of Huskies pitcher Alyssa Miller. Emileee Cohee was intentionally walked and Mackenzie Lewis’ bunt single loaded the bases.
Maggie Hubbard, whose passed ball allowed Patterson Mill to score the tying run in the top of the seventh, singled down the left field line, scoring Hopkins and sending the Eagles to Saturday’s state title match with Frederick County’s Catoctin at the University of Maryland.
After reaching back-to-back 1A finals with two-time VSN Pitcher of the Year Madison Knight, who’s a freshman at Syracuse, Patterson Mill (18-4) reached its third consecutive 1A state semifinals with an air tight defense and Horton rotating three pitchers each game.
Against Lilly Baldwin, North Dorchester opened with three straight singles, with a Huskie error mixed in, to lead 2-0 after one. The Eagles started the third with back-to-back singles as an RBI sac bunt and single advanced the lead to 4-0.
Patterson Mill began a comeback in the fourth. With two outs, Baldwin’s single scored Savannah Reedy and Hiebler brought Baldwin in with another RBI single.
The Huskies will graduate Ella Laurentius (first base) and Price (second base) from Tuesday’s starting nine and three overall.
“Once you lose a good player, you don’t always come back with the same success, but I think this year we played for each other,” said Laurentius, “and I think that was a huge part why we came so far because no one else expected us to.”
“Nobody knew exactly what we were going to be…nobody thought we were going to win regions,” said Horton, whose team won the 2021 1A state crown and lost in last year’s . “We surprised a lot of people, I think we surprised ourselves.”
Northeast’s first state semifinal contest since 2017 came apart in an agonizing seventh inning against defending 2A state champ Calvert from Southern Maryland. The Cavaliers scored 10 runs, turning a tight 2-1 battle into a rout and a state final rematch with Rising Sun.
Mackenzie Weiland finished 2-for-3 for Northeast (20-3), and Caitlyn Cornwell scored the Eagles’ only run. The University of Maryland recruit tripled in the fifth and beat the throw home on freshman Presley McGinty’s infield single.
Then, came the faithful seventh inning. The first eight Cavaliers reached base. Calvert had six hits and a walk before the 15th batter was retired to end the inning.
“They’ve had a great year. Disappointed how it ended because they had a chance,” said Northeast coach Joe Hart. “I’m not going to say it was taken from them because we lost it in the last inning. We got to learn from this and get better.”
With six freshman and or sophomores in the starting nine, Northeast went undefeated in Anne Arundel County regular season play. The Eagles graduate only Cornwell and Riley Walters.
“For how young we are and they’re full of seniors, we were in it for six innings,” said Cornwell, who broke a two-decade long state record for stolen bases in a season. “This (season) meant so much.”
STATE SOFTBALL SEMIFINALS
at Bachman Park
NO. 4 RISING SUN 7, NO. 14 EASTERN TECH 0
Eastern Tech 000 000 0 - 0 2 1
Rising Sun 022 102 x - 7 10 0
Gogel, Dyer (4) and Young; McCullough, Williams (5) and Cole
2B: Rising Sun - McMillan, Meadows, Lynch
3B: Rising Sun - Lynch
CALVERT 12, NO. 2 NORTHEAST 1
Calvert 001 100 (10) - 12 16 0
Northeast 000 010 0 - 1 9 0
DeBoer and Bradley; McGinty, Burroughs and Castle
2B: Calvert - Atherton, Milam, Drayer, DeBoer, Willis; Northeast - Weiland
3B: Northeast - Cornwell
NORTH DORCHESTER 5, NO. 7 PATTERSON MILL 4
Patteron Mill 000 200 2 – 4 10 1
North Dorchester 202 000 1 – 5 11 1
Baldwin, Miller (4) and Hiebler; Cohee and Hubbard
2B: Patterson Mill - Reedy, Price