By Kevin Phillips
COLLEGE PARK–Rising Sun faced a three-run deficit entering the sixth inning of the MPSSAA 2A Softball championship game against top-seeded Calvert at the University of Maryland’s Taylor Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The second-seeded Tigers did not let the deficit deter them as they scored three runs in the sixth and seventh innings to force the game to go to extras.
However, they were unable to plate the go-ahead run in the top of the eight inning while the Cavaliers scored in the bottom half of the frame to walkoff with with a 5-4 victory and the state championship.
“I knew we were going to fight back hard because we are not a team who gives up,” Rising Sun pitcher Cadence Williams said of the rally.
“We never do that, and we never will. I believe that we were going to go up there with a strong mindset and come back, and we did. I’m grateful for that, and we did have a second chance.”
After giving up three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tigers trailed Calvert 4-1 entering the sixth, but they got one of those runs back in the top of the sixth inning when Williams drove in Faith McCollough with a double to make it 4-2.
Williams worked around a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth to keep it a two-run game and give her team a chance to rally.
Jayden Simpkins led off the top of the seventh with a walk, which was followed by two quick outs, setting the stage for Jordan Lynch, and Lynch bounced back from some poor at-bats and kept the Tigers in the game when she rocked an outside fastball to left field for an RBI double to make it 4-3.
Lynch came to the plate with a mindset of wanting to make up for not coming through in her other plate appearances.
“I knew I had to come up big for my team there because in my other at-bats, I didn’t,” Lynch said. “I knew I had to come up big in that moment, and that’s what I did.”
With the tying run 120 feet away, Bri Cole smashed a double to left, plating Lynch to complete the Rising Sun comeback and tie the game at 4-4, and Williams said the Tigers’ offensive output in the sixth and seventh innings was a result of the team having a better approach at the plate.
“In the beginning, it was a little rough. We weren’t very selective with our pitches. That cost us a lot of strikeouts by swinging at things we shouldn’t have been,” Williams said. “Further into the game, we were hitting more and being more selective with higher pitches. It worked out well for us.”
In the bottom of the seventh and one out, Williams sent the game to extra innings when she struck out Emily Davis and forced Emma DeBoer to ground out to shortstop.
The Tigers put runners on second and third with one out in the top of the eighth, but DeBoer induced two popouts to end the threat, giving Calvert a chance to take the state title.
Emily Milam, courtesy running for DeBoer, took her place as the free runner at second base to start the bottom of the eighth inning, and she moved to third on a throwing error on a bunt by Clara Wood.
With runners on first and third and one out, Grace Atherton blooped a single to right that fell just in front of the Rising Sun right fielder, plating Milam and giving the Cavaliers the state title.
Calvert took the lead in the bottom of the first when Karlee Hughes scored on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, but the Tigers evened the score at 1-1 in the top of the fifth when Katherine Meadows scored on a Sam Dixon groundout.
The tie was short-lived as the Cavaliers plated three in the bottom of the fifth, starting with Atherton scoring on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, and they added two more runs in the frame when DeBoer drove in Hughes and Alexis Drayer to make it 4-1, setting the stage for the dramatic final three innings.
Rising Sun head coach Paul Taylor said the team’s slow start was due to nerves, but as the game went on, he could see them getting more and more comfortable, which allowed them to mount the comeback.
“I think the biggest lesson is being here and feeling that pressure. I saw it in their eyes and heard some chatter from players being nervous and having butterflies, and I was like ‘it’s going to happen, it’s a big stage, but it’s the same game we played all year,’” Taylor said. “I think that experience got them there at the end of that game”