In­di­ans cap­ture 2A East Re­gion Cham­pi­onship

Top Park­side 5-4 to ad­vance to state semi­fi­nals

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— Kim Evans last guided the North East soft­ball team to the state cham­pi­onship game in 2007.

Nine years later, the 11-year head coach is on the verge of once again re­turn­ing to that stage.

Ju­nior catcher Kait­lyn Ste­wart launched a ga­me­ty­ing, two-run dou­ble to deep cen­ter be­fore cross­ing the plate her­self to cap a three­run fifth-in­ning and help de­liver the In­di­ans to the 2A state semi­fi­nals with a 5-4 come-from-be­hind vic­tory over vis­it­ing Park­side in the 2A East Re­gion Cham­pi­onship on Fri­day.

“It’s been a while. It’s very ex­cit­ing. I haven’t slept all week, I haven’t eaten all week. It’s big for these girls,” Evans said. “They worked hard and they’re prov­ing it to them­selves and that’s what’s im­por­tant. We’ve had a heck of a year.”

Trail­ing 4-2 in the fifth in­ning, fresh­man Molly Dill drew a one-out walk and fresh­man Mor­gan Sar­gent sin­gled to third base to put run­ners on first and sec­ond for Ste­wart, who fol­lowed with a bases-clear­ing dou­ble in the gap. Two bat­ters later, se­nior Olivia Martin de­liv­ered a go-ahead RBI sin­gle to right field to score Ste­wart.

NORTH EAST

The rally fol­lowed a dif­fi­cult fourth frame for North East (18-2), which saw the Rams erase a two-run deficit with a four-run in­ning, in­clud­ing plat­ing a pair of runs with two outs.

“The in­ten­sity level was a lit­tle down af­ter that [fourth in­ning] but these girls fought,” Evans said. The In­di­ans cap­tured their first re­gion crown since 2007. They re­main in con­tention for their first state cham­pi­onship since 2003.

“It’s great. I don’t have the words for it,” said Ste­wart, who fin­ished 2 for 2 with a walk and three RBI. “We worked as a team, we talked and we all had the en­ergy and in­ten­sity in us. The bats kind of came alive to­day a lit­tle bit and the de­fense was great.”

Ste­wart’s big day at the plate con­tin­ued a strong post­sea­son for the catcher, who now has five RBI and five runs scored in three play­off con­tests.

“She came up huge to­day,” Evans said. “It’s good to see her step­ping up.”

Dill, who en­tered in re­lief of Sar­gent to be­gin the fifth in­ning, tossed three score­less frames to earn the win.

It marked the third con­sec­u­tive play­off game that Sar­gent, an­other fresh­man, handed the ball off to Dill mid­way through the con­test.

“You have two ninth graders out there who have never been this far into the scene and they both stepped up,” Evans said. “Mor­gan … has no re­ac­tion. There’s no emo­tion. She just lis­tens to Stewie [Ste­wart] and throws what she’s got. Same thing with Molly. I know they’re cousins, but those two work to­gether so well. They have so much trust in Stewie to call the game, hit their spots and get it done.”

Dill faced the top of the Park­side or­der in the top of the sev­enth in­ning. She al­lowed a two-out sin­gle to the three-hole hit­ter and pitcher Mag­gie Can­non, be­fore forc­ing cleanup hit­ter Tay­lor Ni­chols to ground out to the third base­man.

“I ex­pect to come in al­most ev­ery game. My coaches tell me to be ready,” Dill said. “This time I tried to fo­cus on be­ing ready for any­thing, com­ing in and do­ing my job.”

Dill kept the Rams off­bal­anced by switch­ing be­tween an above-av­er­age fast­ball and a changeup.

“The changeup, that’s a pitch that we usu­ally use when we’re ahead in the count. It’s just so dif­fer­ent from any­thing else that I think peo­ple see nor­mally. It au­to­mat­i­cally throws them off no mat­ter where it is. It can be in the dirt or high, it’s just some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent and it’s some­thing I work on a lot,” Dill said.

Af­ter coast­ing through the first three in­nings, Sar­gent ran into trou­ble in the fourth when she al­lowed a one-out triple to Can­non, who scored one bat­ter later on a sin­gle by Ni­chols. Kara Downs then fol­lowed with a sin­gle and Tori Bar­moy reached on an er­ror to load the bases.

Af­ter in­duc­ing a pop out to the catcher, Sar­gent al­lowed Park­side to tie when she walked Car­men Swaf- ford. Hope Clarke then de­liv­ered a sin­gle to right field to give the Rams the lead.

“Of course it’s dis­ap­point­ing but we’re young and we bat­tled. I was very proud of them. We didn’t give them the game, they earned it,” Park­side coach Paul Si­mon said. “We got down early and we bat­tled in the mid­sec­tion of the game. It was a good soft­ball game and you can’t hang your head af­ter a good soft­ball game.”

The In­di­ans wasted no time tak­ing the lead in the bot­tom of the first in­ning when Sar­gent drew a one­out walk and Ste­wart fol­lowed with an RBI triple to right. The catcher then scored one bat­ter later on Jess Cho­plin­sky’s ground out to short­stop.

“[The first in­ning] set the tone. It proved that we can hit [Can­non],” Evans said. “I think they were a lit­tle ner­vous com­ing in. She’s a good pitcher, she throws the ball hard, harder than what we’ve seen all year so far. We worked hard for it yes­ter­day, we pre­pared for it, so get­ting those hits early was big.”

North East will face West cham­pion Ca­toctin in the state semi­fi­nals at Bach­man Park in Glen Burnie on Tues­day.

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

North East ju­nior catcher Kait­lyn Ste­wart slides into third base dur­ing the fifth in­ning of her team’s 5-4 vic­tory over vis­it­ing Park­side in the 2A East Re­gion Soft­ball Fi­nal on Fri­day.

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