Jones gets cham­pi­onship

Ea­gles need just 1 run to win SMAC soft­ball ti­tle

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By MICHAEL REID mreid@somd­

North Point head coach Tony Jones has had a stel­lar 29-year ca­reer and on Tues­day he fi­nally claimed an award that had eluded him all this time when the vis­it­ing Ea­gles de­feated Leonard­town 1-0 to win the South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence soft­ball cham­pi­onship.

The Ea­gles (13-4 over­all), the SMAC Po­tomac Di­vi­sion cham­pion, scored the only run of the game in the fourth in­ning and Bri­anna Baker al­lowed five hits and struck out two in hand­ing the Raiders their first loss of the sea­son.

Jones, who had pre­vi­ously en­joyed im­mense suc­cess as head coach at La Plata, had made two state ap­pear­ances with the War­riors along with nu­mer­ous re­gional cham­pi­onships. He’s also been named SMAC coach of the year four times, but had never won a con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship.

“We’ve been work­ing hard all year to get to this,” said an emo­tional Jones as he stood in right field as his play­ers whooped it up. “We fi­nally knew we had a team that was ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a run and we knew what we were up against. [Leonard­town head coach Kim Schrader’s] got a great team, she re­ally does. To come down here and beat them at

their house is a large feat but hey, they stepped up and did it.”

“I’m so proud of my team and I’m glad I was able to help,” Baker said. “I took one in the an­kle [in the sixth in­ning], but I was go­ing to do what­ever it took to bring [the ti­tle] back home to North Point.”

The Raiders (19-1), who won the SMAC Ch­e­sa­peake Di­vi­sion cham­pi­onship with a per­fect 12-0 record, had run­ners on base in six of the seven in­nings and had the bases loaded in the fourth but were un­able to score.

“We def­i­nitely had our chances,” Schrader said. “We had bases loaded and we didn’t score. We didn’t put hits to­gether, which we’ve been do­ing. We had five hits and that’s not typ­i­cal of my girls. It’s just not. It takes more than pitch­ing and mak­ing the plays. You’ve got to of­fen­sively get in there and do it, and we didn’t do that to­day.”

“It’s not our best per­for­mance, ob­vi­ously,” Leonard­town se­nior pitcher Kait­lyn Beasley-Polko said. “We didn’t hit, which was the main thing. We couldn’t string hits to­gether.”

North Point’s Katie Delph led off the fourth in­ning with a sin­gle to left field and took sec­ond when the ball bounced un­der the out­fielder’s glove. She went to third on a passed ball and scored when Gabby Cross reached on an er­ror.

“I just wanted to put it in play and then run my fastest,” said Delph, a sopho­more.

“It was com­fort­ing to know we were ahead, but you never get too com­fort­able be­cause that’s when you start let­ting runs slip away,” Baker said. “But it was nice to have it in the back of my mind that, ‘Hey, we might win this if this [score] stays the same.’”

Leonard­town had its best chance in the bot­tom of the in­ning when it loaded the bases on a Laila Brooks dou­ble, a walk to Tori Bowles and an in­field hit by Lyn­d­sey Riti. But Louisa Traver flied out to right to end the in­ning.

“Yes [we’ve been hit­ting all year], but they’ve kind of been slack­ing the last cou­ple of games,” Schrader said. “To­day, ab­so­lutely it was an un­pleas­ant wakeup call.”

There were some anx­ious mo­ments for North Point in the sixth when Baker was drilled on the right an­kle, the same an­kle she had an in­jury with dur­ing the sea­son that caused her to miss three weeks. But af­ter some warmup pitches, the se­nior re­mained in the game.

“As soon as she got hit we were wor­ried,” Jones said, “but she’s tough.”

Riti led off the sev­enth with a sin­gle, went to sec­ond on Traver’s sac­ri­fice bunt and reached third on a wild pitch. But Ericka Wick­line grounded back to Baker, who checked Riti be­fore throw­ing to first, and Lind­sey Wood popped out to short­stop to end the game.

“We just wanted to play solid de­fense,” said Jones, who is start­ing fresh­men at short­stop and in left field. “We told them, ‘Just worry about your po­si­tion play and your job and it’ll come come to­gether’ and it did. You have to make a play [on de­fense] and we made a bunch of them.”

“When­ever the de­fense got the chance with the ball they made the play and I’m re­ally proud of them for stay­ing with it be­cause against a good team like this, you can’t give them any­thing,” Baker said.

Baker also walked two and re­tired eight of the last nine bat­ters she faced.

“My strat­egy was just to mix it up and keep them on their toes be­cause if you throw the same pitches over and over again, they get com­fort­able,” she said.

“I have to give it to my pitcher to­day,” Jones said. “She went af­ter them and wanted to give them stuff to lay off of so they couldn’t tee off on her.”

The loss spoiled a stel­lar out­ing for Beasley-Polko, who struck out 16, in­clud­ing the first nine bat­ters she faced. The se­nior also walked one and al­lowed only a bunt sin­gle, in­field hit and a walk fol­low­ing the fourth.

“I was on the whole time,” Beasley-Polko said. “It was just a mat­ter of them putting balls in play and us not mak­ing the plays we needed to get them out.”

“She’s a phe­nom­e­nal pitcher, but we just tried to find a way to get it in play and do some­thing and stretch out a run,” Jones said. “We wanted to go through [the lineup] one time and see the pitches and hope­fully at least get some hits or at least put the bat on the ball and make them play de­fense. We de­cided to go the other route and play the short game, and one ball bounces one way and here it is 1-0.”

Just four years ago, North Point was 3-13 with Baker, then a fresh­man, throw­ing 15 mile per hour pitches across the plate.

“In four years we’ve come from that to this,” Jones said. “It’s emo­tional for me.”

“I’m just re­ally proud of my team over­all,” Delph said. “Just be­ing with them for two years now and work­ing hard on ev­ery­thing and from where we came from means a lot.”

Leonard­town is the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A East Re­gion Sec­tion II play­offs and will host a sec­tion semi­fi­nal con­test ver­sus the win­ner of Broad­neck-South River on Mon­day. North Point is the No. 2 seed and will host An­napo­lis or Chop­ti­con (the No. 3 seed) in a sec­tion semi­fi­nal game on Mon­day. If the Raiders and Ea­gles get by their sec­tion semi­fi­nal op­po­nents, they’ll meet again Wed­nes­day back at Leonard­town with a trip to the re­gion fi­nal on the line.

“We just move on, work on stuff in prac­tice and learn from our mis­takes,” Beasley-Polko said.

“They went 19-0 the en­tire sea­son and ev­ery­one’s gun­ning for you be­cause you have that [record],” Schrader said. “We’re go­ing to move on. We’re go­ing to do what we need to do and work on what needs work and be ready for Mon­day.”


The North Point Ea­gles cel­e­brate fol­low­ing their 1-0 win over Leonard­town in the SMAC cham­pi­onship game on Tues­day.

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