State Champs

Caro­line 8-10 soft­ball tops in Mary­land

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS KNAUSS ck­nauss@star­dem.com

BRUNSWICK — Rid­ing on the right arm of pitcher Eileen John­son, Caro­line’s all-stars cap­tured the Mary­land 8-10 Lit­tle League soft­ball state cham­pi­onship on Fri­day.

Pitch­ing ev­ery in­ning of the tour­na­ment and sup­ported by solid de­fense, John­son al­lowed only one un­earned run in four games as Caro­line com­pleted a tour­na­ment sweep with a 3-1 vic­tory over St. Mary’s in the cham­pi­onship game.

John­son also pro­vided the spark of­fen­sively in the fi­nal game, go­ing 3 for 3 and scor­ing two runs. Her bat­tery mate, Ty’onna Sin­gle­tary, con­trib­uted an RBI sin­gle in Caro­line’s two-run fourth in­ning.

Caro­line ad­vances to the East Re­gion In­vi­ta­tional Tour­na­ment, July 29-Aug. 5, in Jenk­ins Town­ship, Pennsylvania.

John­son struck out the first nine St. Mary’s bat­ters she faced be­fore bat­tling through de­liv­ery prob­lems in the fi­nal three in­nings cre­ated by high heat and hu­mid­ity.

With Caro­line lead­ing 3-0, two walks and a wild pitch loaded the bases for St. Mary’s in the bot­tom of the fourth, and John­son fell be­hind 2-0 on the next bat­ter. But she re­bounded for a pair of strike­outs to leave all three run­ners stranded.

“She [John­son] was hav­ing trou­ble hold­ing on to the ball, but she bat­tled through it,” Caro­line man­ager Lee Hutchi­son said. “She couldn’t throw any of her other pitches be­sides the fast­ball.”

John­son walked one and struck out three in the fifth.

Sage Far­rell walked to open St. Mary’s last at-bat and took sec­ond on a wild pitch. On a ground out off the bat of Sa­van­nah Hardesty, Far­rell moved to third, rounded the base, and headed home. Caught in a run­down, she scored on an er­ror to cut St. Mary’s deficit to 3-1. Mikaela Guy then tried to reach base with a bunt but was quickly erased and John­son struck out the fi­nal bat­ter to end the game.

Guy, who pitched the en­tire game for St. Mary’s, re­tired Caro­line in or­der to open the game, with a pair of strike­outs, but John­son started the sec­ond with a triple down the right-field line. She scored on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead that stood through three in­nings.

In the fourth, John­son lined a sin­gle to right and took sec­ond on an er­ror.

She moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a grounded base hit to right by Sin­gle­tary to make it 2-0. On a grounder off the bat of Abby Gun­ther and an er­ror, Sin­gle­tary ad­vanced to third. With two outs, she scored on a wild pitch for the fi­nal run.

Those two runs proved im­por­tant as St. Mary’s cre­ated some of­fense and pro­duced a lot of vo­cal sup­port in the fi­nal three in­nings, but Caro­line’s de­fense held strong.

John­son struck out 14 of 22 bat­ters and she recorded two as­sists out of only three balls that St. Mary’s bat­ters put in play.

Caro­line, which opened the tour­na­ment with a 21-0 vic­tory over Ber­lin, knocked St. Mary’s into the loser’s bracket with a 4-0 vic­tory last Sun­day in the win­ner’s bracket semi­fi­nals. Caro­line then de­feated Elk­ton 7-0 on Wed­nes­day in the win­ner’s bracket fi­nal. St. Mary’s topped Elk­ton 5-1 in the loser’s bracket fi­nal on Thurs­day to earn an­other matchup with Caro­line.

Against Elk­ton on Wed­nes­day, John­son struck out 18, al­low­ing only one walk and one hit bat­ter.

“All these games we were on our edge, I’ll tell you,” Hutchi­son said. “Af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it last year and we didn’t hit, and this year, com­ing back here, we re­ally hit this year. It makes it easy. You’ve just got to score a few runs with Eileen on the mound.”

PHOTO BY CHRIS KNAUSS

Caro­line’s Eileen John­son scores her team’s first run on a wild pitch as St. Mary’s pitcher awaits a throw dur­ing the sec­ond in­ning Fri­day in the 8-10 Lit­tle League soft­ball state cham­pi­onship game in Brunswick.

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