Caroline 8-10 softball tops in Maryland
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.”
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.