Thursday, May 28, 2009
Pocomoke earns state title
The Pocomoke softball team entered Saturday's MPSSAA 1A state championship game against Fort Hill expecting a low-scoring game. Sentinels senior pitcher Sheri Beavers had given up just two earned runs all season, and the Warriors had one of their two standout freshmen on the mound in Anna Brittingham.
But it was Brittingham who proved to be the better pitcher on this day, allowing just two Fort Hill hits and striking out 11 to make the Warriors' two runs stand up for a 2-0 victory and the title.
"It is amazing," Brittingham said. "I never thought I would come and actually win the state championship. It is just the best feeling in the world. I was told this team could hit like crazy, and I was coming out thinking, 'I don't know if I'm going to win.' Luckily, I came out and had my focus going."
The victory gave Pocomoke its first state softball crown after previously not making it past the semifinals in three attempts.
"When the season started, I knew we had a good team, but I never dreamt of being in the state championship and beating a team that was defending state champs," said Pocomoke senior catcher Kirstie Dennig, who earned her first softball title after already winning four for field hockey. "We are part of history now."
The Warriors missed an early opportunity in the top of the first inning when Beverly Weaver drew a lead-off walk, advanced to second on a groundout, then was held at third on a two-out single by Brittingham. She would then attempt to score on a passed ball and was tagged out at the plate by Beavers.
But Brittingham, who said she traditionally struggles in the first inning, showed no sign of it in the bottom of the first, striking out the first two hitters, using her rise ball and then drawing a pop-up from Beavers. She used that pitch frequently in the game, going to it in key situations and racking up the strikeouts.
"I love when a girls swings at a rise-ball, because they just look foolish," Brittingham said. "I just love it so much. It is just a great pitch, and I work on it all the time."
Pocomoke didn't waste an opportunity in the top of the second when freshman Skylar Hall had a smart at-bat, drawing a walk from Beavers and advancing to second on a wild pitch. Senior Sarah Scher then laced a solid single to pit runners at first and third with one out. Taylor West beat out a bunt single, and the throw back to Beavers from the first baseman sailed into foul territory, and Hall showed some heady baserunning by scoring on the play, scoring for a 1-0 Pocomoke lead.
Brittingham sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a Fort Hill triple in the bottom of the second, then pitched a one-two-three third. With the lead in hand, she started to cruise.
"I felt completely comfortable in about the third inning, when I saw almost the whole lineup and I saw what they could do and just worked with that," Brittingham said.
As the game when on, Brittingham seemed to get stronger and more confident, which spelled trouble for the Sentinels.
"I think she did," said Dennig, who had a great view behind the plate. "I think all the excitement and momentum and knowing we had the early lead and had to hold them. We know how people can come back, because we are a clutch team and we come back. I think she had that in her head, and she just got stronger and stronger every inning."
Pocomoke had two on with one out in the top of the fifth, but Fort Hill escaped without a run.
They were not so lucky in the top of the sixth, when shortstop Kasey Tapman singled, moved to second on a passed ball, then scored on a one-out single by Scher.
"Everybody was just trying to get their hit, trying to get on base," Scher said. "The pitcher was really good, I have to give it to her, but we were prepared. We practice every day, and we also have great pitchers to practice from."
Scher called it a "good comfort run," but with just six Fort Hill outs to go in the game, it was huge.
"Getting one is great, but in my gut I didn't think one was going to be enough against this team," Pocomoke coach Ron Trostle said. "Getting that second one, you breathe a little better."
Brittingham gave up her final hit of the game on a changeup to the No. 9 hitter in the bottom of the sixth. But she got the next three hitters to escape without issue, then struck out two of three in the seventh.
Scher led Pocomoke at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Tapman, Brittingham, Dennig and Amber Holland each had one hit.
"I think we peaked at the right time," Trostle said, "and the season speaks for itself."