Gaithersburg nips Falcons in 8 innings for state crown, 1-0

Severna Park can't get key hit, strands runner at third in top of eighth

Class 4A softball

May 28, 1999|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

All the smiles that came with earning the right to play in the state championship game suddenly turned into unexpected tears for a stunned Severna Park team yesterday afternoon at Randazzo Park.

The No. 2-ranked Falcons were unable to get the big hit all afternoon against Gaithersburg senior pitcher Shannon Seeley.

And then, when Lana Wilcox came up in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and dumped a 3-2 pitch to left field, the Trojans from Montgomery County didn't quite realize they had captured their first Class 4A state championship with a 1-0 win.

The Falcons (21-5) battled through the tough East region with wins over ranked Arundel, Chesapeake and North County, had an easy time in a 5-0 state semifinal win over Bowie on Tuesday, but couldn't find another run in their bid for a second state championship.

"We came such a long way this year, and to come up short is upsetting," said Severna Park coach Jeff Shepherd. "We had a great group of seniors, and it would have been nice to get them a state championship, but we couldn't get that one big hit. When you get into a single-game situation, anything can happen."

Playing under international rules, which put the last out in the previous inning on second base at the start of every extra inning, the Falcons had a chance to score in the top of the eighth.

But their opportunity vanished when sophomore Lauren Pollock's sharp grounder bounced off Seeley's leg right to first baseman Laura Hamilton, who dove to the bag to get the final out with pinch runner Alison Martins stranded on third.

With their chance in the bottom of the eighth, the Trojans (18-4) gave up an out to move complimentary runner Brooke Mowry to third on a groundout to first by Lynsey Hoffman.

The Falcons didn't make plays to first base on consecutive bunts that loaded the bases, thus getting the force option at any base with Wilcox, who singled in her previous at-bat, at the plate.

After taking a close pitch from Severna Park senior standout Amanda Donaldson to get the count full, Wilcox placed the next one into right field to drive in the state championship-winning run.

"Everyone was saying, `Do this for us,'" said Wilcox. "I just went after the ball, and when I saw Brooke come home, I cried all the way to first."

Only Wilcox and Severna Park seemed to know the game was over with all the Gaithersburg runners continuing to run after the decisive run came across.

"I just thought, `Did we really do it?,'" said Seeley, who allowed just three hits while relying on a fastball and drop to get her ninth and biggest win of the season. "I saw the run come in, and it didn't register that we won the game. I was up next and getting ready to bat. Going into the game, we just had to mentally believe and tell ourselves we were the best team."

Donaldson, a two-time first-team All-Metro pitcher, closed out a stellar four-year career in typical dominating fashion. She didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning. She worked herself out of a seventh-inning jam by getting Mowry to ground out to senior shortstop Meredith McAlister with runners on second and third.

"We just didn't hit the ball," she said. "Maybe we didn't apply ourselves early enough, thinking we [could] get it later. We had it. We just let it pass us by. I wish we could turn back time and play it over again."

A disappointing ending on a season's last day wasn't anything new for McAlister, who also closed out a fine three-sport career at Severna Park. A first-team All-Metro soccer defender, she endured a tough, 2-1 loss to Montgomery County's Wootton in that sport's Class 4A state final last fall.

"This has happened to me twice now," she said. "You think you're this close, and then it's all taken away."

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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