Spalding caps 27-0 year with state title

Cavs nip Pallotti, 1-0, in 11

Saunders pitches 1-hitter

June 01, 2000|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

UPPER MARLBORO - Top-ranked Archbishop Spalding challenged 27 softball opponents to try to find a weakness this season. Not one was found.

The Cavaliers completed the program's second perfect season yesterday, going 27-0, with their third straight Maryland Independent Schools' state championship. To do it, they needed to work overtime for a 1-0 win over Pallotti that took 11 innings at Prince George's Community College.

The win was worth the wait.

Super sophomore Jessica Saunders pitched 11 shutout innings of one-hit ball to earn Most Valuable Player honors.

Meg Cowen provided the game-winning hit, scoring TineRyals, who celebrated her 17th birthday by coming across home plate to provide the final touch to an incredible season.

The Cavaliers started out the season ranked No. 1 and didn't budge.

"What an accomplishment for this team," said Spalding coach Linda Taylor. "Being No.1 from the start, every game, we had someone wanting our heads, so we had to be on top of our game every day. And we were."

Pallotti, from Laurel, was on its game yesterday with Amy Welch matching Saunders pitch for pitch through 10 innings.

In the bottom of the 11th, the Cavs were finally able to break through. It took two sharp singles, a sacrifice bunt, and some good fortune.

Ryals led off with a single and, on Kristen Marll's sacrifice bunt, got caught between second and third. In the rundown, Ryals ended up at third after an errant throw.

Cowen, who stranded a runner on third in the eighth, wasted no time making the most of her second chance, hitting Welch's first pitch between third and short.

"I looked for the first one, knowing I would get a good pitch to hit," said Cowen.

Taylor and the entire team were expecting positive results - they've seen nothing else.

"They were extremely confident. Even when they were frustrated, they always felt they would win. It was just a matter of when," she said.

Saunders, who closed out the season 19-0, was once again overpowering, finishing with 18 strikeouts and getting the defensive support when needed.

Help came in the top of the sixth, when left fielder Amanda Collins did a fine job of getting in front of Welch's leadoff double that could have gone for more.

"I was just thinking to go out and do my thing," said Saunders. "I always know I can let teams put the ball in play, because we have the defense to get outs. This has definitely been a special year."

Spalding swept the regular-season and tournament titles in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland's A Conference, won its own Cavalier Classic; won the Chambersburg (Pa.) Tournament for the first time in five tries, and, finally, matched the 1996 team's perfect season (18-0).

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