North Carroll's Holly Buckel tags out Easton's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
COLLEGE PARK — — The North Carroll softball team did all they could to stay close in Friday night's Class 2A state title game against undefeated Easton. But the No. 14 Panthers had never seen a pitcher as dominating as the one that stood 40 feet in front of them — Shelby Taylor.
After the the Warriors from Talbot County scored three runs in the first inning, they left the rest to their hard-throwing senior standout, Taylor, who threw a one-hitter in a 6-0 win that completed a 26-0 season and secured the program's fifth state title.
The Panthers' loss doesn't tarnish a fine late-season run for a team that has consistently found a way over the years to play its best at the right time.
In addition to six state titles, the program has reached the state tournament 11 other times, with this season's run marking the 12th time and second straight year they reached the championship game.
With only one senior on the roster — 13 players are set to return next year — the Panthers (17-8) showed poise in capturing the region with three one-run wins before defeating No. 6 Glenelg, 7-1, in the state semifinals.
"I think the program's tradition definitely has something to do with it," North Carroll coach Lloyd Ford said. "The kids walk into the gym every day and see the six championship banners on the wall and it means something to them. It's North Carroll softball."
The Warriors scored three times in the bottom of the first inning to provide plenty of cushion for Taylor. Caroline Marvel led off with a walk and Caitlin Chance followed with a triple to deep center field for a 1-0 lead. Two outs later, Paige Knussman lined a run-scoring single and scored on a double from Sarah Spicher for the 3-0 advantage.
Taylor, effectively mixing her speed and location, finished with 14 strikeouts and retired 21 of 23 batters faced to finish her season with a 22-0 mark and near-flawless 0.10 ERA. The Panthers' only hit came in the second inning when first baseman Amanda Hennessee hit a spinning bloop behind the mound. Catcher Holly Buckel also reached with a one-out walk in the fourth inning.