COLLEGE PARK — It’s hard to get to the top of the 4A class in high school softball. It’s even harder to stay at the top.
The defending state champion Northwest Lady Jaguars (17-3) fought to stay at the top Saturday before getting shut out by the Severna Park Falcons, 13-0, in five innings of the 4A state championship game at the Maryland Softball Stadium at University of Maryland College Park.
The game was delayed for over three hours as the torrential downpour of a thunderstorm cleared the area. State Softball Committee members had to clear the rain off of the turf before either team could take the field. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, fans from both squads filled the drenched bleachers to see if Northwest would repeat as champions or if the Falcons would win their first softball state title since 2003.
Severna Park came to life at the bottom of the third when junior Campbell Kline, a Maryland commit, fired a hit up the middle for two RBIs. Senior Jessie Smith earned an RBI single a few seconds later and soon the Falcons were nursing a 5-0 lead to close out the third inning.
Severna Park senior pitcher Marissa Heuer was in postseason form, striking out batter after batter. Entering the game, Heuer had only allowed 16 runs the entire season.
Even though their team was trailing, players in Northwest’s dugout never stopped shouting encouragement to their teammates on the field. After all, the Jaguars still had a chance.
However, the Severna Park offense continued to roll on like a well-oiled machine as player after player ran home at the bottom of the fourth. The Jaguars trailed 10-0 when sophomore pitcher Amber Yuille gathered her teammates around her for a midfield discussion.
Northwest went to bat one final time at the top of the fifth, hoping for a miracle. Heuer orchestrated three quick outs before the game was over and her teammates raced onto the field to celebrate a championship win, their 17th straight victory and eleventh shutout of the season.
A loss of this magnitude was uncharacteristic for a Jaguars team who had previously only lost two games all season and had also shut out eight different teams.
Northwest head coach Mike Horton attributes the loss to the pressure to repeat on a big stage.
“When you make mistakes against a good team, they made us pay for it,” said Horton. “We made more mistakes today than we have all year combined. The pressure, we won last year and that puts an extraordinary amount of pressure. Now they think they have to do it again. That was my fear coming in that they felt that way.”
It began to rain again as soon as the game ended and both teams took the field for the awards presentation. Northwest received medals and a trophy commemorating their season as state finalists.
Heuer, who is planning on playing college ball at Catonsville Community College in the fall, commended her teammates for sticking to the game plan that got them to the title game.
“I feel like I am on cloud nine right now. I am so proud of everyone on this team that worked so hard to make it this far,” she said. “We came out here to do what we had to do and to play our game. And that’s how we came out and that’s how we played.”