OLNEY — On the last day of the regular season, the 14-0 Sherwood High School softball team was looking to finish their undefeated season when 13-2 Northwest came to town.
Unfortunately, the Lady Warriors couldn’t hang on to a two-run lead at the top of the seventh, leaving the opportunity open for the Lady Jaguars to take advantage of them as Northwest won the competitive battle by the score of 6-5 on May 6.
“They’re a great team,” said Northwest Head Coach Mike Horton. “They’re well-coached. It’s always good to beat a good team. Obviously, they’re the five-time state champs. You come here and win, it’s a great feeling.”
The Lady Jaguars jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first, thanks to a two-run homer from outfielder Alex Karamihas.
A couple at-bats later, pitcher Amber Yuille doubled down the left field line and drove in first baseman Kaylah Qassis to extend Northwest’s lead to 3-0.
“I think I did pretty well,” said Yuille. “But thank God all the other girls were there to back me up. I mean, it’s a team effort. I love all the girls on the team, and all of them were there for me because I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone.”
However, in the bottom of the second, Sherwood ended the shutout when outfielder Grace Manlapaz doubled down the left-field line and drove in shortstop Christi Mathis, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
Two batters later, outfielder Ally Bloom hit a two-RBI single to send home Manlapaz and designated hitter Kay Sakala and tied the contest at 3-3.
The next inning, first baseman Hannah Bowers tripled into right field and drove in second baseman Kayley Bina.
Then Bowers scored on a fielder’s choice to give the Lady Warriors a 5-3 lead.
Northwest didn’t give up, though, because at the top of the sixth, outfielder Shawnee Ronyak hit an RBI double that sent home shortstop Jillian Zirkle to cut the deficit to 5-4.
However, the momentum slowly shifted toward the Lady Jaguars in the top of the seventh.
With the bases loaded, Zirkle got hit by a pitch, which allowed Qassis to score the tying run.
“Jillian’s a freshman,” said Horton. “For her to come in and play a high-pressure game like this, and to do what she does, is impressive. She’s an incredible athlete, and she’s been an incredible player for us this year.”
On the very next at-bat, third baseman Megan Ridenour hit a sac fly to left field, which sent home Yuille, to give Northwest a commanding 6-5 lead. Ridenour previously hit two singles and a double in the game.
“It felt really nice being able to help my team out and win this,” said Ridenour.
“We’ve beat them before,” said Yuille. “I know they’re a great team. They’re great competitively, and we love playing them every time. Beating them was the cherry on top.”
The Lady Jaguars finished it off in the bottom of the seventh for the save and the win, ending Sherwood’s undefeated season.
However, Lady Warriors Head Coach Ashley Barber-Strunk isn’t treating it like a big deal.
“It’s just a game,” said Barber-Strunk. “Every game’s just another game, win or lose. It’s not about a record, an undefeated season. The goal of each season is to prepare us for playoffs.”
Barber-Strunk stated that while her team did a great job, the main problems that led to the loss were communication errors and people out of position. “They did what they needed to do,” she said.
With the regular season over, both coaches feel confident about their playoff chances.
“We feel strong,” said Horton. “We’re going in as a number-two seed. Once the playoffs start, it’s a new season, so we’re going to take one game at a time.”
“On any given day, anybody can beat anybody,” said Barber-Strunk. “So, they know that each time we have a game that its preparation and we have to play hard to win, so hopefully we’ll be able to get it done.”