GAITHERSBURG—Deep into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) softball state playoffs, the two No. 1 seeds of the 4A West Region faced off as Walt Whitman High School visited Quince Orchard for the regional finals on May 16.
The game turned out to be a real pitching duel, with the two squads entering extra innings tied at 0-0. The Lady Vikings finally broke through to put runs on the board and hung on for the 4-1 victory to become regional champions.
“I’m just so proud of our girls,” said Whitman Co-Head Coach Anne Marie O’Donoghue. “We’ve worked so hard, and they’re such an amazing team, and they came together in a fantastic way.”
Both teams made attempts at driving in some runs for eight straight innings, but for the most part, the pitching and defense came through when needed.
After a scoreless eighth inning, Whitman opened the game up at the top of the ninth when sophomore Charlotte McNulty hit an RBI single that drove in senior Margaret Oleynik for the 1-0 lead.
“I never expected it,” said McNulty. “With all my coaches and teammates behind me, I knew that I could do something like that. Everybody could.”
“Absolutely fantastic coming from the bottom of the lineup,” said O’Donoghue. “Charlotte came in today, because we had one of our normal starters who had to be away at a graduation, and that’s so much pressure, and she did fantastic putting in.”
On the very next at-bat, senior Alyssa Kline connected with an RBI single which was followed by a two-RBI double from freshman Jaymie Beers to extend Whitman’s lead by four runs.
“Alyssa, every year she’s played for us, she has managed to make things happen offensively,” said O’Donoghue, “and we’re just thrilled.”
Meanwhile, the Lady Cougars didn’t give up. In the bottom half of the ninth, sophomore Caleigh Sewall doubled to deep center field and sent home senior Rachel Datu to cut their deficit to 4-1.
However, with one out, senior Tehya Harbaugh hit a flyout to right field. After making the catch, McNulty was able to make the throw to first base in time to tag the runner out to secure Whitman’s berth in the 4A State Semifinals.
Lady Vikings senior pitcher Riley Kuehn was phenomenal on the mound, as she struck out 14 batters.
“I think, on the mound, it’s all about just relaxing,” said Kuehn, “making sure to take deep breaths, and then trusting your teammates behind you, and know(ing) that everyone is in this together and that we should all work together and trust each other, and that’s how we’re going to make these plays.”
O’Donoghue said she was very proud of her starter for her dominant performance.
“She has been a rack for us all season,” said O’Donoghue. “She moves the ball so well. She has such control. We knew she could do it. We knew that if we could get the runs in, that she would take the defense in. Like, we absolutely had all the confidence in her, and she has worked so hard and we are so proud of her.”
Despite the loss, Quince Orchard Head Coach Colleen Adams said she knew this was going to be a tough match-up between two No. 1 seeds.
“It was a tough game,” said Adams. “I mean they’re a great team. We knew to come in that it was going to be a very, very tough game for us. We played them two-and-a-half weeks ago, and they gave us fits.”
However, Adams said she felt grateful for reaching the 4A West regionals as well as coming into the season with a young roster. She also gave credit to Harbaugh, her starting pitcher, who also played the whole nine innings in the losing effort.
“At the beginning of the season, we knew we were young,” said Adams. “We knew it was going to be a solid season, and we played up to our potential and more.”