'Cats stun Colonels in title game

May 26, 2007|By DAN KAUFFMAN

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Upon reflection, Williamsport coach Tom Dzur decided maybe it all was simply a matter of perspective.

It was pretty easy for one to look up at the University of Maryland softball field scoreboard, see the Wildcats trailing Colonel Richardson 6-2 entering the seventh inning of Friday's Maryland Class 1A state championship game, and believe a painful loss was imminent.

"I think as adults, we overanalyze," Dzur said in the aftermath of Williamsport's miraculous 7-6 victory for the title. "To the kids, it's just a game, and they're not thinking about the situation, they're just thinking in the moment, about the next at-bat."

And as one at-bat after another turned into something positive in that final inning, momentum started to change.

It started with freshman Alexis Fisher, one of many heroes in Tuesday's 14-1 romp past North Point in the semifinals, in which she hit a three-run homer. Facing tiring Colonels pitcher Taylor Webb, Fisher got ahead in the count 3-0, was given the green light and ripped a leadoff single to left, taking second when the ball got past left fielder Steph Garey.


"Down four runs, she's not thinking about that, she's thinking about her at-bat," Dzur said.

After Emily Myers popped out, Jessica Bennett - the starting pitcher who suffered through Colonel Richardson's five-run fourth inning, most of which was the result of three Wildcats errors - shook it off and hit her third single of the game, a shot to third that Lexie Holder could not handle.

"You can't worry about mistakes made, you have to keep going, and when you're at bat, you have to know you're going to hit it," Bennett said.

Kelly Beard followed with a clean single up the middle, scoring Fisher to cut the lead to 6-3.

"It was a good, belt-high pitch," Beard said. "I waited for my pitch and hit it."

Jessica Patey flew out to right for the second out, and with Siler up with a 2-2 count, Williamsport was down to its last strike.

That's when Casey Siler struck, sending a rocket soaring into the net above the fence to left center for a stunning three-run home run and a 6-6 tie.

"I had a feeling," Siler said. "I didn't want to get too confident, so I ran it out until I knew it was gone. I knew we needed a big hit to go win this."

"I've been around athletes a long time, and it's not calculus," said Dzur, a math teacher. "You have to have something in your character to concentrate and execute, and Casey has that. She's an unflappable kid."

Riding an emotional high, Emily Huff sent a fly ball to center that was dropped by Amy Hudson for a two-base error, bringing Beth Decker to the plate. She sent a hard grounder up the middle that went off of second baseman Jordan Glessner's glove into center field, scoring Huff for the lead.

"All I could think was, 'Oh my goodness, I've got to get this run home,'" Decker said. "I told Emily if she got on base I'd bring her in. She threw it right up the middle to me. What else is a better pitch? It came in fast and went out faster."

Instead of walking out of the dugout with a loss, the Wildcats were taking the field with three outs between them and their first state softball title.

"I just had to relax and get the ball in there," said Beard, who came on in relief in the fourth and got the first out in the bottom of the seventh by ranging to her right to field Webb's grounder and throw her out at first. "Knowing I had one out helped me relax."

Casey Edgell followed with a hard grounder through Ali Zube's legs at third for the last of Williamsport's seven errors. But Beard struck out pinch hitter Mallory Hagadorn, and Zube redeemed herself by fielding Steph Garey's grounder cleanly and throwing to first for the final out, capping a remarkable comeback.

"Casey's hit, I was in complete awe," Patey said. "We were excited, we were relaxed, we went out there and got three outs. I'm so proud of our team, no one gave up at all."

Williamsport took a 1-0 lead in the first when Bennett singled, took second on Beard's groundout and took third and home on wild pitches. The Wildcats were unlucky not to have a 2-0 lead, as earlier in the inning Myers tried to score on another wild pitch, but the ball rebounded off the screen behind home plate right to catcher Tiffeny Ricks, who threw to Webb for the out.

Bennett got out of a two-on, no-out jam in the first by striking out 3-4-5 hitters Ricks, Holder and Webb, then struck out the side in the second and stranded two more runners in the third - holding Colonel Richardson (18-4) scoreless despise three Wildcats errors in those three innings.

The fourth inning, however, was one nightmare after another for Williamsport. Bennett walked Edgell, who stole second amidst confusion when Hudson started walking to first believing she had walked, when the count was only 3-2. The Wildcats were also confused, and Edgell took advantage of the live-ball situation to take second.

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