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Wildcats tie title knot

May 27, 2007|By DAN KAUFFMAN

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - When one thinks about it, state titles are a lot like weddings.

Sure, the focus is on the big day - either the day the vows are exchanged, or the day the champions win the title game.

But before that day, there's a lot of preparation, rehearsals and, inevitably, a few bumps along the road.

For Williamsport seniors Jessica Bennett, Jess Patey, Casey Siler, Emily Huff and Beth Decker, it's been a long walk down the aisle - oops, make that a long journey to the Maryland Class 1A state title, which they won with Friday's thrilling 7-6 comeback victory over Colonel Richardson at the University of Maryland.

"When we were in 10th grade, we thought we'd go all the way and didn't," Patey said. "Last year was a rough year. This year, we knew we had the ability, we had the hitting, pitching and defense and we could take this home."

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In 2005, Williamsport went 16-5 and reached the 1A West final before falling to Beall, 2-0. Last year the Wildcats finished 12-10 and fell to Allegany in the region semifinals.

Williamsport compiled a 12-5 record in the regular season this year, including a 10-4 mark in the MVAL Antietam, good for third. The Wildcats split with the league's top two teams - Brunswick (a 10-0 win April 11 and a 3-1 loss May 2) and defending Class 1A champion Catoctin (an 8-1 win March 30 and a 5-1 loss April 20).

The Wildcats proved to be mentally tough in the run to the 1A West title. Williamsport was tested in its very first game, a first-round battle with Southern Garrett. Siler went 3-for-3 with a two-run homer to help the Wildcats prevail, 4-3.

"When we beat Southern Garrett, we knew we were capable (of winning the state title)," Patey said. "I knew from the beginning of the season we could go all the way."

Bennett tossed a four-hitter with eight strikeouts as Williamsport turned away Fort Hill 2-0 in the region quarterfinals, setting up a semifinal showdown against Catoctin.

And what a showdown it was. The teams were deadlocked at 1 after seven innings, at 2 after eight, at 4 after nine and at 6 after 10.

Finally, the Wildcats made their run in the top of the 11th hold up to end the Cougars' repeat bid.

"The win over Catoctin gave us a lot of confidence," Siler said. "They're one of the best teams in the region, and we went 11 innings, battled them and pulled it out."

"Catoctin was a marathon that gave them confidence that they were good," Williamsport coach Tom Dzur said.

The Wildcats won the region title with an 11-0 clubbing of Beall - which defeated Brunswick 3-1 in the semifinals - and reached the state final with a 14-1 drubbing of North Point, a second-year school with no juniors or seniors.

Then in the final, Williamsport trailed Colonel Richardson 6-2 entering the last inning before tying it on Siler's three-run home run and going ahead on Decker's RBI single. Emily Myers hit a solo homer in the fifth inning, and though the Wildcats still trailed 5-2 at that time, the run proved important.

"Before the game, Patey asked me, 'If a ball goes into the net, is it a double?' and I said, 'No, it's a home run, but no one will hit it that far,'" Dzur said. "Then we hit two."

The experience of seasons past - along with the nail-biting wins over Southern Garrett and Catoctin in the region playoffs - were all steps the five seniors needed to take along Williamsport's figurative trip to the altar of Maryland softball.

"I feel bad we're going to lose them," Dzur said. "They stuck together through the ups and downs and picked each other up.

"I wanted to tell them before the game that, 'This is about you. You're the ones who have done all this.' It's all about their character and their talent, and they deserve all the credit."

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