At the end of the regular season, last Monday, Seneca Valley’s softball team was at a tipping point. The team had just gotten shut-out by cross-town rival Northwest and finished the regular season with a 7-8 record. Head Coach Brittney Curry could sense the team’s angst as the post-season loomed.
“I saw that they were getting frustrated with each other, and decided that rather than practice, we’d spend 45 minutes as a team and just talk,” said Curry. The Lady Eagles opened up to each other about difficulties on the field and minor misunderstandings. The Seneca Valley team has a wide range of players, of the twelve core varsity players there are three seniors, three juniors, four sophomores, and two freshmen.
“The team has gone from being a little team, to more of a family,” said Curry, “We are now at a point where if somebody needs help the rest of the team is there for them. We had a nice team talk the other day which really helped us going into the Damascus game. A lot of the lower classmen acknowledged that they needed help with some things on the field and the junior and senior girls stayed after practice for 45 minutes and helped them improve their game.”
The meeting had the desired effect.
The Lady Eagles opened the post-season with a 6-0 victory over Poolesville on Thursday, to advance to the second round against an old rival, Damascus. The Hornets had finished the regular season with a 10-6 record and were the top seed in the playoff bracket, earning a first-round bye.
On Monday afternoon, the Lady Eagles beat the Hornets 10-3 to advance to the 3A West Regional Semi-Finals against Westminster on Wednesday, May 18.
The visiting Lady Eagles jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning thanks to a line-up shift by Curry; she moved sophomore Alexis Roberson to the clean-up spot. Hitting from the fourth position, Roberson reached base in all four at-bats, with a walk, two singles and a double that scored the two runs in the first inning.
“Alexis’ batting has been really good,” said Curry. “If I have two girls on base, I have had Alexis either slap-bunting or absolutely bombing the ball. She has a wide range of batting styles.”
Defensively, Curry put the ball in the hands of junior pitcher Whitney Dickerson, who has been the only pitcher Seneca Valley has used all season. Dickerson did not disappoint. She struck out eight batters while walking only two, allowing just four hits, over seven innings. She also had two putouts.
The Lady Eagles scattered eight hits off Damascus’ freshman pitcher Rachel Benden, who struck out eight while walking six and hitting a batter.
“We got a couple of runs early, and they just kept coming throughout the game from our hits and base running,” said Curry. “We were playing small ball — getting the ball on the ground and running out our hits, and then running the bases. Forcing the other to make mistakes and think about what they are doing and what they need to do. That led to them making a couple of errors which, in turn, led to several runs for us.”
Seneca Valley got two runs in the first inning, five runs in the third inning, two more runs in the fourth, and an insurance run in the seventh inning to take the 10-3 victory.
The Hornets scored one run in the second after Benden reached on an error and was brought home two batters later on a single by Mackenzie Pritchard. However, Seneca’s Dickerson came back with two strikeouts and an infield groundball to end the inning.
Damascus threatened again in the fifth inning putting two runners on base. Dickerson gave up the Hornets’ only extra-base hit of the game to Kalynn Sefcik, who drove in two runs to cut the Seneca lead to 9-3.
“This team is ready to go in the postseason,” said Curry, “and they were very determined to win that game.”
The Lady Eagles will travel to Westminster to play the 13-5 Owls. Westminster is the second seed in the bracket and is coming off a 6-3 home victory over Urbana on Monday.
Top: Seneca Valley’s pitcher junior Whitney Dickerson (16) and sophomore Alexis Roberson (18) high five during Monday’s 10-3 playoff victory over Damascus.
Next: Freshman Hanna Raygor (33) hits a base hit in the first inning of Monday’s victory. She would score twice in the game.
Next: Sophomore third basewoman Taylor Mullaney (15) catches a pop fly to end the sixth inning.
Next: Seneca’s Whitney Dickerson (16) struck out eight batters while walking only two, allowing just four hits, over seven innings.
Photos by Ed Mullaney.