Nothing went according to plan for the Northwest Jaguars on Saturday in College Park, from the start time of the championship game against Severna Park to the outcome of the game, which the Lady Jags lost 13-0 in four-and-half innings.
The 18-2 Lady Jags were set to defend their 4A West state title against the 25-1 Falcons of Severna Park in a game scheduled for 3:30 pm at the University of Maryland Softball Stadium. However, Mother Nature had other plans, as a thunder and lightning storm forced a more than three-hour delay in the start of the game.
The combination of the delay and the outstanding pitching of Severna Park’s senior Marissa Heuer, who allowed just two hits and struck out five to earn the victory.
“The delay killed us. Delays like this have helped us in the past, but today it killed us,” said Northwest Head Coach Mike Horton after the game. “Severna Park is a very good softball team. That pitcher has allowed just 16 runs all year. She is very good. We scattered a couple of hits and had runners in scoring position at least twice, but we couldn’t get it done. She beat us; it is as simple as that.”
“Back in October our goal was to get here. We got here, but just like any sport if you don’t come to play and you play a very good team, you will get beat. They are a very good Severna Park team they lost one game all year. They are no joke.
For a while, it felt as if the game was going to be a nail biter with both teams getting runners on base in the first two innings, but good defense ending scoring threats.
The Jags began the game with a single by senior Chloe Hickman. She would be out at second after the next batter, Karlie Stanford, hit into a Fielder’s Choice. Stanford advanced to second after sophomore Jalyn Durand worked a walk, but the inning would end as Heuer got the first of her five strikeouts.
In the bottom of the first, the Jags defense would limit the Falcons to just three batters. Leadoff hitter Campbell Kline work a walk. The next batter would lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to second. However, the inning would end when Heuer hit a fly ball to second Chloe Hickman at second base. Hickman would quickly pitch the ball to shortstop Stanford to get the Severna Park runner who had left the base at second, for an inning-ending double play.
The second inning seemed much like the first, as the Jags sent four batters to the plate, resulting in a walk, two strikeouts and fly ball which was tracked down and caught by the centerfielder. The Falcons would start the bottom of the second with a base hit to right field by senior Kylie Dingess. However, the next three batters would be put out on two fly balls and a groundball to second. The game was remained scoreless after two innings.
Northwest threatened in the top of the third when Karlie Stanford knocked a double to deep centerfield. However, she would not advance, and it would be the last Jaguar hit of the game. The Jags would make contact, but Falcon defenders would be there to make plays and end scoring threats.
Severna Park would break open the game in the bottom of the third as they batted around and forced the Jags to make three errors resulting in five runs. The inning started with junior Madison Gerard, who smacked a double in the right-center that which rolled all the way to the wall. Gerard would have two hits in the inning as the Falcons turned over the lineup.
Gerard’s double would be followed by a single by freshman Rachel Holly, and another hit to center by Kline. The ball was misplayed in the outfield resulting in two errors on the play and two runs for the Falcons. Senior Jesse Smith would knock a hit to right field scoring Cline. The Falcons would score two more in the inning until the inning ended with Northwest pitcher Amber Yuille striking out two batters.
Yuille led the Jags all season and pitched well in the championship, but the combination of good hitting by Severna Park and seven fielding errors by the Jags made outs hard to come by in the third and fourth innings and ultimately let the Falcons come away with the largest margin of victory in a Class 4A championship game. It tied the Class 1A mark from back in 2005 when North Caroline won 15-2.
“Amber pitched well,” said Horton, “she had a lot of balls put in play that should have been caught.
The Jags managed only one base runner in the top of the fourth when Yuille earned a seven-pitch walk, but it ultimately ended no threats to score.
The Falcons picked up in the bottom of the fourth where they left off in the previous inning, scoring eight runs on nine hits, including a leadoff triple to centerfield by Kline. Again Severna Park was helped by four errors in the inning. It put the Falcons up 13-0 at the end of four and placed the Jags in danger of being mercy-ruled if they couldn’t score four runs in the top of the fifth inning. However, Heuer managed to end the game on seven pitches to secure the victory for Severna Park and end the Lady Jags' dreams of a repeat as champs.
“This loss has probably it a fire under this team for next year,” said Horton. “Now, we will be the underdogs again.”
Lost in the disappointment of the defeat is the achievement of the five seniors on the Northwest team; Chloe Hickman, Karlie Stanford, Megan Sheelor, Kaylan King, Sona Dandenault. Those players made three appearances in the 4A Maryland State Championship game in four years, winning once. There are thousands of softball players all around the state who work each season and don’t play in more than one postseason game in four years of high school.
“We lose five seniors, and that will hurt,” said Horton. “But we have a good core of players that will be juniors and some players coming up. I think we’ll be fine. I won’t have to call them in October and ask, ‘Are you ready?’ They will be calling me; I can guarantee that without a doubt.”
Top: Northwest’s senior Chloe Hickman dives for a ball during Saturday’s 4A Maryland State Championship game, but comes up just short. Hickman had one of just two hits posted by the Lady Jags in the game.
Next: Severna Park’s senior Marissa Heuer held the Lady Jags to just two hits in the game. She struck out five and walked three batters to help the Falcons to victory.
Next: Sophomore Jalyn Durand watches ball four to work a walk and reach base in the second inning.
Next: Northwest senior Karlie Stanford ripped a double in the second inning. Stanford is one of two Jags to get hits in the game.
Next: Northwest sophomore pitcher Amber Yuille struck out three and walked three batters in the game.
Next: The Jags have a team meeting between innings in an effort to regroup after giving up five runs in the third inning.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.