What a difference a year made for the Dunbar High School girls softball team.
Last spring, the team barely finished the season. It didn't play all the games on its schedule, but made the playoffs only to be eliminated early.
This spring, with the same squad as last year, the Crimson Tide was perfect at 12-0, defeating Ballou, 15-14, to earn the regular season crown and then recently defeated Wilson, 11-9, to win the tournament title.
Dunbar won the Interhigh crown using modified fast-pitch rules. Next year, according to Commissoner Otto Jordan, the Interhigh will play fast-pitch rules with the windmill pitching motion.
"It will put us on the same plateau as other districts," said Coach Roy Westmore. "That's the way they play it nationally. "
But back to this season.
"I put some pressure on myself," Westmore said. "I recruited some good athletes and good attitudes," he boasted.
"The girls came to practice every day and they wanted to succeed. This is same group of 10th graders I had last year. They wanted to be champions."
Dunbar's determination showed itself in the tournament championship game at Guy Mason last Wednesday. The team was losing, 8-4, entering the bottom of the fifth after blowing a 4-0 first-inning lead.
Catcher Stephanie Randall's key hit in the inning, a bases-loaded double, helped Dunbar tie the game, 8-8.
"I knew we had it in us to come back," said Randall. "We know our talent."
Wilson went ahead, 9-8, in the top of the sixth on a passed ball by Randall. But Dunbar's key hitter all season, Tarsha Bennett, hit a two-run double that highlighted a three-run sixth inning that gave Dunbar the 11-9 victory.
"The key was to have a positive mind at all times," Bennett said. "The coach kept telling us all season that we were good."
"I am quite sure we will finish the same way next year."
But Eastern players felt the same way last year after winning both titles. The Ramblers were the overwhelming favorite to win this year's title, but faltered during regular season play.
The tournament loss marked the third straight year the Tigers have made it to the final only to lose.
"Maybe our players get a little nervous," said Wilson Coach Glenda Holmes.
"We wanted to come out and hold Dunbar," said Holmes. "We had to play tough and didn't want to commit any errors."