Chesapeake and Severna Park's softball seasons had been strikingly similar as each team arrived for its final game of the season at the University of Maryland on Friday night. Each team had a dominating right-handed pitcher, a potent offense and 21 victories.
When the teams left the field that night, they had something else in common: the frustration of losing a state championship game.
"I would have thought, between the two of us, one of us would have won the state title," Chesapeake Coach Don Ellenberger said. "But that's not the way it turned out."
Severna Park ended its reign as 3A state champion by falling to Fallston, 3-1, and a few hours later Chesapeake was denied its first state title in 11 years by losing to Westminster, 4-2, in the 4A final.
It wasn't that Chesapeake (21-5) and Severna Park (21-4) ran into far superior opponents; Fallston (23-1) and Westminster (23-0) just did all the little things needed to win the biggest game of the season.
"When you get to the state tournament, the team that makes the first mistake is the one that loses the game most of the time, and unfortunately for us, we were the ones who made it," said Severna Park Coach Jeff Shepherd. "Then when we had our chance, we couldn't get the hit we needed."
The Severna Park-Fallston game was scoreless through seven innings, and sophomore pitcher Kaila Jenkins (18-4) had allowed three hits.
On the first pitch of the eighth inning -- with a runner on second base, in accordance with the international tie-breaker rule -- Fallston's Stephanie Schultz squared to bunt, which drew junior third baseman Kristin Wojtowycz off the base, and Fallston's Jackie Fowler broke for third. No fielder covered third, and when senior catcher Erin O'Keefe threw the ball over Wojtowycz's head into left field, Fowler scored the game's first run.
The run clearly energized the Cougars, who extended their lead to 3-0 when Schultz tripled and Caitlin Stein and senior Allison Borchers added RBI singles.
"I felt like I was in control and that the game was going to go our way," said Jenkins, who had shut out five of her past six opponents. "But then all of a sudden after that one play, they started hitting the ball."
In the bottom of the eighth, Severna Park tried to rally. Sophomore Mary Centineo started the inning at second base, took third on a groundout and scored on a throwing error that also enabled sophomore designated hitter Stephanie Atwell to reach first base. Junior Anne Roche grounded out, and senior Ashley Richardson singled, the second hit off starter Kirsten Wells (22-1).
But that was as close as Severna Park got: Wells retired the next hitter on a fielder's choice, ending the Falcons' chances of becoming the first team to win consecutive 3A titles since McDonough in 1996-97.
In the later game, Chesapeake took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a throwing error and then a run-scoring single by freshman Jordyn Williams.
Westminster came back with four singles in the fourth inning off Chesapeake senior starter Kristie Hurman, including junior Kristina Skinner's grounder through the left side of the infield with two outs that scored two runs to break the tie.
Chesapeake, which had averaged nearly eight runs per game, appeared to have just what it wanted in the sixth inning: runners on second and third with one out and its two best hitters coming to the plate. But Westminster junior pitcher Stacy Davis (12-0) used her rise ball to induce senior third baseman Brittany Owen and Hurman to pop out to shortstop Jamie Hines.
"It just wasn't our day," Owen said. "To come this far and to have our chances and come up short is so disappointing."
A year after Anne Arundel County had won both the 4A and 3A titles, the league failed to win a state title for the first time in four seasons.
"I think it's an upset that Anne Arundel County didn't win one this year," said Hurman (18-5), who allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts after throwing a no-hitter in the team's 8-0 victory over Eleanor Roosevelt in the semifinals on May 25. "We'll just have to see what happens next year."