Any loss for the Maryland District 7 Big League softball team is surprising. Friday's 2-0 defeat by Michigan District 9 in its final round-robin game of the Big League World Series, however, was particularly stunning.
Its second loss in the eight-game tournament left District 7 with the third-best record. The top two teams -- host Michigan District 2 and Central Region champion Michigan District 9 -- played in yesterday's championship game in Kalamazoo.
District 7 pitcher Abbey Welch (McDonough), a veteran of three Big League World Series, had not allowed a District 9 batter to reach base through 4 2/3 innings. But then Kristin Moleski lined a shot off of Welch's glove. Catcher Jessica Dood, who had homered twice earlier in the week, hit her third on the next pitch to provide all the game's scoring.
It deflated District 7's hopes. Never mind that District 9 did not reach base the rest of the game; an opponent had beaten District 7's strongest weapon.
"It was pretty surprising," said catcher Maris Smith (La Plata). "Once she hit it over, it was kind of downhill from there. Everyone was kind of down the rest of the way."
District 7's first loss came in its second game of the week, and from then on the team knew it could ill afford another loss and still hope to play in yesterday's title game. The team responded by winning its next five games by a combined score of 35-1.
"We had our backs against the wall all week," District 7 assistant coach Glenn Larnerd Jr. said. "But we didn't come out there to finish third. We expected to be in the championship game. It still hurts."
District 7 was not only the tournament's defending champion, but that title was its fifth, giving it more championships than any other team in the tournament's 23-year history.
Even though several players on the team had experienced at least one championship, that didn't make the loss any easier to take. Only four of the 15 District 7 players will surpass the age limit for participation next year -- Welch, Smith, Caryn Moreland and Lacey Trossbach. Everyone else is expecting to return.
"It's pretty hard to win it one year and to come back and not be able to get to the championship game again," Smith said. "But you have to take it like that."