Severna Park 2, La Plata 0

The Severna Park softball team had not expected to face La Plata yesterday in the Maryland 3A Region final, and the Falcons' limited scouting report was based only on the fact that the Warriors had upended No. 1 Calvert a day earlier.

"I had no clue about [La Plata]," said sophomore pitcher Kaila Jenkins, "but I knew that if they beat [Calvert All-Met pitcher] Megan Elliott, they knew what they were doing. That's pretty intimidating."

But Severna Park's 2-0 victory at home over La Plata ensured a third straight trip to the state tournament; the Falcons had defeated Calvert in the title game a year ago, and several players acknowledged they had anticipated a rematch this week.

Sophomore catcher Erin O'Keefe drove in a pair of runs with a first-inning double and Jenkins kept La Plata (18-5) at bay with 14 strikeouts. The 10th-ranked Falcons (20-3) will face the winner of today's 3A East final between Mount Hebron and Centennial in a state semifinal Tuesday at Randazzo Softball Park in Severn.

The 3A South Region, with a talented field of teams from softball-rich Anne Arundel County and Southern Maryland, is expected by several coaches to produce the state champion. Of the 24 combined 3A and 4A winners since 1992, 21 of them have come from either Anne Arundel or the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.

But this will be the first time since 1988 that the SMAC will not send a team to one of the four state tournaments. The conference has produced 14 state champions since 1992.

Meantime, Severna Park is still alive in its quest for a second straight state title. Falcons Coach Jeff Sheppard said his toughest job was keeping his players emotionally high after they had anticipated facing Calvert.

"We knew coming in here we had to be mentally ready," Sheppard said, "because La Plata had just beaten the number one-ranked team, and this was going to be one of the toughest games we'd have all season."

It was even tougher for La Plata, which seemed to have a tough time staying sharp after Wednesday's 1-0 victory over Calvert -- the Warriors' first victory in three meetings this season with the Cavaliers.

"Once we had gotten to that point," La Plata senior catcher Maris Smith said, "we didn't know what to do from there."