O'Connell 3, Ireton 2

O'Connell pitcher Cara L'Etoile has had quite a remarkable career -- three Virginia Independent School softball titles, four first-team all-conference selections and All-Met recognition as a junior. But the one accomplishment the senior says she longed for most was a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship.

Not anymore. The left-handed hurler tossed a four-hitter and senior left fielder Kerri Spaulding provided the game-winning RBI in the Knights' 3-2 victory in 10 innings over defending champion Bishop Ireton at Wheaton Regional Park.

O'Connell (21-4) extended its winning streak to 10 games as the Knights earned their first WCAC title in three years. The Knights won the WCAC title for seven consecutive seasons, from 1994 to 2000. But they hadn't won the title since.

L'Etoile was determined to change that yesterday. After yielding three hits and two runs in the second inning, she began to get stronger as the game wore on. Over the next eight innings, she allowed only one base hit, and never faced more than three batters in an inning.

She had eight of her nine strikeouts in the final eight innings. L'Etoile out-dueled Cardinals freshman Chrissy Sborz, who allowed 15 hits and two walks.

"This has been the biggest game on our schedule for the entire season," L'Etoile said. "It's a great way to end the season. We still have states, but this is great. I really wanted to end my career with this title."

O'Connell's offense provided the spark that L'Etoile needed. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, Spaulding singled sharply to left field, scoring Kelley Engman. Engman had led off the inning by singling to center. Bishop Ireton (15-3) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on RBI singles by catcher Elise Lopez and left fielder Clare Neller. O'Connell cut the deficit to 2-1 when Spaulding's blooper to short right field allowed Engman to score.

O'Connell Coach Tommy Orndorff "tells us it's not just the top of the lineup that must score," said Spaulding, who bats in the No. 8 slot. "The whole lineup must produce. I've never experienced something like this. I felt really good just being able to help the team out."

O'Connell tied the score at 2 in the fourth inning when Engman smacked a triple into right field that scored Spaulding. But Sborz and her defense kept O'Connell from scoring over the next five innings.

"It was such a close game," L'Etoile said. "After giving up the first two runs, I knew that I was going to have to bear down and give everything that I had."

Kerri Spaulding (2nd from right) is mobbed by teammates after delivering the game-winning single in the 10th inning to give O'Connell the WCAC crown.After falling behind 2-0, Knights' Cara L'Etoile held Cardinals to one hit over the final 8 innings.