Severna Park sophomore pitcher Kaila Jenkins thought she was in control. Through seven innings in a scoreless Maryland 3A softball championship game, Jenkins had been throwing her fastball by Fallston's hitters, and her rise ball left them swinging at air.
But on the first pitch of the eighth inning -- with a runner on second base, in accordance with the international tie-breaker -- everything changed, without the ball touching the bat. A few minutes later, defending state champion Severna Park walked off the field with a 3-1 loss at the University of Maryland.
Fallston's Stephanie Schultz squared to bunt to lead off the eighth, which drew Severna Park junior third baseman Kristin Wojtowycz off the base, and Fallston's Jackie Fowler broke for third. No Severna Park fielder covered third base, and senior catcher Erin O'Keefe threw the ball over Wojtowycz's head into left field, which allowed Fowler to score the game's first run.
It got worse for the Falcons (21-4) from there, as Fallston connected for four more hits off Jenkins after getting two in the first seven innings. By the time Severna Park shortstop Katie Purcell caught Lindsey Mueller's fly ball, the Falcons were down 3-0.
"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 before allowing three runs on six hits with nine strikeouts against Fallston. "But then all of the sudden after that one play, they started hitting the ball."
Severna Park, attempting to become the first team to win consecutive 3A titles since McDonough in 1996-97, didn't go quietly in the bottom of the eighth. The Falcons' Mary Centineo started the inning at second base and scored on an error. Severna Park had runners on first and second with two out, but Fallston senior pitcher Kirsten Wells induced a fielder's choice grounder to end the game and the Falcons' reign.
In winning its first state softball title, Fallston (22-1) became the first team from Harford County to claim a state crown since C.M. Wright in 1985, thanks largely to Wells. The right-hander allowed two hits, both by Severna Park senior right fielder Ashley Richardson, to go along with 11 strikeouts.
Chesapeake Coach Don Ellenberger stared at his softball team as it gathered in the dugout while Westminster celebrated its 4-2 victory in the Maryland 4A championship game. He told his players what most of them already realized.
"They hit, we didn't," Ellenberger said. "That was the difference."
But early on, it appeared Chesapeake's offense was going to produce more than enough runs to secure its first state title in 11 years.
Freshman first baseman Jordyn Williams's second-inning single to left brought in senior pitcher Kristie Hurman, and when Westminster's left fielder bobbled the ball, freshman Samantha Dulski came home to extend the lead to 2-0.
Normally that would be all Hurman would need, considering she entered last night's game with a 1.15 ERA in 23 starts, including a no-hitter in the Cougars' semifinal victory over Eleanor Roosevelt on Tuesday.
But Westminster (23-0) strung together five singles with a Chesapeake error in the fourth inning to produce a four-run outburst capped by Kristina Skinner's two-run single with two outs. It gave the Owls to their second state title in three years.
Chesapeake was denied its first state title since 1993 and finished the season 21-5.
"They just hit it where we weren't," senior third baseman Brittany Owen said. "Then when we had our chances, we hit the ball right to them."
Chesapeake's best chance to rally came in the sixth inning. After freshman left fielder Brooke Owen -- Brittany's sister -- singled, sophomore right fielder Amanda Santoni reached on an error, and both runners advanced one base on senior Tracey Dahlen's groundout. But that's as close as Chesapeake got, as junior pitcher Stacy Davis (12-0) induced both Brittany Owen and Hurman to pop up to short to end the inning.
"I'm going to remember that pitch for a long time, because it was high, and I should not have swung on it, and I should have waited for another pitch," said Hurman, who allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts. "I should have been patient."