O’Connell softball Coach Tommy Orndorff is known to talk to base runners and batters throughout his team’s games. Doubling as third base coach, his commands are helpful to getting on base and making sure the batters keep proper technique at the plate.
But in Friday’s Virginia Independent Schools Athletics Association Division 1 final against rival Paul VI, Orndorff’s voice wasn’t needed. The O’Connell dugout brought the noise with more energy and enthusiasm than Orndorff had seen in his 29 years at the helm, he said.
The increased energy lifted the Knights to a 3-1 win over the eighth-ranked Panthers in the VISAA final, and gave O’Connell (20-5) its 22nd straight year with 20 or more wins.
‘They’re usually more of a quiet dugout that goes about their business,” Orndorff said. “I’m sure that took Paul VI by surprise, and it never stopped for seven innings.”
O’Connell grabbed the first lead of the game in the top of the second. With two outs and a runner on second, Maddie Kelly hit a ball to right field that forced the outfielder to make a diving attempt. The ball wasn’t caught and Kelly reached on an error and scored a run. In the fourth, Kelly drove in her only run on a single.
The Knights added another run in the fifth on Olivia Giaquinto‘s double off the center field fence. Each run was scored with two outs. Capturing their third straight VISAA title ends the season on a high note for the Knights after they lost in the WCAC champions a week earlier. It was O’Connell’s first year not winning the title since 2003.
“They just wanted it more,” Orndorff said. “The night before the game we talked to the girls about how much they cared and what does this game means to you.”
Junior Erin Sweeney allowed just one run in the complete game championship win on five hits, and she struck out five batters without yielding a walk. Orndorff said it was the best game his junior has pitched this season.
In Wednesday’s quarterfinal, the Knights defeated Flint Hill, 11-2. But in the semifinal against St. Gertrude, the game was suspended because of rain. The teams finished the game Friday, shortly after 3 p.m. with a 16-0 O’Connell win in three innings.
The Knights played the Panthers four hours later for the third time this season, and finished their season series with a 2-1 edge.
O’Connell moves to 61-2 in the VISAA tournament and its most recent title gives them 19 total state crowns.