West Springfield won five games in 2018. This year, the Spartans reached that total in their first five games — then soared far beyond it.
The No. 8 Spartans (18-1) recognize the magnitude of their turnaround from last season’s 5-16 slog. They can also pinpoint the cause: the returns of senior pitcher Bailey Misken and junior shortstop Bridget Laychak, who both missed almost all of last season with injuries.
With the duo back on the field, West Springfield has thrived, and it can clinch the top seed in the Patriot District tournament with a victory in its regular season finale Tuesday against Robinson.
Forgive the Spartans if they felt snakebit last year: Laychak dislocated her elbow just before the start of the season and missed the first 17 games, then Misken suffered a concussion and missed the last 15. The Spartans sputtered.
“Those two coming back, it’s almost like getting two new players on your team,” West Springfield Coach Rob Benton said. “Our lineup feels totally different.”
It didn’t take long to show. In the second game of the season, Misken pitched a perfect game and Laychak led the team with three hits and two RBI in a 7-0 win against Yorktown.
In an April 27 game against South County, West Springfield entered the bottom of the sixth inning stuck in a scoreless tie. Then Misken and Laychak hit solo home runs to push the Spartans to a 2-0 victory.
“They’ve been leaders for us this year, no question,” Benton said.
1. Huntingtown (16-1) Last ranked: 1
The Hurricanes suffered their first loss of the season to Southern Maryland Athletic Conference rival Chopticon on April 22 but avenged the defeat with a 1-0 win against the Braves on Wednesday.
2. Madison (14-3) Last ranked: 2
Warhawks freshman Katelynn Park batted in both runs in a 2-1 victory against previously undefeated Stone Bridge on Wednesday.
3. Stone Bridge (14-1) Last ranked: 3
The Bulldogs rebounded from their first loss of the season against Madison with an 11-8 win against Briar Woods the next night, led by three hits and four RBI from senior Elena Gonzalez.
4. Sherwood (14-0) Last ranked: 9
The Warriors stand as the lone remaining undefeated team in Montgomery County with two games remaining on their regular season schedule.
5. Severna Park (15-2) Last ranked: 6
The Falcons scored 10 runs in the first inning Friday en route to a 17-3 win against Southern. Severna Park clinched a spot opposite Chesapeake in Tuesday’s Anne Arundel County championship game.
6. Chesapeake (15-3) Last ranked: 5
Pitcher Haley Downin struck out 11 and scored two runs Friday against North County, but the Cougars suffered a 4-3 upset at the hands of the Knights.
7. Chopticon (17-1) Last ranked: 7
Just as Huntingtown’s only loss came against Chopticon, the Braves’ only loss came against the Hurricanes. The teams could meet again in the Class 3A tournament, which will begin Thursday.
8. West Springfield (18-1) Last ranked: NR
The Spartans have won 12 straight, including back-to-back shutouts against Woodson and Lake Braddock in their two most recent games.
9. Riverside (16-2) Last ranked: NR
With a .609 batting average and 26 runs scored, sophomore Malaka Belser powers a potent Rams offense.
10. Robinson (16-3) Last ranked: NR
Gracie Vallejos tossed a perfect game Friday to lead the Rams to a 3-0 victory against Woodson on her senior night.
On the bubble: Bishop O’Connell (17-4-1), St. Mary’s Ryken (16-2-1), Potomac School (13-1), Flint Hill (12-3), Woodgrove (13-3)
Dropped out: No. 4 South County (14-3), No. 8 Damascus (12-1), No. 10 Loudoun County (11-4)