Caitlin Maglich had seen the same pitch almost two hours earlier. This one was low and to the outside and similar to the one that had her strike out looking during her first at-bat.
Now 10 innings later, it looked like the perfect pitch to send No. 2 South County to its first Virginia 6A state final. Her one-out, bottom-of-the-11th double to right-center field drove in the winning run and lifted the Stallions to a 1-0 win against First Colonial at Robinson in Fairfax. They will face Cosby in the final Sunday.
Before the familiar pitch came, her mind was blank. She has found that’s the best way to step up to the plate in a high pressure situation. The emotions rushed in after she connected and met her teammates in a huddle at third base.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I still can’t believe it.”
The game was almost decided in thefourth when the Stallions had the bases loaded with no outs. But Patriots pitcher Jenna Powell (six strikeouts) sneaked out of the jam, and South County (26-3) didn’t get past first base again until the winning run. The Patriots (22-5) of Virginia Beach had two hits throughout the game and did not get past second.
On the field, the intensity and pitch quality increased on both teams as time went on, Martin said. Martin, who struck out 16, started taking more time to calm herself before pitching by rolling the ball between her hand and the glove before pitches, and her usual pre-throw shrug became more defined. Her last strikeout came in the 11th on a full count and a walk one batter before.
And outside the fence the Stallions’ fan base rose and fell with each strikeout and line drive as they watched the 6A North champion fight through the second state semifinal appearance in school history. The mood went from near-celebration as the bases were loaded in the fourth, to calls of “We need a hero, just one hero” in the eighth and then to near-resignation by the 10th as the last lights were turned out at Robinson and there were less than two hours until Fathers’ Day, as one fan noted.
● COSBY 2, LAKE BRADDOCK 1: More than five hours earlier, Lake Braddock’s first appearance in the state tournament since 2002 started off with roses. Each of the Bruins presented a player on opposing Cosby with a flower before the team introductions.
The No. 3 Bruins (25-3) drove just four miles from their home field for the state semifinals at Robinson.
The Titans (24-0) had traveled about two hours from Chesterfield County to Fairfax for Saturday’s game. Lake Braddock Coach George Rumore decided to have his team hand out roses as a sign of sportsmanship toward a team from outside the area.
But Cosby, a 2012 state champion, seemed perfectly at home as Chelsea Whitcomb’s 10 strikeouts and timely hitting secured a 2-1 win and a berth in Sunday’s final.
“We hurt ourselves. We had an opportunity to get back in there a few times, and we didn’t execute,” Rumore said. “That being said, it was a good season. We have pitching and the future looks good.”
The Bruins ran through county opponents through the regular season and lost only to South County. But playing at this level was nerve-wracking, and there was a lot of pressure on the players at this stage, Rumore said.
Cosby had the edge early as Virginia Gatorage player of the year Ashley Flesch walked Whitcomb—her first batter—after a full count. Whitcomb made it home on an error at third to put the Titans on the board in the bottom of the first.
In the third, Whitcomb hit a single to score Kayla Helms and bring in Cosby’s second run. The lone Lake Braddock run came off an infield error followed by a double from freshman third baseman Patty Maye Ohanian.
“They played a good game, and we needed to have better at-bats and timely hitting. And they had that,” said Flesch, who will play for Westchester.
The Bruins’ trip to the state tournament was marked by extra innings in all three of their regional games, including an eight-inning loss to South County in the 6A North region final. Flesch struck out four before junior Amanda Hendrix took the mound in thefourth. For a team with just two seniors and little playoff experience, “we had a really good season, and just got better every year,” Flesch said.
“Just getting this far, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Twenty-five and three isn’t anything you can complain about.”