Huntingtown’s Tori Fletcher and Chesapeake’s Haley Downin went strikeout for strikeout Saturday in College Park in a Maryland 3A softball championship that matched a pair of the area’s top pitchers. The duel stayed scoreless into the sixth inning.
“There was just back-to-back-to-back outs for both teams,” Huntingtown senior catcher Lexi Mann said. “We just had to wait for the mistakes to happen.”
The Hurricanes forced the issue in the bottom of the sixth, and it paid off with a pair of unearned runs and a 2-0 win for their second straight state championship.
The decisive play came with runners on first and third. Fletcher put down a sacrifice bunt toward Downin, who made the play at first as lead runner Sophie Futchko broke for home.
Futchko ran, the throw went high, and the Hurricanes (22-1) had the lead.
“I didn’t even see we had scored until after,” Fletcher said. “I was still at first base. I had no idea what happened.”
Mann, who had moved from first to second on Fletcher’s sacrifice, had a better view.
“I looked up and I saw the ball lying there, and our coach was yelling ‘Go!’ to Sophie, and I thought, Oh my god! We’re finally going to score a run! And I kind of paused for a second,” Mann said. “Then I realized I should go, too, so I ran to third. Once I got there, I had to calm myself down for a second.”
Later in the inning, with runners on first and third, a groundball got past the Cougars’ shortstop, allowing Mann to race home from third with the second run.
Fletcher retook the circle in the top of the seventh to close out the win. But it was not easy for her as the first two hitters for the Cougars (20-4) reached base.
Fletcher walked the leadoff batter. Then the second batter reached on an error.
“I knew I just had to hit my spots and let the defense work,” Fletcher said. “I couldn’t let anyone get in my head.”
Fletcher, who allowed just three hits and struck out nine, induced a pop fly for the first out then a groundball that turned into a double play to ice the victory.
Fletcher, along with fellow seniors Mann and center fielder Jordan Paddy, started in four straight state championship games. The seniors now have two titles to call their own, and they leave behind an indelible legacy at their Southern Maryland school.
“It’s unbelievable, thinking about it,” Fletcher said. “It’s been an amazing ride.”