For the O’Connell softball team, pregame bus rides are silent. Even for 70-mile rides from Arlington to Southern Maryland, the no-talking rule applies.

“We take time before the game to meditate and think about what we need to do as a team or individually,” senior Leah Hammes said. “It’s an O’Connell tradition.”

What’s also tradition is domination on the field. After a quiet ride, loud bats and a powerful pitching performance propelled the Knights to an early lead on their way to an 8-1 win Thursday over St. Mary’s Ryken. Junior pitcher Kathryn Sandercock struck out 12 batters while senior Patty Maye Ohanian and sophomore Caitlin Jorae each picked up three hits as O’Connell won a rematch of last season’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final.

“Its nice to come out here and be so strong against Ryken. They’re always so good,” Hammes said. “It’s a good game to play because we can learn from the competition.”

St. Mary’s Ryken (4-1, 4-1) won back-to-back WCAC titles before O’Connell (5-0, 5-0) stopped the streak last year with its 11th league title in 13 seasons. While Sandercock was in control for most of the day and did not walk a batter, St. Mary’s Ryken came up with three hits and broke her shutout streak to start the season after four games and 5 2 /3 innings.

“I want a shutout every game, but the more you see any pitcher, the more you get used to the movement,” Sandercock said. “And they got a little used to me today.”

After two quiet innings, Sandercock picked up the first RBI of the game with a hard groundball off the pitcher’s glove in the third inning. The fortunate break helped O’Connell open up a 4-0 lead a few batters later when freshman catcher Meadow Sacadura ripped a two-run single to center field.

After O’Connell doubled that margin over the next three innings, the St. Mary’s Ryken bench fought to stay positive while facing a rare large deficit. In the bottom of the sixth, senior Katie Prebble gave her dugout reason to cheer when she smacked an inside pitch high over the left field fence. 

“I really don’t try to hit home runs, but it was kind of fun being the first team to score on her,” Prebble said. “This game was a learning experience. Facing a pitcher like that can only make us better.”

The rivals will meet again April 12.