Chesapeake pitcher Emily Muller remained calm throughout her first state tournament start to lead the Cougars to a 5-2 win against Blair in the 4A state semifinal. The Chesapeake defense made routine, reliable plays and catcher Deja Sutton hit a crucial two-run triple to help the team advance to meet Sherwood in a rematch of the 2012 final.
At first Chesapeake celebrated too early. It had looked like the Blair player had been out at first to end the game and make the win official. But she was ruled safe, and the Cougars’ infielders threw up their hands and shook their heads. Through it all, Muller was stoic on the mound at Bachman Park in Glen Burnie. She shrugged off the call and got back to what was important — delivering the last pitch to send Chesapeake to the 4A state final.
“We’ll get the next one,” she told her teammates. “We’re going to get to it. We just have to be making routine plays.”
The junior has maintained that composure through the season, despite the vocal doubt from past players and rivals alike.
“People didn’t think I was capable of it, or that I had the confidence to do it,” Muller said.
“Honestly, no one expected us to be here,” Sutton added.
Chesapeake (17-6) got up by two in the top of the first on a two-run triple from Danielle Stewart. Blair (19-3) responded in the bottom of the first with a single upthe middle from senior pitcher Annie Pietanza. Pietanza struck out six Cougars to bring her season total to 148. She walked two.
A couple of close calls for the Blazers in the top of the third — Hunter Royston nearly tagged out en route to first, a single from Kirby that bounced a second too soon in the outfield — set the stage for Sutton’s triple that put the Cougars up by three. Stewart rounded it out, driving in the last Chesapeake run of the game.
“I feel great — there’s no better feeling than now,” Sutton said of her hits.
Blair’s rally attempts were squashed by two strikeouts from Muller and a couple of clutch plays from Emily Kirby at second. The second Blair run came in the bottom of the fifth on a single from Megan Houlihan , an infield error and sacrifice bunt from Camilla Arias.
The Cougars and Blair met in the state semifinal in 2011, the Blazers’ only other state tournament appearance. Chesapeake won that game, 8-0, then fell to Urbana in the final. They lost in the final, 1-0, to Sherwood the next year to give the Warriors their first state title.
The loss of pitcher Crystal White, who pitched in the last state final while Muller sat on the sideline as a freshman, was the reason for most of the skepticism about Chesapeake’s season, Sutton said. Losing to county-rival Northeast three times this season didn’t help.
But longtime Coach Don Ellenberger kept telling Muller to “play for May and the last six games of the season,” and the Cougars successfully battled through the first three weeks of the month by winning two of three playoff games by one run.