After winning the 2012 D.C. High School Softball Classic and losing just three seniors, Georgetown Visitation looked primed for another deep postseason run.
But 2013 ended with a loss in the ISL-AA quarterfinals to Flint Hill, and the Cubs were left out of the DC High School Softball Classic final. This year, the future looks brighter: Visitation has been buoyed by the transfer of junior Alee Burke from Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, starting freshman shortstop Allie Clark and first baseman Sydney Love-Baker.
Prior to Monday’s 15-0 loss to Paul VI, the Cubs (6-1) had allowed five runs in their first six games. They haven’t had a one-loss record at this point in the season since 2009, when they finished 15-2.
“For the first time in a number of years, we have solid offense, good hitting and good fielding on the team,” Cubs Coach Mary Conlon said. “If you get all that, you look forward to a great year.”
Burke has fit right in with the Cubs after the team traveled to the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla., for scrimmages in March. Visitation went 5-2 on the trip, but more importantly, they lived, ate and worked together for a week.
“We get along very well, and that helps us win games,” Burke said. “We all had a great time in Florida during our spring break. We got to know each other better and it’s really helped.”
Burke has six different pitches she can throw to produce outs, but she uses her rise ball and screwball to get a majority of her punch outs (she’s posted 44 this season). Conlon said her ability to have movement on her pitches keeps batters off balance.
Senior catcher Juliette Lewis said Burke never shakes off signs, and the two try to keep it loose during games.
Lewis, a captain this season, has a team-high 16 RBI and three home runs with a .579 batting average.
The Cubs’ offense averaged 13.6 runs in six wins and plated more than 10 runs in each game. Burke has been an integral part of that success, with a .444 average and 10 RBI. Junior Caitlyn Fischer is just behind Lewis with a .550 average and 10 RBI. Clark hits .429 and has 9 RBI.
“Our hitting has gotten quite a bit stronger — although we were pretty successful last year,” Conlon said. “We were winning by a few runs a year ago, and now we’re creating more runs with better hitting.”
For O’Connell, the winner of 17 WCAC titles in the last 20 years, the 2014 season is best described as “hectic,” Coach Tommy Orndorff said. Teams all over the area have had to deal with an unusually wet and unpredictable spring.
Weather postponements, plus the loss of their usual home field, means the Knights have yet to practice outdoors this season. Their field of the past 28 years at Tuckahoe Park is under construction for 18 months, and they have shuffled between fields in Arlington and Fairfax to play just one of 10 games this season on a technical “home field.”
Add that stress to injuries to the starting catcher and third baseman, along with subpar performance so far, and it’s “just been that type of spring,” Orndorff said.
“We’ve got to get healthy and we’ve got to play better ball,” he said, especially given the parity of the conference this year and the potential of No. 5 St. Mary’s Ryken or Paul VI to upset the Knights’ run at an 11th consecutive title.
Starting catcher Jenna Spille is out with tendinitis for potentially the rest of the season. The Knights’ backup freshman catcher had to miss three games last week for a school-sponsored music trip, which led to several O’Connell players stepping in at catcher for the first time in their careers. Then third baseman Haley Metcalf jammed her knee sliding into second base in last Thursday’s win againt Paul VI. She sat out the next day’s game against the Panthers and tried to play through it against Elizabeth Seton, but is still a little uneasy.
Junior shortstop Shannon Murphy has stepped up to hit .429 and Metcalf, a “slapper” known for her speed and pressure on the defense, is hitting .400 and has an on-base percentage of .714. Second baseman Amanda Ehlers is batting .375, and Orndoff expects her “to come up big in certain games and hit a little better the further we go.” Sophomore Olivia Giaquinto is batting .389, and has two triples and a double.
The weather and the field situation can be read as excuses, Orndorff said, and he maintains that it is most important to get the team out and playing their best softball.
“Those factors are excuses, but it’s also made it tough on us this season,” he said.
Sherwood took down Magruder, 13-0, and Kennedy, 11-0, to stay undefeated going into Montgomery County’s spring break. . . The Bruins outscored opponents 36-5 in the Westfield Spring Break Tournament in four games in three days. . . St. Mary’s Ryken blanked Bishop Ireton, 20-0. . . Chopticon has not allowed a run since March 27. . . South County has allowed three runs this season and have shut out seven opponents.
1. Sherwood 8-0 LW: 1
2. Lake Braddock 10-0 LW: 2
3. Northern 7-1 LW: 4
4. South County 8-0 LW: 7
5. St. Mary’s Ryken 8-1 LW: 8
6. Langley 6-1 LW: NR
7. Madison 7-1 LW: 3
8. Battlefield 7-0 LW: 9
9. McLean 5-1 LW: 5
10. Chopticon 9-1 LW: NR