Northern grew accustomed to adversity in the 2014 season. The Patriots, who lost five seniors from last year’s state championship team, saw their 77-game winning streak snapped in March by Chopticon. They needed a late-inning error to walk away with a win in Thursday’s Maryland Class 3A state semifinal.
Saturday, in their chase for an unprecedented seventh consecutive state title, the No. 4 Patriots trailed for the first time in a final during that stretch, which included six shutouts.
But the resilience that has become a staple of the Patriots’ dynasty was on display again when it counted as Northern bounced back to defeat Linganore, 4-2, in College Park for the Maryland 3A championship.
“I tell the kids they need to be confident in their abilities to get things done,” Northern Coach Robert Earl Radford said. “Before we went out I told them be confident, breathe, and have fun. I think for the most part they did a pretty good job.”
The deficit was also a first for Northern ace Jess Cummings in a state final start.
“I knew we could score runs, we had a good scouting report and our warm ups went well,” Cummings said. “Obviously it’s not the way you want to start the game, but I knew as soon as we got ahead we weren’t giving up the lead.”
Cummings stuck out 10 batters and pulled out her entire repertoire of pitches, which includes a rise ball, change-up and fastball.
After falling behind 1-0 on a Kennedi Ambush RBI double in the top of the first, Northern (23-2) answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame.
The seventh spelled trouble again for the Patriots as Linganore (19-2) put runners on second and third after plating a run. With one out, Radford walked to the mound for a final coaching session with his pitcher and infield.
“He told me there was no one better and he knew I could get it done,” Cummings said. “He said to relax because we’ve been here plenty of times before.”
The 2013 All-Met Player of the Year answered with a strikeout and then intentionally walked Ambush (2 for 2) to load the bases. Cummings then threw a two strike fastball that caught the batter looking for the final out of a standout four-year varsity career
The win gives Calvert County a 10th straight Maryland 3A softball championship. Huntingtown won three in a row before Northern’s current streak.
“It feels great, it’s even greater than last year,” Cross said. “A lot of people didn’t think we were going to win this year, but I had 100 percent confidence in us.”