When Tori Fletcher’s loud blast soared over the left field fence in the first inning of Tuesday night’s Maryland 3A softball semifinal, the Huntingtown faithful at Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie roared as if the Hurricanes had just won.
Any three-run lead in the first is nice, but it’s especially valuable with Fletcher in the circle.
The senior right-hander was integral for the No. 1 Hurricanes in a 10-2 win over Bel Air to earn a spot in Saturday’s 3A championship game. In the circle, she overpowered the Bobcats (14-5) with 13 strikeouts. In the batter’s box, she drove in four runs, including the three-run bomb that kick-started a five-run first inning.
“We definitely feel a different energy [when the scoring starts],” Fletcher said. “Everybody starts to get up and we get loud and we start to come together as a team instead of individually.”
The defending champion Hurricanes (21-1) will have a chance to win another title Saturday in College Park against Chesapeake. Tuesday’s game was their fourth straight state playoff appearance.
“Coming into it, I wanted to be confident but not too confident,” Fletcher said. “I knew that my teammates have my back. If we play our game, you can’t touch us.”
No. 5 Chesapeake beat Linganore, 5-0, to earn its spot in Saturday’s final. Making their first semifinal appearance since 2014, the Cougars (20-3) slowly built a lead and protected it with solid defense. Senior Haley Downin provided a steady presence on the mound, striking out eight.
“She’s such a solid player,” senior outfielder Kexin Wang said of Downin. “She always comes through, and we can always count on her. As long as we get runs, our defense is so tight. We practice defense so much, it makes me believe in our team.”
With her team leading 2-0 in the fourth inning, Wang found the right time to hit her second home run of the season. She sent the ball out to left, her teammates gathering around the plate to meet her by the time she rounded second.
“It felt pretty good,” Wang said with a laugh. “You know when you hit it. I took two really bad swings first. I’m always down in the count. But as a senior, I’m so used to that kind of pressure. I just laughed it off and went back to it. I saw it, and I hit it.”
Chesapeake added two runs in the fifth to put away the Lancers (14-7) for good.
Both teams now face a quick pivot from celebration to preparation for Saturday.
“We just have to do what we’ve been doing all season — focusing in practice and letting our coaches coach us,” Fletcher said. “Just doing us.”