Skipjacks roll through rain-soaked Region XX softball tournament
CATONSVILLE For the Skipjacks, this was well worth the wait.
Chesapeake College defeated Cecil College, 5-3, Thursday afternoon to finally claim the NJCAA Division II Region XX women’s softball championship. The third-seeded Skipjacks (23-13) beat fourth-seeded Cecil, 7-3, earlier in the day in the winners’ bracket final to take control of the double-elimination tournament after a five-day suspension due rain.
The championship was stunning only in the speed in which second-year head coach Durrie Hayes and his 12-player roster turned things around. The Skipjacks were 6-17 last year and started 3-8 this season, but have now qualified for the NJCAA Division II national championship tournament thanks to 20 wins in their last 25 games.
"I think we kind of flew under the radar," said Hayes, noting nationally ranked CCBC-Catonsville and 26-win CCBC-Dundalk came into the tournament generally regarded as the favorites. "Catonsville didn’t know who we were and Dundalk I don’t think cared. All we did was win every single game we played in the tournament."
And they won despite facing more than their share of adversity. The Skipjacks lost pitcher Jill Piasecki for the season in the first game of the playoffs, leading Hayes to hand the ball to Jordan Wright for the rest of the tournament. The freshman workhouse ended up 4-0 with three complete games for the Skipjacks, who trailed by two runs or more in three of their four postseason contests.
"They were all tight games and the girls never wilted under the pressure," said Hayes, who guided Easton High to three state softball titles before moving on to Chesapeake. "They just did what they had to do."
What they had to do in the title game was overcame a 3-0 Cecil lead. The Skipjacks responded with a four-run rally in the bottom of the second inning to take the lead for good.
As with many of their playoff rallies, this one started with the bottom third of the order. Melanie Buck bunted for a single, Jordan Glessner lined a base hit, and Amber Johnson walked to load the bases.
"They came through for us the whole tournament," said Hayes of the bottom part of the batting order.
That set the table for the top of the order. Wright (2-for-3) followed with a run-scoring single and Cecil starter Holly Vandenheuvel then walked Anna Morris to force in a run as the Skipjacks pulled within 3-2.
At that point, Cecil ace Katie Ferguson who beat Catonsville twice in the tournament relieved for the Seahawks. Erica Kinney (2-for-2, walk) greeted Ferguson with what proved to be the game-winning hit, a two-run single that gave Chesapeake a 4-3 lead.
Julia Carr’s fifth-inning, RBI single added an insurance run that the Skipjacks ended up not needing.
Wright spaced 10 hits and a walk with two strikeouts in the title game. She threw a four-hitter with three walks and three strikeouts in the morning win over Cecil.
"There was no doubt Jordan was pitching both games today," said Hayes.
Chesapeake trailed 2-0 in the first game against Cecil (24-21), but tied the game with a two-run third as Wright (2-for-3) had an RBI single and Morris doubled in the tying run. The Skipjacks then took control with a four-run fifth that included a tie-breaking single by Kinney and an Antoinette Hughes sacrifice fly.
Glessner and Lauren Howell joined Wright with two hits each in the winners’ bracket final.
The softball team became the third Chesapeake College program to win a Region XX championship in the last four years, following the 2005 baseball squad and the 2008 men’s basketball team. It’s just the second regional title for the softball program, following the championship won by the 1981 squad, and the first-ever national tournament berth for the softball program.
Notes: The tournament was moved to Community College Baltimore County-Catonsville from the original Frederick Community College site after it was determined the FCC field was unplayable due to the heavy rains.
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