Athletics News

Softball

Chesapeake goes after region title this weekend
Second-seeded Skipjacks open with – surprise – Hagerstown

CATONSVILLE – They’re at it again.

Hagerstown Community College, which made a surprising run to the region title game last spring, opened this year’s NJCAA Division II Region XX women’s softball tournament by shocking two-time defending champion Cecil College, 5-2. The sixth-seeded Hawks scored all five runs with two outs in the fifth inning to erase a 1-0 lead by third-seeded Cecil and advance to this weekend’s double-elimination Final Four, which they open at 10 a.m. Saturday against second-seeded Chesapeake College.

"Hagerstown sort of peaked at the end last year," recalled Chesapeake head coach Durrie Hayes, whose team lost a 10-inning elimination game to the Hawks in last year’s tournament. "They knocked Catonsville out and then they knocked us out.

"The good news is that they won’t be sneaking up on us this year," added Hayes. "You see how that turned out. We’ve already brought up with our team, ’This is what they (Hagerstown) did last year.’ "

All Region XX Final Four games will take place at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville.

After Chesapeake (26-12 overall, 11-3 Region XX) plays Hagerstown (19-19, 7-11), the top-seeded host Cardinals (41-11, 14-1) play a noon contest against the winner of Friday’s play-in between fourth-seeded College of Southern Maryland (19-10, 9-7) and fifth-seeded Potomac State College of West Virginia University (19-11, 7-7). CSM and Potomac State were scheduled to play on Tuesday, but were rained out.

Saturday’s two first-round losers play a 2 p.m. elimination game while the first-round winners face off at 4 p.m. for a spot in Sunday’s finals. The winner of Saturday’s 2 p.m. game and the loser of Saturday’s 4 p.m. game play in Sunday’s 10 a.m. losers’ bracket final, with the survivor advancing to Sunday’s noon title game.

If the losers’ bracket champ wins the noon game, the tournament will be decided by a 2 p.m. "if" game.

Chesapeake appeared likely to face Cecil (26-17, 10-5) in Saturday’s opener right up until Hagerstown’s big fifth inning in Tuesday’s play-in. Candace Horchner had a two-run triple, Brittany Heller contributed a run-scoring single, and Kayla Ewing delivered a two-run double against Cecil pitcher Hannah Musick.

Hagerstown’s Megan Peomroy threw a seven-hit complete game for the win. The Hawks, while just .500 overall, have the only win by a Region XX opponent against top-seeded Catonsville, having handed the Cardinals an 11-10 loss in an early season tournament that did not count in the league standings.

The Skipjacks swept Hagerstown, 4-0 and 5-0, in a league doubleheader this season as both sophomore Amber LaBille (12-8, 2.14 ERA) and freshman Cheyenne Riley (14-4, 3.08 ERA) tossed shutouts. Riley had a two-run single as part of a three-run sixth that broke open Game 1, then doubled in a run and scored on an error as part of a two-run second that gave the Skipjacks a 3-0 lead in the nightcap.

LaBille and Riley have had strong offensive support this season. Sophomores Sarah Spicher (Easton High) and Lavin Kulina have been two of the Skipjacks’ biggest run producers, driving in 45 and 33 runs, respectively. Spicher was seventh in RBI, and tied for eighth in home runs, during the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference regular season.

Amanda Murphy (team-best .375 batting average), Riley (.349), LaBille (.336) and Danni Hintermeister set the table for the power hitters by getting on base. Hintermeister finished tied for second in the league in the regular season in stolen bases after going 19-for-19 on steal attempts.

While Hayes would love to get another shot at Catonsville – the Cardinals swept Chesapeake by a combined score of 29-9 in a doubleheader last month – he insists neither he nor his players are looking past Hagerstown.

"We have to look at Hagerstown first," said Hayes. "If we’re fortunate enough to get by Hagerstown, we’ll play whoever’s there. If it’s Catonsville, we know we’re fully capable of beating them. We’re just going to play softball and see how it works out."

Notes: Chesapeake snapped a four-game losing streak last Saturday by sweeping Southern Maryland, 9-8 and 11-0. The Skipjacks had to rally to win Game 1 before dominating the nightcap.

"It appeared – certainly in the second game against Southern Maryland, and most of the first game – that we came out of our funk," said Hayes. "We played 10 error-free, sharp innings from the third inning of the first game on.

"They practiced well this week," added Hayes. "They’re hustling and they’re working hard." . . .

Chesapeake has already tied the team record of 26 wins in a season set by the 2010 squad. The Skipjacks will have at least two opportunities to set a new record for victories this weekend. . . .

The Skipjacks will be attempting to reach their third Region XX final in four years. They won the 2009 championship, lost to Cecil in the 2010 title game, and finished third in the region last year.

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