WYE MILLS - The journey should be as important as the destination, particularly when that destination is as difficult to reach as the National Junior College Athletic Association softball championship in Alabama in late May.
That’s been on the mind of Chesapeake College’s players for a long time.
“This has been our dream,” Skipjacks’ outfielder Mackenzie Willey said. “We all really want to go to Alabama. All of us are fighting for each other and our coaches. Everybody has been talking about this moment since January.”
To get to the championships, Chesapeake—which has all freshmen on the roster-- has to win the double-elimination Region XX Tournament.
It opened May 9, and the Skipjacks swept a doubleheader from Allegany College of Maryland, 10-0 and 12-4.
In the next round, Chesapeake will face Hagerstown Community College in Arnold on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
The Skipjacks must win three straight games or three of four to advance to Alabama.
“We like to say this is the start of the real season,” said Chesapeake coach Matt Elzey, whose team lost a doubleheader to Hagerstown in late April. “It’s great to have a winning season, but if you can’t perform in the playoffs then nobody remembers what you did during the regular season.”
The Skipjacks can win with either their pitching or hitting. Chesapeake boasts a .435 batting average, .490 on-base percentage and has scored in double digits in 15 out of 35 games.
Even though their lineup may not be perfect, good luck finding a weakness in it.
“We play a game of imperfection,” Willey said. “No one can be perfect in this game. That gets a little heavy on us sometimes. But I feel we all trust one another. We trust the person in front of us and we trust the person behind us to get the job done.”
Catcher Megan Stubbs (batting .525) sparks the offense. She leads the team in batting (.525) and stolen bases (16) while ranking second in home runs (8) and RBIs (48).
“Megan is electric and full of energy,” Elzey said. “As the leadoff hitter, she sets the tone.”
Willey (9 home runs, 50 RBIs), third baseman Shyra Jones (8, 34), second baseman Madison Covey (batting .430) and shortstop Olivia Brown (.465) are also difference makers.
The Skipjacks’ well-armed pitching staff is the beneficiary of the run support.
Madison Gentry (14-3, 3.07 ERA, 105 Ks in 98 innings) and Olivia Wheel (9-5, 3.20 ERA) anchor a pitching staff that also includes Macy Griffin and Emily Darling.
The pitching helped the Skipjacks beat Allegany in a doubleheader Monday.
Chesapeake fell behind the visitors, 4-0, in the top of the first inning. But that’s all the runs Allegany would score. Gentry clubbed a grand slam in the first inning to spark the Skipjacks to the 12-4 win. Willey went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs and Gentry picked up her 14th win.
Chesapeake won the second game, 10-0, behind Wheel, who threw five shutout innings to improve to 9-5. Jones had a two-run homer.
“It just really helped us get our positive mindset back,” Willey said of the victories. “We had a tough end of the regular season (8-8 record after 18-1 start).”