Jun. 19—GLEN BURNIE — A bloop, a swinging bunt and a dropped pop-up. That was all that separated two giants of Class 1A.
One team played seven innings of exemplary, flawless softball, the other lapsed for just three fateful outs.
No. 2 Allegany left it all on the field in the 1A state championship Friday, but No. 1 Patterson Mill looked like a team of destiny, manufacturing three runs in the fifth without the ball leaving the infield to win 4-1 for its first state title.
“They were better than us today, they just were,” Campers head coach Brian Miller said. “I don’t know if they would have been better than us every day. … They deserve it.”
“We knew this team was going to be nasty,” Patterson Mill head coach Jeff Horton said. “We saw their record, we knew their pitcher, we scouted them. We knew what we were up against. We knew it was going to be no joke. This season we only had four games during the regular season we didn’t run rule.”
With a pair of squads so similarly exceptional — both coming in undefeated, both sporting highly touted pitchers, both swinging scorching hot bats — it was unsurprising that not much separated them on the field.
Entering the fifth inning, the only damage to Allegany (13-1) hurler Kyra Pittman, a Maryland signee, was a first-inning run who initially reached on a dropped-third-strike. She returned the favor with an RBI double in the third off Patterson Mill (22-0) pitcher and Syracuse commit Madison Knight.
But in a game of inches, the Campers ran into a flurry of bad luck in the fifth.
Because the infield was drawn in with the bases full and one out, Dakota Pitts was able to loft a drooping single just past second base for the go-ahead run, despite being jammed.
Then, in a play reminiscent of James Madison pitcher Odicci Alexander’s game-saving tag at the plate against Oklahoma State in the College World Series, Allegany’s attempt didn’t quite work out as well.
Caroline Michaels chopped an awkward swinging bunt a third of the way to the circle, and Campers catcher Riley Gallagher corralled it and tried to double back and make a lunging tag at home to deny the third run, but the ball trickled away during the maneuver.
“That’s how the game is,” Pittman said. “There’s ups and there’s downs. Just stuff that you can’t control.”
Patterson Mill tacked on one more run off a muffed popup to make it 4-1.
“It was just one of those innings where it seemed like everything went wrong, and that can happen in softball,” Miller said. “But you have to give them some credit, too. They were putting it in play against a pitcher that’s pretty hard to put it in play against.”
Depending on how harsh a scorekeeper was, the fifth could’ve contained as many as three errors — a huge number given how stout a defensive team Allegany has been all year.
Entering the title game, the Campers had committed just one error all postseason.
“The team that makes the least amount of mistakes always wins,” Allegany centerfielder Katie Sterne said. “It didn’t fall our way this time, and maybe in another lifetime it would have. That fifth inning is definitely what killed us, but there’s nothing we can do now. … It was definitely not depicting of our skill in that inning.”
A slight letdown was enough for the opportunistic Huskies to secure the title — their second of any kind after winning their first regional crown last week.
“At the end of the day, we executed fundamentally sound ball,” Horton said. “The swinging bunt, the runner coming home, the girl evading the tag. The thing we’ve done on offense all year, is we’ve found a way to capitalize on other teams’ mistakes.
“No different than today, I teach these girls to be aggressive but smart. Always looking for the next base, but not always taking it until we’re ready.”
The Campers still had life, tallying singles in each the sixth and seventh innings, yet Knight was too strong. The junior Patterson Mill star scattered eight base knocks to allow one run in seven innings, striking out 10 and walking one.
Knowing she had a stud on the other side of the circle, Knight was amped from the start.
“I knew she was going D-1, so I knew it was going to be a great competition,” said Knight, who also went 2 for 2 at the dish. “It pushed me even further, just to make all my pitches work, just to be in every single pitch every single time. It really gave me a lot of motivation.”
Though Allegany couldn’t deliver the game-breaking hit it needed, it kept Knight busy from first to last pitch. The Campers bunted for hits three times — twice by Gallagher, who singled three times, and once by Sterne, who hit safely two times, walked and scored the team’s lone run.
Skyler Porter and Kylie Hook also hit safely in Allegany’s first trip to the championship since 2017.
In the circle, Pittman allowed one earned run on six hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in six innings pitched. Only the bloop single, which would have been caught had the defense not been forced in by the dire situation, damaged her resume.
While the result wasn’t what Allegany wanted — made more evident by the emotions flowing by coaches, parents and players following the game — it was nonetheless an impressive season for the Campers.
For a senior class that had failed to get out of regionals twice and was subverted by the pandemic once more, 2021 was almost the perfect end to their high school career.
“It feels really special to make it here,” Campers second baseman Kelsey O’Neal said. “It didn’t end how we wanted, but we got here and that’s all that matters.”
With that special senior group — Sterne, Pittman, O’Neal and Samara Funk occupy the top four spots in the line-up — moving on, the Campers will look a lot different next year.
Gallagher, Hook, Porter, Ryland Kienhofer, Mackenzie Lambert and Savannah Roach all return.
If just a little bit of their mentors rubs off on them, they’ll be alright.
“This is the most well-rounded team I’ve ever been on, and I think these girls have a really bright future ahead of them,” said Sterne. “It’s sad to see it go with my seniors, and it’s sad to see the Allegany era end for me, but I’m so excited for what the younger girls have in the future.”
Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.