For Bishop O’Connell head coach Tommy Orndorff, the 2008 season as atypical. In adjusting to a young roster, the veteran softball coach watched his nine-year streak within the WCAC vanish. He watched a couple of public schools take their licks, with both Madison and Yorktown scoring upset one-run wins.
But with a standout senior stepping up at the right time, the season ended in a familiar fashion, as the Knights won both the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and Virginia Independent School Athletic Association (VISAA) tournament titles.
As the No. 2 seed, the Knights (23-5) downed fourth-seeded Liberty Christian Academy, 5-1, in Saturday's championship game at the Dumbarton Elementary School in Richmond.
Because of weather postponements, O’Connell was actually forced to play two games on Saturday, first blasting third-seeded Collegiate, 8-2, in the semifinals.
Senior pitcher Colleen Carty (20-5) was pivotal in both tournament championships, allowing the Knights to win the WCAC for the fifth straight time and the VISAA state title for the sixth consecutive year and 14th time in the past 15 seasons.
“From my perspective, she got better, better and better as time went on,” said Orndorff. “She throws hard and her ball and has some natural movement, but most of it is velocity and her throwing the ball past people.”
Carty, a James Madison signee, finished the season with a 0.78 earned run average over 152-plus innings. She recorded 188 strikeouts to just 14 walks, and was the victorious pitcher in all three state playoff games, as well as the WCAC championship.
In the 8-0 championship victory over Paul VI on May 11 at Catholic University, the senior ace was masterful, tossing a perfect game, while belting two three-run doubles.
With only three seniors, four sophomores and five freshmen on the roster, the Knights struggled to find early season chemistry after having nine players graduate — including three four-year varsity starters — from last season. The losses mounted in April, including rare back-to-back defeats to Elizabeth Seton and Madison.
“This has to be one of my most satisfying years ever because we weren’t expected to do what we did,” Orndorff said. “Other years, we’ve been loaded and we’ve been expected to do what we do. We were down, losing the players we lost.”
To put things in perspective, Paul VI’s 3-1 victory on April 10 ended a 121-game winning streak within the WCAC. The Knights lost two more games, eventually totaling five losses — the most since they went 12-5 in 1989.
But O’Connell caught fire in the postseason, combining to score 47 runs in six games, while only allowing three. In the WCAC tournament, the Knights didn’t allow a single run, ousting Holy Cross and St. Mary's Ryken before displacing the 21-3 Panthers.
O’Connell beat Episcopal, 13-0, behind 14 hits in the first round of the state tournament.
The Knights won 20 games for the 16th straight season and are now 46-1 in VISSA tournament play. It was the O’Connell’s 12th league title since the league adopted softball in 1994.