South County softball coach Al Thompson has a plan that’s worked out rather well this season, with his team compiling a 22-1 record when Julia Kastner leads off with a hit, Sarah Senseney bunts her over to second and either Taylor Dillow or Stephanie Sbardella follows with an RBI.
In the Monday, May 20 Patriot District title game at Lake Braddock Secondary School, Thompson’s plan played out perfectly in the first inning, staking the Stallions to an early 1-0 lead. But South County’s bats went silent over the next six innings, as the team was unable to plate another run against Annandale pitcher Izzy Yaroch.
“I thought we were going to score another one, but it just didn’t happen,” Thompson said.
Despite the mini-slump, South County was still able to win its third consecutive district title, thanks largely to another dominant pitching effort from junior Chelsey Dunham, who allowed one hit and struck out 13 Annandale batters during the 1-0 win.
“We’ve had a lot of close games, and last year most of our games were close,” Thompson said. “We’re not a dominant hitting team, but it’s pretty hard to score against us.”
The win was South County’s 16th straight and followed quarterfinal victories over Lee (13-0) and West Potomac (5-0). Furthermore, in the Stallions’ last 11 games, they’re allowed one run, which came during a 6-1 victory over Hayfield on Friday, May 8. South County advances to this weekend’s Northern Region tournament and will play host to Washington-Lee on Friday.
<b>WHILE THOMPSON</b> has one plan for how to score runs, he has another for how to have fun and keep everyone happy. Before the team’s annual spring break trip, Thompson compiles a spreadsheet that plans every player’s participation ahead of time.
Say, hypothetically, that the Stallions are trailing by two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on Tuesday. Kastner is on second, and Dillow’s spot in the order is due up. If it’s Dillow’s time to sit, she sits.
Furthermore, South County doesn’t even list the results from its spring games on the team’s Web site, part of Thompson’s belief that those games are for fun and that everyone should be involved; results aren’t as important.
“It doesn’t matter where we are in the game, if it’s your turn to come out, you’re out,” said Thompson, whose team has done well on the trips, winning three games last spring and four this year. “Who wants to spend all that money to go down there and not be able to play? We go down there for fun.”
The philosophy serves as an example of the selfless approach that has kept South County afloat while other top-seeded teams have faltered, including Westfield and McLean in the Concorde and Liberty Districts, respectively. Both suffered district semifinal losses and will enter this weekend’s region tournament as No. 2 seeds.
Though Thompson would prefer to focus on Washington-Lee, a juicy region quarterfinal matchup with Westfield is a strong possibility, with the Bulldogs squaring off Friday with Stone Bridge, a team they beat, 3-2, on April 25.
“We’re used to being in tight games,” Thompson said. “We’ll play a tight game for as long as we need to.”