There might not have been a younger high school varsity team anywhere across the Northern Region then the Chantilly High girls’ softball squad this past spring.
The Chargers, who had no seniors, experienced some rough times throughout their 6-13 season. Nevertheless, the team, under first year head coach Carmen Wise, showed spunk and made progress which should bode well for them in the future.
Chantilly’s season ended on May 19 with a 2-1, extra innings first round Concorde District Tournament loss at Oakton. The Chargers had desperately wanted to earn a seeding at the 16-team region tournament and needed a first round win over the Cougars to get it. While Chantilly pushed the talented Oakton squad to the brink, the home team Cougars ultimately came away with the win to end the Chargers’ season.
“The goal was to get to regionals,” said Wise, of her team. “They fought real, real hard against Oakton.”
During warm-ups prior to that final game, Chantilly sophomore shortstop Bryanna Kerbuski broke her nose when she was hit in the face with a ball. Her reaction to the injury kind of epitomized the grit the Chargers displayed at season’s end.
“She played anyway,” said Wise. “She was like, `I’m going in. I’m not going to sit the bench.’”
Chantilly, despite a relatively unseasoned team made up of six juniors, six sophomores and three freshmen, sat at .500 with a 5-5 record through its first 10 games. The wins had come over T.C.Williams, West Springfield, non-region opponent Lake Lehman High (spring break tournament in Richmond), Washington-Lee, and district foe Oakton, a 1-0 Chargers’ road win on April 16.
That regular season win over Oakton was a huge confidence builder for the Chargers, who three days earlier had opened the district schedule with an 8-0 loss at Robinson.
But the team struggled over the second half of the spring. Following the win over Oakton, Chantilly lost seven straight district games.
Several of the games were close – a 4-2 home loss to Centreville on April 20, a 3-2 road setback at Herndon on April 27, and a 3-1 home defeat in a second meeting against Oakton on May 4.
“We started off the season strong but [struggled] in the Concorde District,” said Wise, whose team was hurt defensively by errors. “Our entire infield was freshmen and sophomores. There was lots of learning this season.”
Chantilly broke the seven-game skid on May 14 in its final regular season game of the season – a 2-1 home win over Herndon.
Then, in the district playoff game at Oakton, the Chargers lost in nine innings. Chantilly scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning when sophomore outfielder Danielle Almodiel knocked an RBI single down the right field line to score freshman first baseman Alex Sallberg, who had doubled earlier in the inning. Oakton tied the score with a run in the bottom of the third. There was no scoring over the next five innings before Oakton scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth to win.
Chantilly sophomore pitcher Emily Gembarowicz had an outstanding game with 11 strikeouts and just six hits allowed in the complete game outing. Chantilly’s offense knocked around eight base hits.
For the season, Gembarowicz, in 97 innings of work, struck out 126 batters and sported a nifty 2.55 ERA. It was her second season as the team’s starting pitcher.
“She’s more of a fastball pitcher but throws a change-up,” said Wise. “She pitched a whole lot for us last year. She worked hard in the offseason and came back real strong.”
Gembarowicz suffered a stress fracture back injury midway through the spring, but fought through it and continued to pitch well.
<b>ALONG WITH GEMBAROWICZ</b>, several Chantilly players put together impressive seasons. Sophomore catcher Tori Doherty was outstanding both behind the plate and in the batter’s box. She hit .306 with a hefty, team-leading .443 on base average. A team captain, Doherty hit out of the No. 3 position in the line-up.
“She provided a nice, strong bat for us and she brought some leadership to the team,” said Wise. “She had started some on the varsity as a freshman. She’s got a strong arm and hardly anyone steals on her.”
Sallberg, the freshmen first baseman, batted an impressive .333 and carried a .350 on-base average. She was not available to the team until after spring break as a result of a shoulder injury last November.
“We weren’t sure how much she’d be able to play this season,” said Wise. “But she came back after spring break, tried out and did a nice job at first base.”
Her fielding percentage at first base was a nifty .965.
Sallberg can also pitch and could serve as a backup in that role next season.
“She’ll be working on pitching this summer,” said Wise. “I’m real impressed with her. She’s got a really great future.”
Wendy Sloan, a junior outfielder, made some spectacular plays out in center field this season.
“She made some great shoe-string catches,” said Wise. “She could pretty much get to anything in front of her. She has a lot of experience in the outfield.”
At the plate, Sloan hit .317 with an onbase percentage of .349. She began the season as the team’s leadoff batter, but moved to other spots in the line-up over the course of the season, depending on the needs of the club.
Sloan earned Second Team All-District honors for the second straight season. Joining her on Second Team this season were Doherty, Gembarowicz, and Sallberg.