The West Potomac softball team stood along the first-base line after the Patriot District Tournament final on May 23 and watched as the South County Stallions were introduced as champions.
Some of the Wolverines cried after losing 2-0 in 12 innings at West Springfield High School. Most of them clapped while the Stallions were recognized. While West Potomac head coach Craig Maniglia preaches winning and losing as a team, there was one Wolverine who had reason to feel a different degree of disappointment.
Pitching on a district-championship stage, Morgan Maniglia shut out the Stallions for 11 innings. The junior matched South County freshman pitcher Rebecca Martin zero for zero as the two engaged in an epic duel. At that point, Maniglia had allowed just two hits and had not walked a batter.
West Potomac had several chances to push across a run and win the game, including loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth, only to have a clutch defensive play by South County shortstop Whitney Burks keep them scoreless.
In the 12th, South County finally broke through. An error and a walk set the table for a two-out single by Caitlin Maglich, which plated a pair of unearned runs and saddled Maniglia with a tough-luck loss.
"It just felt pretty bad because it was right there. We had it in the palm of our hand and we just let it go," Morgan Maniglia said. "It was devastating, honestly."
In 12 innings, Maniglia threw 155 pitches, 104 for strikes. She allowed two unearned runs and three hits. She walked two, hit two batters and struck out nine.
"I was definitely in the zone the entire game," she said. "I knew I could go five more innings after that. … I wasn’t about to give up."
Craig Maniglia, Morgan’s father, said he appreciated being involved in such a game and would like to have seen it from another point of view, as well.
"From a fan perspective, you like to see a lot more runs, but there’s nothing like being in a game where if anything goes wrong it decides a victory," he said. "It puts the pressure on the kids and you find out if the kids can handle pressure. … I thought [Morgan] got stronger and stronger as the game went on. [Her] fastball got faster, concentration got harder. It was quite interesting. … I would have liked to watch it" as a spectator.
While Maniglia thrived in the circle, the Wolverines struggled at the plate, managing just one hit — a first-inning leadoff single by Danielle McHugh.
South County pitcher Martin "had a crazy backspin," Morgan Maniglia said. "Something was going on [and] we couldn’t pick up on it. We’ve never hit off something like that."
While West Potomac fell short of a title, the Wolverines competed in their first district championship game since 2006. West Potomac defeated Lake Braddock 7-5 in the semifinals on May 21 at West Springfield. Maniglia earned the victory in the circle, pitching her way out of trouble in the seventh inning, when the Bruins had the tying run in scoring position.
"I’m not going to lie, there were some nerves," catcher Jasmine Picini said. "But when I called time to go talk to Morgan, she usually puts her head down and lets me talk, but this time she’s like, ‘Let’s do this Jas.’ I knew she was going to strike the girl out and get it done."
Offense was no problem for West Potomac in the semifinals. Eight Wolverines had at least one hit. Picini had three hits, including an RBI double. Sammy Clifford had two hits, including a double and an RBI, and Maggie Grady and Kaitlyn Kincannon also had two hits. McHugh and Elani Gonzalez each had a single, Sara Link had a single and an RBI, and Maniglia belted an RBI double off the fence in left-center field, missing a home run by a few feet.