On May 23, the West Potomac softball team suffered a loss that could have damaged the Wolverines' psyche beyond repair.
West Potomac came out on the short end of a 2-0, 12-inning decision against South County in the Patriot District championship game. The Wolverines received a gutsy pitching effort from Morgan Maniglia, who shut out the Stallions for 11 innings before allowing a pair of unearned runs, but came up empty at the plate. While West Potomac's season was still alive, it would have been easy for the Wolverines to come out flat in the regional tournament.
They chose the other option.
West Potomac responded with a 4-3 victory against Stone Bridge in the opening round on May 27, setting up quarterfinal contest against Oakton. The Wolverines overcame a two-run deficit and led 3-2 entering the fifth inning, but failed to finish off the Cougars.
West Potomac's season ended on May 30 with a 5-3 loss to Oakton at Falls Church High School. The teams were tied 3-3 heading into the sixth inning before the Cougars scored a pair of runs to take control.
"They played their hearts out; they never quit," West Potomac head coach Craig Maniglia said. "They'll try, they'll scrap, they'll do whatever it takes to stay in the game."
Oakton scored a pair of unearned runs in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead. West Potomac responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half on an RBI double by Sammy Clifford and a run-scoring groundout by Kaitlyn Kincannon.
Clifford doubled to deep left field after falling behind in the count.
"That was an awesome hit," Craig Maniglia said.
A sacrifice fly by Jasmine Picini gave West Potomac a 3-2 lead in the third inning, but the Wolverines failed to score for the remainder of the game.
Leadoff batter Danielle McHugh followed a 5-for-5 performance against Stone Bridge with a 3-for-4 effort against Oakton. After popping out in her first at bat on Monday, the junior right fielder singled in three consecutive plate appearances.
"She's had a hell of a second half of the season," Maniglia said. "She told me in the dugout today: 'Even if we lose, Coach, can we still practice every day?' The kid just loves the sport. I'm real proud of her and her efforts."
West Potomac struggled during the early part of the season but turned things around and played its best softball at the end of the year. The Wolverines will return pitcher Maniglia, right fielder McHugh, catcher Picini, first baseman Maggie Grady and designated player Clifford, among others.
"We started off really slow and I think that pretty much helped us," McHugh said. "Once we got over that, it was like, 'No one can touch us now.' That helped a lot. I'm kind of glad for that — the struggle in the beginning — because it only made us stronger. ...
"[Advancing to the regional quarterfinals] can make us, obviously, realize that we can accomplish that and get this far. I think next year we'll come out even stronger. We just came up a little short today."