In four meetings with Lake Braddock this season, the South County softball team had scored just one run in 36 2/3 innings against Bruins pitcher Ashley Flesch when sophomore shortstop Jade Williams stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of Friday’s 6A North region championship game.
The Stallions had hit the ball well on this day, but had nothing to show for it. Now, with a runner in scoring position and two outs in a scoreless tie, Williams had an opportunity to break through.
“I knew we were due because we had been hitting the ball hard,” Williams said. “We had been getting progressively better every game and I knew, some time, it was going to drop in.”
For Williams and the Stallions, that time was now.
Williams ripped a run-scoring double down the third-base line, designated player Mollie Maglich followed with an RBI double and South County captured its first region championship since 2009 with a 2-1, eight-inning victory at Lake Braddock Secondary School.
Williams was 1-for-2 with a single, walk, and a strikeout prior to her eighth-inning at-bat. Her RBI double broke a 23 2/3-inning scoreless streak against the Bruins.
“We all wanted it really bad --- I think we wanted it more than them,” Williams said. “I just wanted to hit the ball hard. I was confident and I really wanted to win.”
With the teams locked in a scoreless tie, South County third baseman Caitlin Maglich led off the eighth inning with a single. First baseman Riley Wilkinson bunted Maglich into scoring position, and after a strikeout, Williams and Mollie Maglich followed with back-to-back RBI doubles, giving the Stallions a 2-0 lead. Left fielder Courtney Ward followed with a single, but Mollie Maglich was thrown out at home plate.
Lake Braddock scored a run in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly off the bat of left fielder Danielle Newman. The Bruins had the tying run at third base with two outs, but South County pitcher Rebecca Martin got Lake Braddock's Emma Rakowski to pop out to second base to end the game.
South County won the first meeting between the teams, 1-0 in 13 innings on April 24. Flesch struck out 19 and did not allow a hit until Martin’s walk-off double in the 13th. Lake Braddock won the regular-season rematch, 4-0, on May 12, and defeated the Stallions 1-0 in nine innings in the Conference 7 championship game on May 23.
“We hung in there, kept battling [and] finally strung a couple hits together at the end there,” South County head coach Gary Dillow said. “That second run obviously ended up being huge, too, because you know they’re just going to battle back.
“… We’ve progressively gotten better each time we’ve seen [Flesch]. I think it’s just a matter of seeing her enough. We played 29 innings against her coming into today and we got eight more. It’s just a matter of familiarity, I guess. … We talked about progressively getting better and I think we got just a little better today and it was enough.”
Williams went 2-for-3 at the plate. Martin and second baseman Cara Yates each went 2-for-4. Caitlin Maglich, catcher Haylea Geer, Mollie Maglich, and Ward each had one hit.
While South County finally scored some runs, Martin took care of business in the circle. The senior right-hander tossed a complete game, allowing one unearned run and seven hits in eight innings. She walked two and struck out two.
“As they’re getting more used to me, more successful against me, I’m kind of getting used to pitching to them and learning where their weak spots are,” Martin said. “I know if I should throw it inside or outside, or high or low, or what pitch to throw.”
Martin, the 6A North region tournament MVP, threw 99 pitches, including 67 strikes. She threw a first-pitch strike to 26 of 35 batters faced.
“Rebecca usually throws a lot of first-pitch strikes and they were attacking a lot of first-pitch strikes,” Dillow said. “We were fortunate enough to get them to … pop some pitches up early, so it helped keep her pitch count down and I think it helped because she’s pitched a lot in the last week, and I know Ashley has too.”
Flesch, an all-region selection, suffered the loss, allowing two runs and 10 hits in eight innings. She walked two and struck out seven. She threw 126 pitches, including 89 strikes.
Lake Braddock second baseman Katherine Plescow went 3-for-4. Flesch, catcher Caroline Jones, center fielder Jenna Edwards, and shortstop Amanda Patterson each had one hit.
Lake Braddock will host 6A South region champion Cosby in the state semifinals at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 13 at Robinson Secondary School. South County will host 6A South runner-up First Colonial at 7 p.m.