By Matthew Peaslee
It wasn’t improbable, yet it wasn’t necessarily expected.
Another state title.
It’s history. It’s a repeat. It’s Champion.
After a victory over Baltimore Liberty Union in 2011, the Golden Flashes made an encore return to Firestone Stadium with a 2-0 shutout of Bloom-Carroll in the Division III state softball championship on Saturday. It’s the fifth title in school history.
“I couldn’t think of a word to describe it,” said Champion coach Cheryl Weaver. “If any group of girls deserved it — it was this group.”
For three seniors, it was the game of a lifetime.
“It’s definitely the perfect way,” Alison Sorber, who had a RBI single in her final game, said. “It’s something everyone dreams about in your senior year and it’s nice to go out with a good game.”
Fellow senior Haley McAllister knocked two hits.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “We’ve been friends forever and we’ve played for years. It just feels good to go out as a senior class, winning a championship.”
But it was senior pitcher Lindsay Swipas who was on the brink of a milestone.
She struck out nine batters entering the seventh inning and retired the last 12 batters she faced. One other thing — she hadn’t allowed a hit.
“She was fabulous,” Weaver said.
To lead off the bottom of the seventh, though, Bloom-Carroll’s Paige Reis ripped a shot down the right field line and ended up on third base after a fielding error.
“I wasn’t expecting a no-hitter anyway,” Swipas said. “So it was all right.”
Swipas finished with 10 strikeouts and after the lone hit, she set down the next three batters, ending it and securing the title with a pop out to catcher Sierra Blackson. Ending her career, Swipas is the school’s leader in strikeouts and shutouts.
“[The no-hitter] was all in the back of our minds,” McAllister said. “She had a good game, she pitched well and we were all there for her to get the outs and help her out.”
What the Bulldogs (29-4) put in play weren’t threatening line drives or deep fly balls. They were mainly weak pop ups or softly hit ground balls.
“We didn’t know what she was going to throw next,” Bloom-Carroll’s freshman sensation Taran Alvelo said. “We knew she was going to come with that rise pitch. We were just so worried about trying to make contact, we were just pressuring.”
Alvelo, the pitcher who is already committed to the University of Washington, surrendered six hits, with one coming in every inning except the first. It was the first time all season she was knocked around like that.
“They hit us pretty well,” said Bulldogs coach Choc Woods. “They obviously scouted us well and they must have turned the [pitching] machine up pretty good. They didn’t swing at bad pitches. They made her bring the ball down to them. They had very good eyes and when you bring it down there, they’ll get hit once in a while.”
The Golden Flashes (24-3) faced a power pitcher in Montana Wear in the semifinal against Felicity-Franklin on Thursday. That preparation, plus, yeah, a little extra speed on the maching had them timed up for Alvelo.
“We knew she was fast,” McAllister said. “We really focused on getting to the ball and picking our best pitch. She threw a lot that people would chase. But we just stayed focused and hit our pitch.”
Champion and Bloom-Carroll faced each other in the final in 2006, with the Bulldogs winning 2-0. Weaver was still the head coach and Woods was an assistant.
“It was nice to come back and get a little revenge,” Weaver said. “It was nice to give each other a hug but I was glad we were on the happy end of the stick. Because I know what it feels like on the other end.”
And being on the winning end is something to always cherish.
“They’re going to remember this. It’s something they can tell their kids … a long time from now.”