Coming off a highly contested 5-3 win against the number two seed Howard Lions (19-6), local girls varsity softball powerhouse Sherwood Warriors (17-1) extended their winning streak to 15 games against fellow number one seed, the Dulaney Lions (19-3) of Baltimore County, securing the regional championship with a final score of 2-1.
The contest was a pitcher’s duel, with Sherwood senior Amanda Berkley meeting her match against Dulaney junior Akirra Pullen. Both pitchers toyed with the other team’s offense, and base runners were hard to come by.
In the first inning, Sherwood came close to gaining an early lead, when freshman infielder, Hannah St Laurent, hit a single; she then took advantage of a long at-bat by first baseman Faith Hanrahan to earn two quick base steals. By the inning’s end, Sherwood was unable to bring home the runner in scoring position. Afterward, the two teams were neck-and-neck until Dulaney took advantage of a Sherwood error to gain a run in the third inning.
Both pitchers hunkered down, for the next three innings, and play was dominated by strikeouts and groundouts. The stadium grew silent as the Sherwood team quieted down, demoralized by the run, and frustrated by their lack of success against Dulaney’s hard-throwing Pullen. Sherwood fans started to encourage the home team with yells and cheers.
In the sixth inning, everything came together for Sherwood, starting with Hanrahan being walked, followed by a double from catcher Britany Mathis. These two runners in scoring position became a shot in the arm for the previously struggling Warriors, with crowd and team perking up. With the table set, freshman Hannah Bowers hit a two-RBI double. The crowd went berserk, and players shook the fence noisily, as Hanrahan and Mathis crossed home plate.
Bowers said that the game-winning RBIs, “Felt really good. I haven’t done that in a while”.
Pitcher Berkley ended the game with three straight outs in order to seal the victory for the Warriors, marking the team's 15th straight win. For Sherwood head coach Ashley Barber-Strunk, it was her fourth regional title in as many years. Berkley allowed just one hit, a remarkable feat for a playoff game, made more astonishing due to how she didn’t pitch for Sherwood until her senior year. Her 2017 record has been incredible with over 120 strikeouts in 17 games; she says the secret to her success is her ability to “change the speed of the pitch, as it helps throw the other team off balance.”
Next year, Berkley and her strong arm are going to Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg.
For Barber-Strunk, this playoff series has been bittersweet, as the five seniors she mentored for their high school careers are moving on. Of these players, she said, “They mean everything. These guys are so different individually... when you’re spending two plus hours a day every single day almost all year long, you develop a relationship that’s hard to say goodbye to. Hopefully, we still have another week or two together.”
For the state semi-finals, Sherwood plays Anne Arundel at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 23, on Field 1 at Bachman Softball Park in Glen Burnie.
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