GERMANTOWN — The last six Maryland 4A softball state championships have gone to either the Northwest Jaguars or Sherwood Warriors. Sherwood brought a streak of five straight state titles into last year’s state championship game, but ultimately fell to Northwest.
In the final game of the regular season, the two 2017 state finalists met for the first time since the state championship game, but this time it was the Warriors that came out on top.
Behind strong pitching and early offense, Sherwood clinched an undefeated regular season as they held on to get payback over Northwest, winning 5-3.
“Obviously this was a big game,” Sherwood head coach Ashley Barber-Strunk said. “But we tried to focus as if it was just another game.”
In the top of the first inning, Sherwood didn’t take long to jump ahead. The Warriors loaded the bases for sophomore Christi Mathis, who hit a double to center field. Mathis’ double scored two, and put Sherwood ahead 2-0.
With a lead in hand, sophomore Sam Combs took the ball, and cruised through a strong Northwest lineup. Combs only needed four batters to retire the Jaguars side in five of the first six innings.
“Today was probably her best performance all season,” Barber-Strunk said of Combs. “Maybe it was the competition, maybe it was the buildup of the game that forced her to do what we’ve really be focusing on, hitting her spots. I think today that’s where she finally stepped up.”
Combs also got help from her defense, which completed a number of great plays snagging hard-hit balls; Combs made two outstanding defensive plays herself.
“We had some phenomenal plays; we had some double plays. We were on top of our defense.”
In the fifth inning, the Warriors doubled their lead to 4-0, as both Kayley Bina and Mathis had RBI singles. Sherwood tacked on another in the sixth off the bat of Maddie Wessling.
Northwest did fight back in the bottom of the seventh with a three-run home run by Karlie Stanford, but it was too little, too late. The Warriors held off the late Northwest rally to win 5-3.
The win improved Sherwood’s record to 16-0, while the loss dropped Northwest to 14-2.
The Sherwood victory was led by its eight sophomores, as every key contributor in this win is in the class of 2020. After capping off an undefeated regular season, the Warriors’ combination of experienced juniors, sophomores and freshmen will look to bring them back to the top.
“In playoffs, it’s just one game at a time,” Barber-Strunk said. “During the season you can have bad games you can have hiccups, but come playoffs it’s time to put everything together because if you lose, you’re not getting a second chance.”