A plethora of factors have led to the Sherwood High School softball team's recent dominance, but one reason tops the list of intangibles and it's quite a simple concept: The Warriors always manage to make something happen when they need to the most.
Sherwood scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning of Saturday's 2-0 win over rival Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring, extending its win streak to 55 games, dating back to 2011. The Warriors are now 13-0 in 2014. Blair (15-2) happened to be the last team to beat Sherwood; the Blazers made their only state semifinal appearance that spring.
It appeared for a good portion of the game that Blair might be the team to end the streak, too. The Blazers generated more opportunities early in Saturday's game than the two-time defending state champion Warriors, but could not convert — of course Sherwood senior right-handed pitcher and Towson University recruit Meggie Dejter was largely to blame for that. Still, Blair couldn't get that one big hit, leaving the door open for Sherwood to do so. And, per usual, it did.
“[Saturday's game] really could've gone either way,” first-year Sherwood coach Ashley Barber-Strunk said. “The biggest thing I noticed was they had runners on in almost every inning but weren't able to capitalize.”
Taking on Sherwood and it's streak is quite a daunting task but longtime Blair coach Louie Hoelman said he was pleased with the attitude with which his players entered the game, truly believing they could win. And they certainly made that clear early.
Right out of the gates, Blair had runners on second and third base in the first inning but could not bring them home. Unfortunately for Blair, that set the tone for how the Blazers' afternoon would go. Blair stranded seven total runners — the Blazers stranded 11 in a 3-2 loss to James H. Blake earlier in the week.
Dejter struck out seven in a three-hitter. Blair pitcher Annie Pietanza struck out four and gave up only two hits to a typically more productive offense.
“We had opportunities early to get the big hit and you have to take advantage [of those situations] against anyone but especially a team like Sherwood,” Hoelman said. “I don't think [Sherwood] ever really felt comfortable. It's been a while since they've had a close game, I think they knew we were there to stay.”
They did, Barber-Strunk said. And that's what enabled them to turn up their intensity even more. The Warriors are rarely tested in Montgomery County and had perhaps started to become a little complacent. With playoffs scheduled to begin next week, Barber-Strunk said Saturday's game served as a bit of a wake-up call.
After Blair stranded another runner on third in the second inning, Sherwood found itself with runners on second and third base with one of its most powerful batters, Nicole Stockinger, at the plate. An intentional walk should have loaded the bases but a passed ball presented Sherwood junior Julie Swarr with an opportunity to get home. She hesitated for a split-second and Pietanza charged the plate in time to get the out and out of a dicey situation.
Swarr made up for that out later when her seventh-inning triple drove home both runs.
Mckenzie Bina led off the final inning with a hard ground ball to short stop. After two batters were retired, Dejter outrun a bad throw to first base off a bunt, setting Swarr up for the big hit.
“[Blair] was the last team to beat us before the streak so it would've been a huge win for them, but it was a huge win for us, too,” Barber-Strunk said. “I think [this close game] happened at a great time, right before playoffs.”
Sherwood 2, Montgomery Blair 0
Sherwood (13-0) 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 — 2
Blair (15-2) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
W — Meggie Dejter
L — Annie Pietanza