After an incredible 17-1 regular season and a first-round state tournament victory, the St. Georges softball team ran into a wall in the form of Caravel Academy on Tuesday.
The tournament's top seed, Caravel was led on offense and defense by pitcher Carolyn Szymanski, who struck out 11 on the mound while knocking in four runs at the plate in the 9-1 quarterfinal win.
St. Georges started the game on the right foot, as Nicole Musser led off with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Haley Powers, but Musser was stranded at second.
Caravel scored two runs in the bottom of the first after some shaky play by the Hawks. The lead-off batter was hit by a pitch. The next batter was safe at first with an infield hit, a slow grounder. Then a walk loaded the bases. The next batter, Szymanski, stroked a single to center field to score two runs.
Then the Hawks settled down, and pitcher Gabrielle Clark struck out the next three batters.
St. Georges put pressure on the Bucs again in the top of the second, loading the bases on a walk by Caitlyn Lloyd, a single to center by Alexis Baughman, and a two-out walk by Gabrielle Edwards. But the Hawks couldn't score as their at-bat ended with a strikeout.
Caravel added a run in the bottom of the third on a walk and a double to deep left field to make the score 3-0.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, Caravel rallied for four more. The first run was scored after a bunt single, a single to right, and a throwing error. The next run scored on a throwing error on another bunt. Then with a runner on, Szymanski blasted a home run over the center field fence to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Caravel loaded the bases with a single to left, a bunt that went over the head of the charging third baseman, and another bunt single. The next batter hit a fly ball to left that was caught by St. Georges left fielder Katelyn Sterling. She made great throw to catcher Caitlyn Lloyd as the runner tagged up to try to score. Lloyd applied the tag, but the runner was called safe on a close play.
St. Georges got on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. Haley Powers bunted for a single. Sarah Coyne hit a grounder and was safe on a throwing error, as both runners advanced to second and third. Emilee Thursby hit a grounder and was thrown out at first, but Powers raced home from third to make the score 8-1. The rally was snuffed out, though, after two strikeouts.
The Bucs added a run in the top of the sixth on a single and run-scoring double down the left field line.
In the Hawks' final at-bat, Noelle Edwards was robbed when her hot grounder between shortstop and third base was snagged by the shortstop who fired to first for the out. After a strikeout, Musser walked as she had to start the game, but she was stranded there on a game-ending pop out to shortstop.
"Caravel is considered the best team in the state and has a long history of high quality softball with many state championships," said St. Georges coach Roger Seedorf. "Our girls looked forward to the challenge of playing the number-one team in the state, a highly talented pitcher, the best pitcher in the state, and an outstanding program such as Caravel's."
He said "there were certainly some nerves involved" as the team played in the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time against such a strong program, but the Hawks were also coming off two games against Polytech and Indian River in which "the team played outstanding softball."
"I think our team didn't relax as much as they usually do, and a great team like Caravel will capitalize on any mistakes, which they did against us," said Seedorf. "If you give Carolyn Szymanski a few runs, she is very tough to beat. Along with some mistakes, though, our team made some outstanding plays, battled at every opportunity, and never gave up, which is the culture our team lived by throughout the season."
Seedorf said he is very proud of his players, and that they will learn from this experience.
"I believe they proved they are among the top competitive teams in the state," he said. "This game will only make our team and program better in the future."
Now the only two teams that beat St. Georges will be playing each other in the semifinals of the tournament, as Polytech visits Caravel on Friday at 4 p.m.
ST. GEORGES ENDS SEASON 18-2
The Hawks end their year with an amazing 18-2 record. The team started the season 17-0 before losing in the last game of the regular season, 1-0, to Polytech. In the first round of the state tournament, the Hawks defeated Indian River 8-3, rallying for five runs in the ninth inning.
Coach Seedorf said the team had "a phenomenal year...our best season ever as a varsity program," and the program is only its fourth year.
The team won the Blue Hen Flight "B" Championship for the second straight season and made its first trip to the quarterfinal of the state tournament.
The Hawks aslo set team records for the number of players recognized for All-Conference honors (seven 1st team selections, two 2nd team selections, and one honorable mention) and All-State honors (four), and had three seniors who were selected to the annual Blue-Gold senior all-star game.
"Some of our keys to this success have been our players helping each other improve, always remaining positive, and a sense of team among our players," said Seedorf. "Our seniors did a tremendous job of leading the team and setting the example for the other players, and the parental/guardian support for this team has been outstanding."
He said the season has been a collaborative effort, and the success is "a tribute to everyone involved."