Well, it finally happened: The Montgomery Blair and Northwest high school softball teams finally played their highly anticipated season opening matchup originally scheduled for March 21. After two straight losses to the defending Class 4A state semifinalist Jaguars — by a run in extra innings a year ago and in the 2012 playoffs — the Blazers edged Northwest, 2-0, Thursday in what has become one of the county’s most exciting rivalries.
Blair remains undefeated at 5-0. Northwest is 2-2 after Saturday’s loss to two-time defending 4A state champion Sherwood in a rematch of last year’s state semifinal.
“It’s become a pretty good rivalry for both of us and a game we were looking forward to,” Blair coach Louie Hoelman said. “It was a really good early test for both teams.”
Surprisingly Thursday’s game was not dominated by the pitchers, as might be expected given the game featured two of the county’s best. Though Blair’s Annie Pietanza struck out six and gave up only three hits — Northwest’s Bridgette Barbour only gave up six hits — Thursday’s contest was more about defense that far exceeded Hoelman’s expectations, he said.
Blair’s defense, which executed two double plays, was in playoff form, Hoelman said, which he added was quite surprising given teams’ limited practice on actual softball fields.
“We made plays that you make late in the season, if you’re lucky,” Hoelman said. “We had only been on our field two times, I was really surprised at the playmaking. We were making plays on things we hadn’t worked on. The girls were making plays I haven’t seen them make yet this season. I honestly feel like this was one of the best defensive games we’ve ever played since I’ve been coaching.”
The game was closely contested the entire way, Hoelman and Northwest coach Kevin Corpuz agreed. Blair took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning off hits from Andrea Brown, Pietanza and Michelle McGhee. The Blazers added the insurance run in the top of the seventh inning off a Northwest error, a hit by Camilla Arias and a sacrifice fly from Maria Cruz.
“[Northwest] not getting a lot of runs was not a product of them not hitting the ball well, I think we just played really good defense,” Hoelman said. “Throughout the game both teams hit the ball well off two good pitchers. It was low scoring but not pitcher dominated. It was two good teams slugging it out in a good early season rivalry.”
One of the best pitchers to come out of the Washington, D.C. area, Germantown native Tori Finucane has taken the Southeastern Conference by storm as a freshman hurler for the No. 8 (ESPN.com/USA Softball) University of Missouri women’s softball team this spring.
The right hander was named SEC Pitcher of the Week for the first time Monday after pitching two complete games in as many days to help the Tigers win their series against Mississippi State last week. Finucane struck out a career-best 12 batters while giving up only two hits in a 6-0 win Friday. After the Tigers lost the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, Finucane struck out four in an 8-1 victory. Friday’s complete game shutout was Finucane’s fourth of the spring.
The two-time defending state champion Sherwood High School softball team picked up its 47th consecutive win, 10-2 over Northwest, in a rematch of last year’s Class 4A state semifinal. The Warriors (5-0) have scored 10 or more runs in four of their first five games of the season and have outscored their opponents 55-2. While Saturday was Sherwood’s first non-shutout of the year, senior pitcher Meggie Dejter and junior shortstop Nicole Stockinger agreed the only pressure the Warriors feel to keep their win streak alive comes from within the team itself. Dejter finished with nine strikeouts in the four-hitter.
How they rank
1. Sherwood (5-0)
2. Montgomery Blair (5-0)
3. Col. Zadok Magruder (6-0)
4. James H. Blake (5-0)
5. Clarksburg (3-1)