Northwest Softball Wins First State Championship
Northwest's softball team entered 2017 in the same spot as all softball teams in the MPSSAA 4A classification- trying to catch up to Sherwood.
The Warriors have been the gold standard of softball in Maryland, winning state championships from 2012-2016. In addition to the state championship streak, Sherwood entered the season with another impressive run going on- a winning streak of over 100 games.
Despite having a clearly dominant team to contend with, Northwest's head coach Mike Horton still thought his team had a good chance to win a state title. The team's belief in itself skyrocketed after just its third game of the season on March 25 when the Jaguars beat Sherwood 9-5, ending the Warriors' win streak at 105 games.
"It showed us how we prepared for a big game against a very good opponent and where our strengths and weaknesses were. The win against Sherwood really kind of set the tone for the rest of the year," Horton said. "Knowing full well the road to the states was probably through them, it was at that point that we really believed we could do this."
That belief sparked a run that ended in championship glory for the Jaguars, who won the 4A state title this past Saturday by beating Sherwood again, this time 8-4.
"I attribute a lot the success of this year's team which started with the winter conditioning workouts, where the younger and veteran players really started to bond. The unity of the team was key," Horton said. "It allowed them to continually push themselves to perform better because they were invested in supporting each other."
After topping Sherwood in the regular season, Northwest took a step back by losing to Quince Orchard. That loss would prove to be a rarity though, as the Jaguars won all but its remaining regular season contests to earn the two seed behind Quince Orchard in its section of the MPSSAA 4A West region.
Getting out of the region would prove to be tricky for Northwest. After back to back 14-0 victories against Kennedy and Wootton, the Jaguars eked out a 6-5 win against Clarksburg to win their section. From there, Northwest had to win an offensive battle against Blair that stretched over two days after a massive storm in the middle of the game. The Jaguars eventually won the game 14-11.
"The way the playoffs unfolded really helped us become an even better team, showing our resilience and fight no matter what the circumstances were," Horton said. "These close games showed us what playoff softball is all about. It also gave us confidence that we could come back despite being down a couple of runs."
Northwest stormed past Eleanor Roosevelt in the state semifinal round, setting up a second match-up with Sherwood, which had not lost since its early season encounter with the Jaguars.
What followed was a total team effort, with Horton saying the Jaguars' unity that gave Northwest the composure to handle playing in such a big game. Junior left fielder Kaylan King made several outstanding defensive plays in leftfield, while senior center fielder Alexis Mack had a superb double play throw out at home. Joining King and Mack was senior catcher Alexa Bowen who made the tag out at home and also picked up a couple of hits and an RBI.
Freshman pitcher Amber Yuille conceded two runs in the first inning, but settled down and contained Sherwood to just two more runs the rest of the way. Sophomore DP Alex Karimihas came through with two clutch doubles, which resulted in two RBI's. Freshman third basemen Megan Ridenour also finished with two RBI's and junior shortstop Karlie Stanford went two for three.
When the final out was recorded, pandemonium ensued on Northwest's side. The excitement has carried over to this week, as the Jaguars have enjoyed their first few days of being state champions.
"As for the final moment, it was relief that we accomplished what we set out to do early on. To be honest the whole thing has been kind of a blur and it really hasn't sunk in yet," Horton said. "The school and community are extremely excited and have been very supportive throughout."
|June 1st, 2017||By: Wick Eisenberg|