KENSINGTON — Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) softball powerhouse Bishop O’Connell High School is on its way to yet another conference title game after cruising to a comeback win, 9-2, over Elizabeth Seton High School in the semifinal at The Academy of the Holy Cross on May 4.
Throughout the game, O’Connell’s Maddy Bates showed why she was an all-WCAC first-team selection. The junior pitcher went 3-for-3 and recorded a double, three RBI and two home runs to help the Knights score nine unanswered runs. On the mound, she tossed all seven innings and yielded only two hits and a walk to go with eight strikeouts to culminate a near-perfect all-around performance.
Seton and O’Connell began playing on May 2, but had to stop in the bottom of the first due to lightning. The matchup resumed with O’Connell batting with two outs, a runner on base, and Seton leading 2-1.
Allison Hogue and Amelia Theobald scored a run apiece for the Roadrunners in the top of the first on May 2. Rebecca Dobson and Madison Greene also recorded a hit each. Emily Reagan scored the Knights’ lone run on May 2 to bring her team to within one. When the game picked up on May 4, Seton struggled at bat, going a combined 1-for-19 with no runs.
Bates said she was so hyped and ready for the continuation of semifinal matchup that she sat in front of her mirror the night before telling herself positive affirmations for 30 minutes, and even woke up before her alarm sounded on the morning of the game.
“After the lightning delay, I knew I had to shut it down. I knew I couldn’t allow anymore runs,” Bates said. “I knew the defense would be there for me so I just kept it rolling and I knew they’d have my back.”
The Roadrunners were in control to begin. The dynamic of the game changed completely beginning in the bottom of the second. Madison Gayle led with a line-drive single and wound up scoring off a fielding error to tie the game, then Skye Ferris ripped a fly ball triple to centerfield to bring to Sasa Groome in for the run, giving O’Connell the permanent lead.
After doubling to left-center in the bottom of the third, Bates ripped a solo homer to left field followed by RBIs by Groome Corinne Reusch, capping off a four-run fifth inning. Bates’ other homer, a two-run RBI, came on a fly ball to right field in the bottom of the sixth.
“I wanted to hit them so bad and she [Seton starter Theobald] pitched them right where I like them,” Bates said in reference to her two home runs.
Greene led the way offensively with two hits for the Roadrunners, who conclude their season with a 8-8-1 overall record. Seton Head Coach Rita Rahl said she felt the two-day layover had somewhat of a negative effect on the way her girls played.
“I actually thought that were in control on Thursday and that we had the momentum going on Thursday,” Rahl said. “This layover probably hurt us more than it helped us. I wish we would have gotten the game in on Thursday… We had some momentum going and just getting the win over Paul VI (on April 30), we had some momentum that was kind of fizzed out in these last two days.”
Rahl was optimistic of the way her team finished the season though things didn’t quite go their way against O’Connell, a three-time defending WCAC championship team.
“We knew they [O’Connell] were gonna score runs. The game plan was to hit better; we needed to hit a little bit better, score a little bit more runs against a team like that.”
Theobald, one of Seton’s premier players, allowed nine runs on 16 hits over six innings of work. The senior reflected on Seton’s season.
“I’m proud of how far we’ve come from the beginning of the season to now. Going into this game, I had high hopes, high energy,” said Theobald, a senior.
“And then we just had that inning, that one inning, and things kind of fell apart. But the energy was up still… and it’s just a matter of those little mistakes can really cost the game.”
O’Connell finished with 14 hits as they completed a three-game season sweep of Seton.
“The girls, all year, have just been relentless. They compete. As champions are, if they get punched in the face they respond,” said O’Connell first-year Head Coach Suzy Willemssen.
“We knew we were going to have to keep the pressure on every inning. They [Seton] are scrappy, they’re gritty, their coach is awesome and they weren’t going to let up, so we just had to keep applying the pressure.”
All season Bates has played a pivotal role for the Knights, Willemssen said.
“You look for players that can do it when the chips are on the line, and she just comes through. So that’s why every time she’s up to the plate you’re just waiting to see some fireworks,” Willemssen said of Bates.
“I’m so happy for her because she’s worked so hard this year. And she was dealin’ on the mound, man. She was dealin’.”
O’Connell will go for its fourth straight WCAC softball title while St. Mary’s will go for its first title since last winning it in 2015 when the two square off at The Academy of the Holy Cross on May 6.