BOWIE – Isabella Duron thought the third time was a charm but did not want to jinx it.
Two times during the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) softball playoffs has the Bowie High School third baseman fired hits to deep center field that would be called ground rule doubles instead of home runs.
To the umpires, without a wall in center field, the only marker for home runs was steps leading towards one of the school’s parking lots. On May 16, Duron crushed another hit to center field. She thought of slowing down at second base until the Bowie coaching staff singnaled her to run to home plate.
“I got underneath the ball a little bit more today,” Duron said. “I really thought I had to go back (to second base); I kept looking, and I thought they were going to call me back.”
“Had there been a 200-foot fence out there, it would have been a home run,” Head Coach Luanne Smith said. “She has been stroking the ball really well this year, and I’ve been very happy with her performance at both third base and at the plate. She’s been a team leader this year; she’s really stepped up and picked up her game this year.”
Duron’s booming solo home run was symbolic of Bowie’s overall play during the 4A South regional final. Alongside an excellent team hitting performance, freshman Taylor Ivey threw nine strikeouts to keep Bowie’s perfect season going as they defeated High Point 13-1 in five innings to earn a berth to the state semifinals.
Thursday’s win was the culmination of a “drama-free season” for the Lady Bulldogs (18-0), according to Smith. Bowie’s healthy mix of senior leaders and young emerging talent like Ivey bought in a team-winning mentally over personal success the fifth-year coach said.
“Everybody clicks,” Duron said. “There is no drama; it’s a team effort, and everyone gets along. Everyone puts their heart in every game.”
Bowie opened the game with Duron connecting with her first of three hits, an RBI double with the bases loaded, into right field to drive in their first two runs. The Lady Bulldogs would add one more run to be up by three at the end of the first inning.
During their at-bats against Ivey, High Point hitters were looking to replicate their success from their regular season encounter against Bowie. The Lady Eagles scored eight runs, the most by any Bowie opponent this season, but were unable to capitalize, falling 14-8 on March 26.
This time, the Bowie freshman mowed through batters with great ease, surrendering only two hits and two walks in her winning performance.
After Duron’s home run in the bottom of the third, Bowie continued to pile on more runs. With a five-run deficit to overcome heading into the fourth inning, High Point senior pitcher Kylene Hernandez attempted but could not stop Bowie’s hitting offense.
Second baseman Abry Anna Henderson, catcher Gabi Popol and left fielder Katelyn Radnetter connected with three consecutive RBI singles with the bases loaded to drive in three Bowie runs. Two batters later, right fielder Shaundria Jones’ RBI double to right field added two more runs to the scoreboard, putting Bowie’s advantage into the double-digits.
Hernandez pitched the whole game despite a line drive ball hitting her pitching hand in the fourth inning. She walked her eighth batter during another bases-loaded situation to surrender another run before Henderson’s infield single added another Bowie score. A wild throw for a pickoff attempt at home plate allowed the Lady Bulldogs’ 13th run to score, putting the game under mercy rule conditions.
“(Bowie’s offense) encouraged me more to hit and to keep runs coming in,” Ivey said. “I never want to let off in the runs; I just want to keep generating more, like my teammates are doing, and to contribute more runs for my team.”
Senior Joseline Ramirez would take advantage of being walked during the top of the fifth inning by stealing second and third base before rounding home after a wild pitch by Ivey to score High Point’s only run of the game. Despite losing eight seniors next season, High Point Head Coach David Cook said he believes that the team is set up for more success in the future.
Bowie will take on Sherwood on May 21 at 7 p.m. in the Bachman Sporting Complex in Glen Burnie. Smith, who teared up during the plaque presentation, said she was proud that this Bowie squad ended the school’s five-year drought without a regional softball title and they will field a competitive team that can win the next round.
“I’ve been the state tournament representative for Prince George’s County for 14 years and to be able to present this to my own kids on our own field means a lot,” Smith said. “They worked hard… The kids were hitting the ball today, so I am going to give them all the credit.”