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    Leonardtown softball takes state title

    By Ted Black,

    27 days ago

    In the week leading up to the Maryland 4A state softball championship game Saturday afternoon at the University of Maryland, the Leonardtown High School softball team had become accustomed to playing in dramatic contests that were invariably decided in the final at-bat.

    But on May 25 in their state title clash with previously undefeated Eleanor Roosevelt High of Prince George’s County, much of the suspense and drama was erased less than an hour into the contest as Leonardtown scored twice in the first, once more in the second then eight times in the third en route to a 14-0, five-inning triumph.

    Leonardtown (17-8) sophomore Vanessa Brooks led off the game with a solo home, added a sacrifice fly and a two-run homer later and junior pitcher Claire Radford delivered a flawless performance, fanning 11 foes in a five-inning perfect game. Roosevelt (20-1) not only was unable to produce a single base runner against Radford, it did not hit one ball beyond the infield.

    “Once we scored two runs in the top of the first inning it was a big relief for me going out there,” said Radford, who threw strikes on 41 of 57 pitches. “It allowed me a chance to just relax and focus on throwing my pitches. I thought my riseball was really good today. They were chasing that most of the game.”

    Leonardtown led 2-0 at the end of the first inning and 3-0 after two, then broke the game open by scoring eight times in the top of the third. Ashley Watson got things started with a two-run homer then Kaylee Webb, the only senior on the roster, drove in a run with a double, Brooks plated another run with a sacrifice fly and Tessa Gray and Lindsay Hunter both added run-scoring singles.

    Three days after rallying from a 6-3 deficit heading into the seventh inning for a 12-6 victory over Walter Johnson in the 4A State semifinals, Leonardtown never had a moment’s worry on Saturday as Radford struck out the side in the first, added two more strikeouts in each of the next four frames, including the last batter of the contest.

    Brooks capped a perfect day at the plate when she belted a two-run homer in the top of the fourth then Leonardtown capped the scoring in unconventional fashion when Gray tagged and scored on a pop-up to first by Hunter.

    “That first time up I was just looking for something low and outside to drive,” Brooks said of her solo homer to start the game. “When I hit it I knew it was gone. That last time up, same thing. I was still looking for something low and outside and I just got a hold of it.”

    Leonardtown had flown below the radar during the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference league slate, yielding the spotlight to Chopticon, Northern, Huntingtown and Calvert. But the Raiders’ youth actually proved beneficial in the postseason and looms ominous for next spring, with eight of the nine starters returning including juniors Radford, Gray, Hunter and Sarah Fortescue and sophomores Brooks and Kendall Wathen.

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