(May 19, 2023) Last year the Stephen Decatur softball team captured its first regional title since 1991, and now, the Lady Seahawks are back-to-back champions. But, it wasn’t easy.

It was a back-and-forth battle with the Crofton Cardinals, but the top-seeded Lady Seahawks prevailed, 4-3, in extra innings on Wednesday in Berlin.

“I don’t even know where to begin. That’s a heck of a team first of all. They won 12 in a row,” said Decatur Coach Scott Kurtz. “They put us in a position early that we really hadn’t been in much. We didn’t touch a ball until a foul ball in the third inning. We just couldn’t get a bat on the ball.

“We had to change up the strategy a bit and just try to get base runners anyway possible,” he continued. “We talked about bunting but then the way that they were crashing the bunts we recognized that we had to push bunt, which means just basically push it past the third and the first basemen into the gaps, and these girls executed almost to perfection exactly what I asked them to do.”

Third-seeded Crofton put one run on the board in the first inning. After three scoreless innings Decatur tallied two runs in the bottom of the fifth.

The Cardinals took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth. The Seahawks tied it up, 3-3, in the bottom of the inning when junior Kiara Taylor hit a solo home run.

Tied at three at the end of seven, the game went into extra innings.

The last player out for each team starts on second base. Neither was able to score in the eighth.

In the bottom of the ninth, sophomore Madison McGinnis’ bunt went over the Crofton pitcher’s head and sophomore Ava Snelsire was able to score from third base.

“We used those bunts to keep ourselves alive and then when we could have went down, Kiara Taylor hits a bomb to left field and ties it up,” Kurtz said. “That saved us. We’re not playing extras if she doesn’t do that. I just can’t get over the plays girls on both teams made in those last extra innings.”

Decatur tallied seven hits in the game.

McGinnis, Taylor and senior Sarah Smith had two hits and one RBI each. Freshman Madison Donoway had one hit.

McGinnis threw all nine innings. She struck out 10, walked two and gave up seven hits.

“They work their butts off, they play together, they’re doing it for each other and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Kurtz said.

Decatur advanced to the 3A South Region II championship game with a 10-0, five-inning victory over the fourth-seeded Arundel Wildcats on Monday in Berlin.

“They seem to bring out the best in us each year,” Kurtz said. “We knew from last year they were a high-quality team – strong lineup, good pitching – and they didn’t disappoint again this year.”

Decatur scored five in the second, one in the third, two in the fourth and two in the fifth.

“We’re definitely clicking at the right time,” Kurtz said.

McGinnis and sophomore Ryleigh Smith had three hits and one RBI each. Donoway and freshman Emily Blume chipped in with two hits and one RBI apiece.

McGinnis struck out three, walked one and gave up no hits in five innings.

“The girls made plays in the field, Maddy was putting her pitches in spots where they really couldn’t get solid contact … but from a coaching standpoint, watching the girls dive into the dirt, tracking fly balls, making clean plays to first, [there was] effort all over the place,” Kurtz said. “It’s all you can ask for when you get to this point in the season is that they’re giving it everything that they have.”

The eight regional champs were re-seeded by their regular-season record.

No. 3 Decatur will host No. 6 Manchester Valley today, Friday, at 4 p.m. for the 3A state quarterfinals.

“They’ve shown they can do a lot of different things,” Kurtz said. “Whatever it takes they’re willing to do and I just want to put them in the best position to be successful. This team is a special team.”

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