(May 24, 2019) The Stephen Decatur softball team had a successful season but, unfortunately, it ended sooner than the players and coaching staff would have liked.
Decatur, the No. 2 seed in the 3A East Region Section II, hosted the third-seeded Northeast Eagles of Anne Arundel last Tuesday in Berlin.
Northeast scored two runs in the first, two in the third and four in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead.
Decatur got on the board with one run in the fifth.
The Eagles tacked on three additional runs in the seventh to pull ahead 11-1. The Seahawks didn’t give up, as their bats made contact in the bottom of the inning.
They scored four runs, not enough for a come-from-behind victory.
“I was glad to end that way [putting runs on the board] as opposed to the first six innings. It just took us awhile to find our rhythm,” Decatur Coach Scott Kurtz said after the 11-5 loss. “We battled. We always do. Just the hole we dug early made it tough.
“We couldn’t string it together at the plate to stay in it,” he continued. “Late in the game we finally saw hit after hit, but it was too little too late.”
Junior Sierra Eisemann had two hits and three RBIs for Decatur. Junior Amber Whittaker had two hits and two RBIs. Senior captain Alexis Black also had two hits.
In six and one-third innings, Black struck out five, walked two and allowed 10 hits on the mound.
“Our seniors, this is the last time they walk off the field as a Decatur softball player and that’s an emotional moment, period,” Kurtz said. “I told them of the 20 games we played, I walked off the field proud after probably 18 of those 20.”
Decatur finished the season with a 15-5 record.
Kurtz said even though the team didn’t win 18 games, there were three losses the girls did everything could have done.
“The other team just found the grass and landed them out there a little more than we did in those games. Obviously in the 15 wins we did everything we needed to do,” he said. “I said, ‘there were two times we took the field where you could tell the mental preparation as a team wasn’t there.’ Unfortunately, that Easton game late in the season and today [against Northeast], and I said, ‘you’ve got to learn from that.’”
The team will graduate three players – Black, starting catcher, co-captain Alex Richwalski, and Nevaeh Steward.
“We’re losing our pitcher and catcher, our heart and soul, and Nevaeh, who was a team player even though she didn’t get a lot of playing time,” Kurtz said. “What Lexi Black does on the field is so impressive and what Alex Richwalski does behind the mask and behind the scenes, it’s incredible.”
The players will have big shoes to fill with the departure of Black and Richwalski, Kurtz said.
“The talent is there. We need some leaders to step up. We’re a young team and there’s some growing up that needs to take place,” he said. “When you look at that starting nine, we got two open spots. If those girls that were on the field all year put in the work to improve and get better there’s no reason they don’t reclaim their spots. If we’ve got some hungry girls looking to come up here and join in the fun, I’m looking forward to the future. The talent is there and it’s going to be interesting to see what roles the girls fall into. ”
Black and Whittaker received Bayside South Conference First Team accolades. Eisemann and sophomore Brooklyn Pugner earned Second Team honors.
Richwalski and freshman Skylar Griffin were presented honorable mention awards.
Kurtz gave team awards to: Black (MVP), Richwalski (Unsung Hero), Whittaker (Best Attitude), Pugner (Sportsmanship), Eisemann (Most Versatile Player) and sophomore Katie Wrench (Coaches Award).
In his first season leading the team, Kurtz was named Bayside South Coach of the Year.
“It is very humbling. The girls exceeded all expectations,” he said. “We set team goals and just kept checking them off. I learned a lot early on in the season and some bumps in the road helped me learn quickly what my players needed from me to succeed.”
Kurtz said he truly believe in building up people and allowing them to lead and flourish.
“My assistant coaches, senior captains and other players found their way to make positive impacts on our team and season in their own ways,” he said. “I just tried to foster that positive atmosphere. Now, the bar has been set and we need to work very hard to reach that bar next year and hopefully surpass it.”
One of the big accomplishments this season was winning a Bayside Conference championship. It was the fourth time in the program’s history the team captured the title. The last year the team won the championship was in 2000, which was before any of the current players were born. The Seahawks also took home the award in 1991 and 1998.
“What a special group. We did something that was so special, it hadn’t been done in a long time, in their lifetimes,” he said. “I was so thankful to be a part of it. Any small role I played in helping them get there I’m proud of it.
“I’m blessed. I hope I can sustain the success we had and find a way to continue it, because it’s fun,” he added.