Three teams in three age groups in the Churchville Lightning girl's softball organization captured state championships at the recent USSSA MD State Championships.
"The Churchville Lightning is one of the best all around programs in the state. In fact, from top to bottom I'd be hard pressed to name a better one in 2012. If there are, it's a very short list," USSSA State Director Bill Dowell commented after the event.
16U defends state title
In 16U action, the Lightning's 16U squad successfully defended its 16U Class A State Championship from 2011 by beating the Olney Cougars in the finals. The Lightning lost to the Cougars earlier in the double elimination event by a 2-1 score and had to battle back through the loser's bracket to face the Cougars again. But more importantly, the Lightning had to beat the Cougars twice to defend their 2011 state championship. The Lady Bolts were trailing 3-2 coming to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning and faced elimination. Showing the heart and determination that makes her a champion, Lightning second baseman Mackenzie Fitzgerald blasted a two-out, two-strike, walk-off three-run home run to give the Lightning an emotional and improbable 5-3 victory to force the "if needed" championship final game. The Lightning carried their emotional high from their dramatic come-from-behind victory over to the deciding game and won 4-2.
Kirsten Barstad pitched a gutsy championship final and got the win despite pitching with a sore forearm, and Rayn Gibson escaped a bases loaded jam in the final frame to garner the save. Jenna Fiamingo, Darien Exter, Amanda Roberts and Jen Schofield put together a string of hits in the third inning to provide the Lightning with an early 3-0 lead and Molly Staley blasted a solo home run to provide the team's final run in the championship game. Every starter made major contributions in the championship - Taylor Hensley made a great play at shortstop to start an inning-ending and rally-killing double play with top runners and Sarah North used her strong arm to prevent a runner from scoring on a base hit to centerfield. Teanna Webb and Abbey Carnivale are also valuable members of this championship squad.
Impressively, for seven members of this team - Fiamingo, Schofield, Roberts, Exter, Fitzgerald, Barstad, and Staley - this victory was their third straight year claiming a state championship as this group also won the 14U state title in 2010 - a three-repeat!
14U breakthrough performance
The 14U bracket saw the Lightning program come out on top again. The Lightning 14U squad swept through the double elimination bracket in Class A, winning four straight games to take home championship honors. The victory was especially gratifying for this group as most of the team's members had come up just short in recent seasons, most players finishing state runner-up on three straight occasions over the past three years. But this team battled and persevered to get over its final hurdle and this year won not only the USSSA state title but also the ASA state title, showing their dominance over the 14U ranks. The ASA title was a complete team effort, as the team rode solid pitching from Alexis Lyttle and Hailey Horton, incredible defense from Kaylee Hahn, as well as a slew of offense from those players and others such as Jennifer January,
The USSSA title was won using a slightly different formula: pitching, defense and clutch hitting. Lyttle was dominant in the circle for the first three games, allowing just four runs as the Lightning advanced to the championship game. January delivered clutch hits in all three games, including a game-winning home run as the Lightning knocked off the Catonsville Chaos, 3-2, to advance to the winner's bracket final. January's two-run single, followed by another two-run single from Heinze, broke open a close game with the Maryland Stars to move Churchville just one win away from a second state title in three weeks.
In the final, Horton was throwing a masterpiece, but the rematch with Stars was still scoreless through three. Lewis then got things started with a bunt hit, and Horton followed with a bunt moving her to second. January came through again, with a ground ball through the hole at short to score Lewis and give the Lightning a 1-0 lead, which held up until the sixth. The stout Churchville defense finally showed a small crack, and the Stars took advantage to tie the score. The Lightning did not take long to respond, though, as Lewis and Horton struck again. Lewis stroked a hard ground ball over the first base bag past a diving right fielder for a lead off triple. Horton then ripped a 1-0 pitch to deep left, scoring Lewis easily with the go ahead run. Three outs later, the Lightning celebrated a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Stars and the USSSA state title. The defense was stellar throughout, with Cat Kim, Lyttle, Smith, Hahn and Luzetsky adding one tough play after another to keep the game close. Additionally, Sara Fleischmann, Karlye Kolb, Olivia DuBois, Abby Hollen and Rhonda Mahaley are members of the 14U championship team.
12U sweep the competition
Finally, the Lightning's 12U squad won the title in Class B competition. The "little" Lady Bolts have four 10U eligible players on their 12U team but still showed that despite their youth and inexperience that they, too, are going to be a formidable team in the future like their older "sisters." The 12U Lady Bolts won four straight games and eliminated the competition as they captured the third and final championship for the program. Allisyn Evans was a "bulldog" in the circle as she pitched the team to victories in all four games and was especially impressive in the final two games, when she pitched back-to-back shutouts. Kristin Stiles paced the team with an impressive 8 for 12 performance for a .667 batting mark. Stiles scored six runs and had eight RBIs, including a three-run home run in the final game. Emily Kim, Lauren Meyers, Erin Pugh, Brooke Greaver and Brianna Fleischmann all made significant offensive contributions to the team as all of these players hit .330 or better for the event. But defensively is where the Lady Bolts really made their mark on this event. Molly Mioduszewski was nearly flawless behind the plate as she has been all season. Mioduszewski added to her impressive assist total in throwing out or picking off 37 runners in the team's 43 games this season. Katrina Perea made a game changing defensive play in the first game of the event and Taylor Andrews handled all of her chances at the hot corner. Jess Carnivale used her speed to be a terror on the base paths and Emili "Lil Nasty" Rutkowski continued to show off her bunting skills, remaining perfect in sacrifice bunt situations. At the 12U level, the Lightning is all about teaching the fundamentals and working with the kids to make sure they execute the basics. The 2012 Lightning 12U team has shown that they are hard workers and quick learners.