For the past two seasons, the Foran softball team has been defined by dominant pitching, flawless defense and aggressive base-running. That’s the reason the Lions won a state title last season and the reason why they were 25-1 going into Saturday night’s Class L finals against Rockville.
Unfortunately, the top-seeded Lions were missing all three parts of their formula for success, allowing No. 3 Rockville to pull out a 3-2 victory in the Class L championship game Saturday night at DeLuca Field in Stratford.
Hampered by a sore left ankle since the start of the state tournament, sophomore left-hander Jess Harkness was less than her overpowering self. Rockville (22-2), appearing in a state championship game for the first time in program history, pounded out nine hits, including a home run by game MVP Christina Pettengill (2-for-4) in the fifth inning.
Foran, which finished with a 25-2 overall record, also committed three errors. The Rams scored their first run in the third on a throwing error then pushed across the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth on a single, sacrifice bunt and an infield error on a missed ground ball down the first-base line.
Just to add injury to insult, the Lions also had a runner thrown out at third on a ground-out in the fourth inning.
“We made a number of mental errors, which is very atypical of what we’ve been doing,” Foran head coach Jeff Bevino said. “We didn’tmake as many as they did, but the ones we did make were glaring.”
Rockville might have been new to the state championship game experience, but looked like the team that had been there before, getting a solid pitching performance by junior Kaitlyn LaJoie — who scattered six hits with eight strikeouts and one walk with a ball that danced all over the strike zone — and an errorless game on defense.
Harkness was obviously affected by her injury, finishing with just two strikeouts and four walks. But Bevino didn’t use it as an excuse. Instead, he gave all the credit to Rockville.
“They swung the bats tonight. They’re a good hitting team,” Bevino said. “No one has hit her like that. She was a little up in the zone and couldn’t get her changeup over, but they were sitting dead red. Give them credit.”
Foran took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as freshman catcher Danielle Kemp walked with one out, stole second and scored on an RBI-single to right by Gina Geogetti.
Rockville had Harkness on the ropes in each of the first two innings but failed to score, leaving the bases loaded in the second. That started a trend that would see the Rams leave 12 runners on base in the game.
Rockville finally tied it in the third. LaJoie singled, went to second on a bunt and advanced to third on a sharp single to center by Pettengill. Megan Gardner flew out to right field and LaJoie stopped halfway down the line. Foran right fielder Fallon Bevino made the catch but her throw home was well off line up the third base line. That allowed LaJoie to come home with the first of two unearned runs by Rockville.
“That’s the one that hurt,” Bevino said. “She said she tripped as she was throwing. She made a nice catch but tripped.”
Rockville head coach Frank Levick puts an emphasis on strength, making his players to pushups in practice if they make an error. They also work out with 100-pound punching bags and squat 200 pounds during preseason.
The Rams showed off some of that power in the fifth when Pettengill blasted an offering by Harkness over the fence in left center to make it 2-1.
“We were very disciplined at the plate tonight,” said Levick, who used internet videos to scout Harkness. “We took the walks early and waited for the hits to come. All the hard work paid off tonight.”
Foran had a chance to tie the game in the fourth after Bevino doubled with one out, but the speedy sophomore got thrown out at third on a groundout to end the inning.
“We always try to be aggressive because good things happen when you get that runner to third,” Bevino said. “You live by the sword and die by the sword.”
Foran did tie it in the fifth on a double by junior Rebekah DeRosa and a two-out RBI-single by shortstop Brooke Phelan, one of just two seniors on the roster.
Rockville took the lead in the sixth courtesy of another big mistake by the Lions, leadoff batter Laura Skoly, who went 2-for-2 with two walks, singled to left and moved to second on a bunt. Lajoie grounded to first, but the ball stayed down on the ground without hopping up and it went under the glove of Georgetti, allowing Skoly to score what ended up being the championship run.
Foran still walked off the field knowing it had accomplished a great deal after losing its starting pitcher, starting catcher and second baseman from last year’s state championship team.
“This was a dream season,” Bevino said. “This doesn’t diminish anything they did. We had seven or eight walkoff wins. It was a great season. I would have liked to have finished with a win, but 25-2? I’ll take that every year.”
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