HAGERSTOWN — When the line drive came off Linganore senior Cailyn Barthlow’s bat, someone in the crowd confidently predicted the ball was going out.
True enough. Barthlow’s two-run walkoff homer over the center-field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning put the finishing touch on host Linganore’s 12-2 win over North Hagerstown in the Class 3A West, Section II softball final at North Hagerstown High School.
Such a power display makes it easy to forget Barthlow broke the tibia and fibula in her left leg while trying to turn a double play in July, and easy to forget all the effort she put forth to recover fully for softball season.
But Andrea Poffinberger has no trouble remembering the comeback process. Aside from being Barthlow’s softball coach, Poffinberger was her volleyball coach in the fall.
“I got to watch her go to [physical therapy] and come in, once she was cleared, and do what she could at volleyball practice and really got to watch the progression,” Poffinberger said. “I’m really proud of how hard she worked to get back here.”
Now, Barthlow is one of several key players for a Linganore team looking to defend its 3A West crown. And the Lancers didn’t let a change of venue — Friday’s game was moved from Linganore to North Hagerstown because the Hubs’ field was in better condition — slow them down.
Linganore (16-3) advances to Monday’s regional championship, where it will host the winner of the Westminster-Manchester game, which will be played at Linganore earlier on Monday.
In last year’s regional final, Barthlow belted a two-run homer to help the Lancers beat rival Urbana. But the shortstop has endured a lot since that triumphant day.
Playing with the Frederick Heartbreakers in a tournament during the summer, she suffered the broken tibia and fibula.
“I was turning a double play, and the baserunner slid into my shin, breaking both bones,” she said. “And I had to get emergency surgery the next day.”
She had to wait three months to get cleared so she could play volleyball for the Lancers. She understandably had limitations when she got into matches near the end of the season.
“She played some back row when I could get her in there,” Poffinberger said. “But jumping was still not quite there. She’s back to, I would say, almost 100 percent if not 100 percent.”
Barthlow, who plans to continue her softball career at Hood College, said she has no hesitation trying to turn double plays. She wears a shin guard in the field and adds an EvoShield when she bats.
At least one Linganore fan expressed concern when Barthlow was hit by a pitch on her left toe in the fourth inning. But Barthlow was just fine, as she proved by belting a two-run homer that ended the game via the 10-run rule in the fifth.
Her only other career walkoff came when she was a freshman, and this one was unique because it came on her opponent’s home field.
With relentless rain leaving Linganore’s field unplayable, arrangements were made earlier Friday to move the game to North Hagerstown, although higher-seeded Linganore still got to bat last because it was technically the host team.
The Lancers fell behind 2-0 in the first but tied the game in the second, rallied for three runs in the third and pulled away with a five-run rally in the fourth. Big blows included Emily Day’s RBI double in the second and two-run single in the third and winning pitcher Kaitlyn Naill’s three-run double in the fourth.
“The first inning was a little scary,” Barthlow said. “But once we start hitting, we’re fine.”
As the game progressed, the Lancers were joking in the dugout, looking like the loose bunch they tend to be during successful seasons.
“We had to be loose in a situation we got put in today,” Poffinberger said. “Because at about 11:30 we said, ‘OK, our field is absolutely unplayable.’ We were on the phone, and they said, ‘Hey, we can get ours playable.’
“So, no bus, and we’re working on getting up here in rush-hour traffic on a Friday,” she said. “And my pitcher’s panicked and late. I said, ‘Look, relax.’ And they did a nice job getting up here and getting settled in.”
Naill and Day each had three hits. Leadoff hitter Paige Wilhelm had two hits and was robbed of a third by center fielder Sienna Starkey, who bolted to her right and snagged Wilhelm’s hard-hit liner in her outstretched left glove-hand in the fifth.