MIDDLETOWN — Middletown sophomore starting pitcher Taylor Broadbent turned in another strong complete game.
And Knights junior catcher Kayla Carr belted a two-run homer and prevented a run by making a quick tag at home.
No doubt, each one did plenty to help the Knights beat visiting Walkersville 6-2 in the Class 2A West quarterfinals on Monday, a win that sends Middletown softball into Wednesday’s semifinals at home against Poolesville.
But something Broadbent and Carr didn’t do also helped the cause.
With Middletown (7-5) leading 6-2 with two outs in the sixth, the Lions had runners on second and third when Anna Swann hit a low, spinning fly right in front of home plate.
As she ran towards home, Broadbent yelled to Carr, “Let it go!”
“I saw the rotation. It was coming south,” Broadbent said. “It would’ve scored [a run] easily.”
“I wanted it,” Carr said. “But as soon as she said that, I just jumped out of the way. I was like, ‘Don’t touch, don’t touch.’”
After landing just in front of the plate, the untouched ball bounced into foul territory behind home plate, where it came to rest. Broadbent then promptly induced an inning-ending flyout to right field to end the threat.
This was yet another bit of softball savvy from the Knights, who have made strides in such things after varsity newcomers like Broadbent and veterans like Carr settled in during the abbreviated regular season.
Carr’s fourth homer of the year in the fourth inning notwithstanding, Middletown spent a good portion of Monday’s game focusing on bunts and base running to plate runs.
“Our short game was really on tonight,” Broadbent said. “We can hit and we could get on base with a bunt, too.”
In fact, Carr’s homer in Middletown’s four-run fourth came in an inning that featured three Middletown bunts. And the third one, from Chloe Saunders, was the most consequential.
After Saunders’ bunt was fielded by the pitcher, Middletown’s Camille Jones (who had reached on a bunt single) broke for home and found herself in a rundown.
Initially retreating to third, Jones broke for home and slid head first into the plate to beat the throw. Broadbent, who had walked, also alertly scored on the play, and Saunders ended up on third briefly before scoring on Carr’s blast to center.
While Middletown coach Charley Toms surely had no complaints about Carr’s homer, he beamed about his team’s ability to employ a short game.
“It took all season to get these guys to buy the small-ball idea, or to really buy into it,” Toms said. “We work on it, and it showed a little bit tonight.”
Saunders reached on a bunt single in the fifth and later drew an errant throw while stealing second base, allowing Jones to score from third.
Broadbent also got into the act, reaching on a bunt single in the second.
“Her short game is deceiving,” Toms said.
She also has a knack for going the distance as a pitcher. In her first varsity start, Broadbent threw a no-hitter against Oakdale. She finished off her complete game on Monday with her seventh strikeout of the day.
Aside from curveballs and riseballs, Broadbent sprinkled in some change-ups to keep batters off balance. She scattered seven hits and issued one walk.
“I’ve been catching for her for a couple of years,” Carr said. “Today in general and the Oakdale game are some of the best games she’s ever pitched.”
Carr helped take some pressure off Broadbent with a two-run homer that gave the Knights a 5-0 lead. Middletown players formed a semi-circle near the plate, and they all fell backwards in the dirt as the junior touched home.
“I like to hit ahead in the count, and as soon as I made contact with it, I knew it was gone,” Carr said. “It’s one of the best feelings, just knowing that it’s gone.”
Walkersville scored its first run in the fifth. Racheal Abreu led off with a single to right field, and Swann followed with an RBI double to left field. But the Knights prevented another run from scoring when Carr, taking a throw from shortstop Kyra Morgan, whipped her mitt downward to tag out a runner who was trying to score on Kailey Baldwin’s bunt.
Amelia Rakestraw doubled and scored on Abreu’s groundout in the sixth.