GLEN BURNIE — Charley Toms took a few extra minutes addressing his team in the postgame huddle Tuesday following Middletown’s 9-0 loss to Queen Anne’s in the Class 2A state softball semifinals at Bachman Sports Complex.
He’s been around the game long enough as a coach (22 years with the Knights, as a head coach or an assistant) to know emotions run high when a season comes to an end, especially after a deep playoff loss, so he took the extra time to remind his players just how far the team progressed this season following a shaky start.
“We’ve been here four times,” Toms said of the Knights’ state-tournament appearances, including a 2A state championship in 2015. “It’s not easy to get here. We’re in a very tough region with a lot of good teams. I’m very pleased with this group of players. They hung in there when things weren’t going so well.”
The Knights struggled at the beginning of the season, going 3-6. Then, things picked up.
Middletown went 6-3 to finish at 9-9 heading into the postseason, followed by four wins in the 2A West regionals.
“It was rough at first,” Middletown center fielder Seanna Hurst said. “Then we finally started clicking as a team, playing much better.”
But there was no getting away from the fact that a bad first inning did in the Knights on Tuesday.
Queen Anne’s took advantage of two Middletown errors in the bottom of the first to score four unearned runs. From there, the Lions shut out the Knights behind a three-hitter from Cameron Whiteford.
“I think they rattled us a little bit in the first inning,” Toms said. “Speed kills, as they say. We knew they had the speed coming in. They just got a little momentum, and they just ran with it.”
Kamryn Brandt doubled in two runs, while Alyson Hall had a two-run single in the first. The Lions stretched their lead to 7-0 in the fourth on a two-run single by Alyssa Sofinowski and an RBI single by Taylor Walls
Middletown only got as far as second base twice, in the first and third innings. Meanwhile, Queen Anne’s — which was making its first appearance in the state semifinals — got timely hitting.
“They didn’t hit the ball all that hard, but they found the open spots in the outfield with their hitting,” Toms said. “When we hit the ball, it seemed like we’d always hit it right at somebody. That’s the way this game goes. You’ve got to give them credit for that. “
Even when the Knights fell behind in the first, senior pitcher Victoria McClain kept throwing strikes, keeping the Lions off balance as much as she could. She finished six strikeouts and one walk.
“We still believed in ourselves, even though that was a tough first inning,” McClain said. “We picked each other up, came back and battled. We were playing a very good team.”
McClain, Haley Miller and Caroline Hanson each had a single for Middletown.