GLEN BURNIE — Brunswick’s softball team was playing in the state tournament for the first time in program history, and it’s hard to imagine a more daunting debut.
The Railroaders were facing two-time defending state champ Bohemia Manor and had to tangle with a hard-throwing, seasoned pitcher, Madison Penta, who entered game with an earned run average of 0.00.
But the Railroaders didn’t seem fazed.
With their own pitcher, Katie Laing, throwing an excellent game and their offense managing two earned runs off Penta, the Railroaders looked like they had a decent shot of extending a season that had already lasted longer than any other for past Railroaders teams.
But untimely defensive miscues helped put an end to Brunswick’s unprecedented season as the Eagles held on for a 4-2 win in the Class 1A state semifinals at Bachman Sports Complex.
“We’re obviously a little upset right now,” Brunswick junior Abigayle Perry said. “But we worked pretty hard this year and came together pretty well, so we’re proud of each other.”
Perry helped the Railroaders (16-5) throw a major scare into the mighty Eagles (21-1) in the fifth inning. After Laing’s single, a walk and hit batter allowed Brunswick to load the bases, Perry dropped a two-out, two-run single near the edge of the infield dirt behind the shortstop to narrow Bohemia Manor’s lead to 3-2.
“We had bases loaded, we needed some runs,” Perry said. “So I just did what I had to do.”
Earlier that inning, Laing singled to center to break up Penta’s no-hit bid — the junior threw a two-hitter. The rally fired up Brunswick’s dugout.
“We were all ready to keep playing, to keep fighting,” Laing said.
Those hits were the product of diligent preparation for a team that hadn’t faced a pitcher as dominant as Penta all season.
“We used the machine and moved it up pretty close, like right between the mound and the plate so we could see some faster pitching,” Perry said.
Penta struck out 13. But by the time Brunswick’s lineup faced her a second time, the Railroaders were starting to make solid contact, starting with a line drive that Brianna Munday scorched to center, where it was caught by Reagan Goldsmith in the fourth.
“I think our approach was pretty good,” Brunswick coach Kevan Rabat said. “A little bit better defense and another break here and there, and it’s a different outcome. Not to take anything away from our opponent; they did very well.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, but Laing nearly escaped the early jam unscathed.
After Bohemia Manor’s first two batters reached on a walk and a double, Laing struck out the next two. But then Alexis Bolton hit a grounder that got past the third baseman, and two runs scored.
Brunswick errors also contributed to Bohemia Manor one-run rallies in the bottom of the third, when a pop up bounced out of the right fielder’s glove, and sixth, when a grounder got by the second baseman.
The Eagles nearly scored another run in the sixth. They had Bolton on third when a pop up to the middle of the infield wasn’t caught. Bolton broke for home, but shortstop Perry fired the ball to catcher Zaidee Byrd, who made the tag despite absorbing some contact from the runner.
Laing’s performance helped keep the Railroaders in striking distance throughout the game. She threw a four-hitter with eight strikeouts, earning praise from Rabat.
Laing, a senior, thought back to when she joined the varsity team as a freshman.
“When we first got here, we knew we had talent coming up. So, we focused on building up the team, and this is where it got us,” she said. “I could not have asked for a better team to finish off my softball career at Brunswick.”
Aside from Laing, the Railroaders will also lose seniors Daisy Gardner, Alexis Stone, and Kelsie Laing. There will be voids. But Brunswick also returns many underclassmen who played vital roles.
“I’m expecting big things next year,” Perry said. “We’re losing four seniors, but this team works hard, and I think we can go just as far.”