COLLEGE PARK — The grounder chopped back to pitcher Kelli Durbin, the senior who gave Linganore softball one final gritty performance in the circle. She calmly collected it and tossed to first baseman Leo Cline.

It all seemed so improbable. And yet, it was real.

“I was so nervous, I kept walking people, and I was just like, ‘One more pitch,’” Durbin said. “And then it happened. It’s hard to believe.”

Within seconds, a mob enveloped her on the right side of the infield, gloves flying and screams of joy piercing through Maryland Softball Stadium. The Lancers were on top.

Linganore captured its first state championship with a 9-8 extra innings victory over Chopticon Saturday evening in the Class 3A title game. The Lancers, trailing for nearly the entire game, pulled together a two-out rally in the seventh that knotted the contest, and they surged ahead for good in the eighth.

It was a stunning turn of events, as the Braves were one error away from taking home a title of their own.

“This team, at any point and at any time, can put together runs in groups,” Linganore coach Andrea Poffinberger said. “I felt really good about it.”

That explosive offense carried the Lancers (19-5) all season and popped up at opportune times in the final. After allowing runs for the first time all postseason and falling behind by five, Linganore’s bats came alive in the fourth to trim that deficit to one.

And trailing by two in the seventh, it happened again.

With the Lancers down to their last out and the heart of their order due up, Delaney Ridgell quickly singled in a run, providing them a spark of hope. Claire Thomas reached on an error. Then, Durbin fell behind 0-2 and popped a fly into shallow right field.

Chopticon’s right fielder settled under it, the game and state title seemingly belonging to them. But the ball popped in and out of her glove. Linganore scored. Tie game.

“To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about it,” Durbin said. “I saw her drop it, and I saw everyone move on base, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, no one scored on that?’ And then I realized I just tied it up, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I was so happy.”

Then, Durbin had to hold on the mound in the bottom of the inning. She relieved starter Camryn MacKay in the fourth and toughed through five innings against the Braves’ booming lineup.

But here, she put two on with one out for Chopticon’s two best batters.

Durbin struck out Carrie Hayden. Then, she offered to the powerful Karlie Wolfe, who launched the first pitch into the deep right-field corner.

Katie Healy sprinted after it and, at the wall, dove for the ball just into foul territory. She came up with it. Tie game still.

“I don’t even remember it happening,” Healy said.

She led off the top of the eighth with a ghost runner on second. Healy, who already had two triples and three RBIs, missed Poffinberger’s bunt sign and fired on the second pitch she saw.

It was a fortuitous mistake.

The ball soared into the very same corner where Healy had just saved the Lancers’ title hopes, but this one stayed fair. It fell in for her third run-scoring triple of the day. Tie game no more.

“I don’t know why, but I was just not nervous at all. I was just like, ‘I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid. I just need to play the game I’ve always played,’” Healy said, the “MVP” chants from her teammates and friends pouring over her postgame.

“She had the game of her life,” Poffinberger said.

Healy then scored, and Durbin trotted out to protect a sudden two-run Linganore lead.

The ghost runner crossed the plate, but Durbin got two outs.

She walked the next two batters, putting the tying run on third and winning run on second. Durbin tossed a ball, then fired the 1-0 pitch to Dakota Headley. She hit it right back at Durbin, who threw to first.

Seconds later, the mob swallowed Durbin just outside the pitcher’s circle.

The Lancers ended their season with a win, something reserved for a rare few teams every year. Just 30 minutes prior, it seemed improbable.

But it was finally real.

(1) comment

phydeaux994

Congratulations!! A great team in a great sport. The Linganore 2022 Softball State Champions join the Honor Roll of Frederick County High School State Champions.

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