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Washington Post

4A Softball

Chesapeake's Bats Come Alive in Win

Pitcher Gibson Shuts Down Sherwood

The formula for success in high school softball is tried and true. Build a team around a strong pitcher, combine timely hitting with steady defense, and win games by scoring one or two runs.

For three seasons, Chesapeake has sneered in the face of conventional wisdom, essentially challenging opponents to a hitting contest. Once again, the Cougars' strategy was rewarded, as they captured their second straight Maryland 4A championship with a 7-0 victory over Sherwood at the University of Maryland.

"They all know how to hit the ball," Cougars Coach Don Ellenberger said. "You look through our lineup, it's pretty tough to get through without a couple of them getting hits."

Eight of the nine Cougars reached base at least once last night. Chesapeake (24-2) averaged 8.4 runs per game this season. Twelve times the Cougars scored in double figures, and all but three times this season they have scored at least five runs.

Of course, those bats are plenty relaxed when, behind them, is the right arm of junior All-Met pitcher Lauren Gibson. For the second year in a row, Gibson threw a no-hitter in the clinching game. The University of Tennessee recruit struck out 11 and has developed into a much more complete pitcher, showing great movement and ability to change speeds.

"My change-up was really working," she said. "It's come a long way."

Ellenberger said: "When it's all said and done, Gibson is probably going to be one of the greatest players ever to come out of Anne Arundel County."

The Cougars won their seventh state title, while Sherwood (18-3) was seeking to become Montgomery County's first state champion since 1999.

There is no soft spot in the Chesapeake lineup. Opposing coaches have touted and lamented equally the fact that six or seven Cougars could be the top hitter in most teams' lineups.

"They really peaked at the end of the season," said state tournament director Lynn Pitonzo, who won eight state titles as coach at Northeast. "They hit well one through nine. I don't know if there have any weaknesses."

Chesapeake got its first runs in the bottom of the second inning thanks to a rally started by the bottom third of the order. Juniors Alexis Matula, Amanda Montgomery and Megan Butzner all reached base. After a force-out at home, senior Erika Stasch hit a triple off the base of the right field wall to clear the bases for a 3-0 lead.

"It's pretty easy for us to keep going one we get started," Stasch said.

When the Cougars scored four more runs in the top of the sixth inning, No. 6 hitter Brianna Prince lined a single to left field and scored on a three-base error. Stasch hit another triple later to score two more runs, and Gibson's double scored Stasch.

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