One of the many nuggets of knowledge that Crash Davis tried to bestow upon Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham was that ‘strikeouts are boring. Besides that, they’re fascist.’
Watching the Mountain Ridge Lady Miners softball team play you’re sure to see a lot of strikeouts, but the dugouts at any high school game refuse to ever allow it to get boring. And upon first glance you’d be hard-pressed to spot one iron fist among the whole lot.
Maybe a golden arm and a few silver sluggers, but no iron to be found anywhere.
Maybe it’s the red, black and gold bows they wear in their hair that whispers more of a tea party, rather than screaming of oppressive radicals.
Or maybe it’s the fact that their head coach carries herself more like the perfect tea party hostess, than that of a power-hungry tyrant.
But make no mistakes about it, the one thing the Miners have done as well any team we’ve ever had is to rule supreme over the land of area softball.
Regardless of whether Mountain Ridge is able to secure its second straight Maryland 1A West Region championship today against North Carroll, and advance for a shot at consecutive state title, the fact remains that for the past two seasons the best any school has been able to do against Martha Mauzy’s Miners is to pay homage to a superior team.
One needs no further proof of their tyrannical dominion over all challengers than the fact that just like citizens casting their ballot under rule of a queen, those teams casting their lots’ against the Miners are really only ever offered one choice.
It’s usually not a choice that’s beneficial to those doing the casting.
And though Mauzy isn’t hungry for power, she and her Miners are absolutely starving for another 1A title. It’s been the driving force behind Mountain Ridge’s assault on area competition again this year. Wins over North Carroll (5-4), Perryville (1-0) and Mardela (4-3) in last year’s playoffs gave the girls a taste and now they’re back for seconds.
Along the way, the Miners have accomplished some pretty amazing things. A perfect 23-0 record last year coupled with wins in their first 20 games this season gives them 43 in a row, which accounts for about half of the 100-win mark the school just reached with a 7-0 victory over Fort Hill in the section finals.
That streak becomes even more impressive when the fact that no other area softball team has even finished one season undefeated, let alone go this far into the following one without suffering a loss.
“A hundred wins in six years and 43 in a row isn’t too bad?” the Miners’ coach asked through a smile after the latest win.
Too bad for those last 43 opponents left trampled in coal dust from the Mountain Ridge cleats.
That’s not to say that any of those teams have laid down willingly in their path.
Mauzy would be the first to tell you how strong the competition is in this area, and that it’s a rough road just to win the sectional playoffs, let alone the region or state tournaments.
Just posting the undefeated records they have against schools like Allegany and Fort Hill, two teams that have recently hung state champion banners of their own, is impressive enough. Throw in wins over steady competition from other area teams like Northern, Southern and Keyser, as well as wins over North Carroll and Mardela in the playoffs and their legend grows even larger.
Making it through the AMAC is daunting enough. State champion teams have still stumbled and lost to a conference opponent or opponents as their only blemishes.
In fact, only two teams have ever posted undefeated seasons in the AMAC, and those are the Miners of this season and last.
That the queens have managed to keep the respect of those they have subjugated is an even greater testament to their character.
“I really hope they win it all,” said Fort Hill Head Coach Mike Bittner, who recently became the school’s winningest softball coach. “They are a great group of girls and a great set of coaches, and they deserve to win...
“But I won’t miss them next year when they are 2A.”
While it’s true that Mountain Ridge will have to move up and face a larger talent pool beginning next year, they’ll still be going up against the same familiar faces for most of the regular season.
Come playoff time there’ll be a whole new batch of rebels looking to defend the territory they’ve claimed as their own.
But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Lady Miners will most likely see this as nothing more than new lands to conquer.
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.