Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

May 29, 2012

A day nobody will ever forget

— During my Tuesday morning run, the perfect 8-6-5 relay from Saturday afternoon that cut down Mardela’s Kalie Sprankle at third base in the top of the sixth inning, and helped set up Mountain Ridge’s state softball championship-winning rally in the bottom of the sixth, kept coming to mind.

In part the play came to mind because I was running, and when I’m running, I try fill my mind with thoughts of anything other than the torture I’m putting myself through at the moment (Dan DeWitt I ain’t). But the play came to mind as well, because as any reporter will tell you, fear of how you may have reported something will pop into your mind at the oddest and most chilling of times — meaning sometime after it has already been printed.

Normally, it happens at 3:30 in the morning, hours after you’ve done your reporting and the paper has long been put to bed. In this case, it took place three days after the fact.

“8-6-5 ... Miller to DeVore to Broadwater ... That’s what you had, isn’t it? Check your book when you go into the office. Please let it be what you had.”

 It isn’t what I had.

So, first, my apologies to Mountain Ridge centerfielder Jenna Miller, who began the relay with a strike to shortstop Kaylee DeVore, who then turned to nail Sprankle at third with a perfect throw to third baseman Anna Broadwater. Despite my scorebook and my notes on the play being spot on, I inexplicably wrote the relay was started by Chelsea Muir, the Miners’ rightfielder, and the No. 8 batter in the Mountain Ridge lineup, one slot below the No. 7 hitter Miller.

Who’s to say why brain freezes like this one occur? But the fact is, I wouldn’t have even been thinking about it three days later had I not been witness to one of the most clutch comebacks in one of the most exciting games that produced one of the most exhilarating moments I’ve been fortunate to see covering sports here for the past 28 years.

Mountain Ridge’s 4-3 win in the Maryland 1A state championship softball game was only half of what made Saturday special to so many here in Allegany County, as about five hours later, the Mountain Ridge baseball team would defeat St. Michaels in walk-off fashion to win the school’s second state title of the day, and its third of the school year, as the boys soccer team won its second consecutive state title in the fall.

According to the MPSSAA record books, the first area school to hit the state title trifecta in the same school year was Fort Hill, as the Sentinels won Maryland 2A titles in boys cross country and football in the fall of 1997, then one in boys track in the spring of 1998. Seventeen years later in the fall of 2004, the Beall boys cross country team and the boys soccer team won 1A state titles, before the baseball team won the state championship in the spring of 2005.

Rarified air indeed for Mountain Ridge High School, and though this marks the third time a Western Maryland school has won three state titles in the same school year, it’s impossible to imagine any school ever experiencing a day like the one Mountain Ridge experienced on Saturday — first at the University of Maryland with the softball team, then later that evening at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen where the baseball team clinched the day’s double.

Having experienced only the softball side of the day’s equation, I found the Mountain Ridge team to be quite remarkable in a number of ways, and the relay play, executed just the way it is in the big leagues, is a perfect example as to why. Having fallen behind 3-1 late in the game, and at the risk of falling behind by even more, there was no panic in these girls. And if there was any anxiety present, it was hidden very well, for had that relay not been pulled off to perfection, Mardela could have been in line for a big inning, which could have led to a long bus trip to Aberdeen, and then home to Frostburg.

Yet, despite all but two players on the team being underclassmen, it was pulled off with the same calm that the Miners played with in the early innings, and then played with in the bottom half of the sixth when they rallied for three runs to secure the title.

It was a genuine pleasure to watch. The Miners played the game the way they were taught to play it, and even in the tensest of moments, they had the poise and the wherewithal to be where they were supposed to be and do what they knew they were supposed to do in becoming what they’ve become this spring: undefeated Maryland 1A state champions.

Which puts a couple of members of this Mountain Ridge team and their fathers in another degree of rarified air. For not only are pitcher Carlie Lewis and first baseman Shae Winner now members of a 23-0 state championship team, their fathers, Joe Lewis and Dave Winner, were members of the 1979 Valley basketball team that won the state championship with a 27-0 record.

Yet for history’s sake, from the time Carlie Lewis threw the first pitch of the softball game at around 12:30 in the afternoon, to the moment Cody Malone knocked in the game-winner in the baseball game early into the evening, Saturday, May 26, 2012 will long be remembered at Mountain Ridge High School as being one thing: The Best Day Ever.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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Mike Burke - Sports
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