COLLEGE PARK - As Josalyn McMillian stepped into the box in the bottom of the eighth inning of Friday’s Class 2A state softball championship game, the Rising Sun’s dugout knew its torturous wait was going to end.
Only 60 feet stood in the way. Catharine Meadows stood at the third with the winning run. McMillan sent a flyball into centerfield. Meadows tagged up, sprinted down the line and slid.
After approximately 7,307 days, Rising Sun are state champions. The fourth-ranked Tigers defeated Calvert County’s Calvert, 1-0, at the University of Maryland.
“It feels better this way than if we came here last year and won, came back and won again,” Faith McCullough said. “It feels better because there was a chip on our shoulder, we all wanted it even more.”
Exactly 363 days ago, Rising Sun’s valiant comeback went for naught as Calvert scored in the bottom of the eighth for the title. The Tigers (21-1 overall) came into this season with a chip on their shoulder, not wanting that pain again.
Friday, they found ecstasy. It was the Cecil County school’s first state softball championship since 2003.
The title will be most remembered for the unhittable duo of McCullogh and Cadence Williams. McCullough, who will play for Towson University next spring, pitched the first three innings Friday, striking out four and not allowing a baserunner.
Williams, a South Alabama recruit, pitched the final five innings. She allowed two hits and struck out four.
“They’ve been doing that for us all year,” Rising Sun coach Paul Taylor said. “A lot of people kind of think were crazy, because we take Faith out pitching a no-hitter. This isn’t the first time we’ve done it. They know the rotation, they know to stay fresh. Cadence is good to come in, Faith likes to start. It just works.”
Emma DeBoer matched Williams and McCullough, pitch for pitch for Calvert (21-2). The Central Michigan recruit struck out nine.
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McCullough was the game’s first base runner in the second inning with a single, but was stranded. Jayden Simpkins walked to lead off the third. She was left on base.
Bri Cole led off the fourth with a double to right centerfield. Rising Sun loaded the bases with two outs when Kelsey Barks walked and Madison Nolan was hit by a pitch, but DeBoer retired the side.
Lynch had a one-out bunt single in the fifth and Williams led the sixth off with a single to left. Both runners were left on.
After seven scoreless innings, the match went to International Tie Breaker with a runner starting at second base. Williams got a pop out, fly out and strike out to end Calvert’s eighth.
Meadows started at second base for Rising Sun in the eighth. She advanced to third on Jordan Lynch’s single.
McMillian knew all she had to do was put the ball in play. She was down 0-2 in the count before producing the arguably the biggest play in the last 20 years for Rising Sun softball.
“I knew we had a lot of speed on third, so I was just trying to make solid contact or getting the ball on the ground or hitting a sac fly,” McMillan said.
It was the perfect ending for Rising Sun’s six seniors, including McCullough, who was the first to run out of the dugout.
“I was just running to celebrate,” McCullough said. “I was so excited.”
CLASS 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
at University of Maryland
NO. 4 RISING SUN 1, CALVERT 0 (8 innings)
Calvert 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 2 0
Rising Sun 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 1 5 0
DeBoer and Bradley; McCullough, Williams (5) and Cole
RBI: Rising Sun - Josalyn McMillian
2B: Rising Sun - Bri Cole