In a fitting to end what they described as an up-and-down season, the Sussex Tech softball team rode one last wild roller-coaster Saturday afternoon, defeating top-seeded Caravel Academy 5-4 at Polytech High School to win the DIAA softball state championship.
“This is great for our girls. They’ve worked very hard all season,” Ravens coach John Marvel said. “We’re very blessed.”
“We’re still taking it all in,” said sophomore outfielder Emily Pusey, who gave Sussex Tech one of two leads Caravel came back from with a 2-run single in the fifth inning. “It’s going to be exciting because we’ve all been working really hard and been through a lot this season.”
With that in mind, one more challenge wasn’t going to bother the third-seeded Ravens, even if it was the Buccaneers, who out-scored their previous two opponents in the state tournament by a 31-0 count.
The roller-coaster began with pitcher Kim Smith driving in Pusey with an RBI double in the top of the third. Caravel came back to tie it in the fourth inning, but in the top of the fifth, Melissa Joseph and Ashton Tomlinson reached on singles, sandwiched around a sac bunt by Devin Bitler. Up stepped Pusey, who got the pitch she liked and took her shot.
“It was an inside pitch and I love those pitches,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get many more after that, so I took it.” Pusey’s rocket back through the infield scored both Joseph and Tomlinson and Tech added another run on an error to take a 4-1 lead after five innings.
Caravel tied the game in the bottom of the sixth with three runs, including a two-run single from Caroline Reid, but the Ravens took the lead in the top of the seventh for good.
Smith, who took a line drive off of her pitching hand but finished the game, singled to lead off the inning and was taken off the bases for courtesy runner Cailey Isaacs. A sac bunt by Cassidy Taylor and a groundout by Torrie Huk got Isaacs over to third and with Nicole Ullman at the plate, a pitch from Caravel’s Carolyn Syzmanski got away from catcher Rebekah Notte and it was all up to Isaacs at that point.
“The coach doesn’t tell a runner when to go, that’s something she saw for herself,” Marvel explained.
“I was just thinking ‘RUN,’” Isaacs said. “I just trusted my instincts and my speed.”
“I was yelling ‘Go Go Go’ and then I thought ‘Oh my God, she’s going to be safe,’” Smith said.
Page 2 of 2 -
Isaacs was safe, making the score 5-4 Tech and Smith, swollen hand and all, got a huge double play after Szymanski clobbered a foul ball 220 feet and coaxed Nicole Maher to fly out to right field and the Ravens were state champions.
Marvel was impressed by Smith’s ability to play with pain.
“Her hand was swelling up, but she kept going and did an outstanding job,” he said.
“I think the swelling actually helped me,” Smith said. “It made me focus.”
And the Ravens were able to focus and finish their season as Delaware’s top high school softball squad.
“We had a lot challenges, even within the team itself,” Smith said. “But us coming together showed that if you can do that, you can win. It all paid off.”
E-mail Chris Stevens at email@example.com