It defies conventional wisdom of the sport. A softball team shouldn’t have a left-handed throwing catcher, much less one playing the position for the first time…at a state tournament.
But desperate times called for unconventional measures, and, over four days, Taylor Adams became a Rockville legend.
Adams, called upon by head coach Wade Condrey to fill in as catcher at the Babe Ruth state softball tournament this past weekend in Stafford, responded behind and at the plate, as the 16U team went unbeaten, capturing a state title with an 8-6 win Sunday over New Kent, earning one of three state crowns for Rockville.
How did she do it?
“My best friend, Alex Reed, is a catcher. I was shaky and so nervous. I’m going to get with Alex to practice blocking; that seemed to be my biggest difficulty here,” Adams said.
The 16U squad had cruised through the tourney, and, in two previous games with New Kent in the round-robin competition were 7-0 and 10-0 victors. But New Kent struck for four runs in the first inning, taking a 4-1 advantage. Rockville found itself having to claw back.
“They could have given up, but it was so early in the game. I have a great coaching staff and they talked them up and kept them in the game,” Condrey noted.
Rockville took advantage of six hits, two of them coming on late throws to the plate trying to get force outs, to score five runs in the third for a 6-4 advantage. New Kent, though, didn’t fold, scoring two to tie the game at six apiece. In the fifth, shortstop Anna Wells singled, stole second, then zoomed home when a ground ball was played, but thrown into the New Kent dugout. One more run came across, then it was the Rockville defense and pitcher Olivia Harris who slammed the door.
With the tying runs on base, a line drive was snagged on a diving catch by third baseman Paige Condrey to end the threat. New Kent went down swinging, as Harris earned a strikeout for the final out to launch the celebration.
About two hours later, the 10U team joined their 16U sisters as state champions, having an easier time at their championship game played at a separate park 10 miles from the 16U final. But as the 10U team proceeded to build their 7-0 lead, the Rockville fan brigade made its way from one park to another and the familiar “Let’s Go Rockville!” chant was unavoidable.
The 10U final against Summit Point (W.Va.) belonged to pitcher Jamie Hughes, whose inside-the-park home run in the second inning opened the scoring. Hughes scored the team’s second run in the fourth with a single, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI bunt single by Jahkyla Thomas. After building the lead to 4-0, Rockville loaded the bases in the sixth for Emily Allen, whose grounder bounced off the glove of Summit Point second baseman Mallory Steeley and caromed into center field behind the defense, allowing all three runners to score for a 7-0 lead.
The Tsunami got their lone run off Hughes with two out in the final inning, but appropriately, Hughes struck out the final batter to clinch the championship.
“The girls did what we talked about all week, and that was getting better as the week went on, not letting the heat bother us, and work on hitting the ball,” Rockville 10U head coach Chad Radcliffe said.
His pitcher left him speechless, but mindful of the team effort.
“Jamie’s good,” he said. “She’s also got a great team behind her.”
Well, almost all of them were behind her. His daughter is Saxon Radcliffe, Hughes’ catcher. Their communication through the season and tournament were crucial. It was only fitting that, after the game, as the Rockville fans made a human tunnel for the kids to exit their dugout, Radcliffe and Hughes were the only two to go through the tunnel together.
Both the 10U and 16U teams now advance to the Babe Ruth Southeast Region Tournament, which begins July 18 at RF&P Park in Glen Allen, a very short trip.
They will be joined by the 8U team, which also qualified for regional play. They won their Sunday semifinal over Stafford, but their state championship game, also versus New Kent, was postponed due to an early evening storm that hit Stafford County shortly after the 10U game. A makeup date could not be scheduled, so both teams will share the state title. The state champs and runners-up both advance to regionals, so berths were not affected by the game’s cancellation.
Since it will be a short trip, expect a large and enthusiastic contingent of Rockville fans to converge on RF&P Park next week. As their teams practice over the next seven days, they’ll rest their voices, prepared to root the kids on to more championship success.