MANNING — Laurence Manning Academy head softball coach Maria Rowland could only surmise Wednesday’s game against Northwood Academy in one way.
“They’re a great team — and it was just their day,” she said.
The Chargers scored seven runs — five on two-out hits — and the Swampcats were unable to capitalize on their own opportunities, leaving five runners stranded in scoring position as Northwood took Game 2 of the SCISA AAA state championship series 7-4 at Julie Skoler Field to sweep the series and earn its second state crown.
“It was a complete team effort,” Northwood head coach Becky Ellison said. “I had been talking to them all year about believing in themselves and each other. I think they really started to believe that at tournament time.”
The Lady Chargers were just 12-9 entering the SCISA state tournament last Friday, but only lost once since then — to Laurence Manning in the state tournament — as they finished with an 18-10 overall record.
“I think that loss really made a light bulb go off for us,” Ellison said. “We just turned it on after that, especially my three seniors.”
That includes starting pitcher Haley Herndon. Herndon was 3-fo-3 at the plate with an RBI and a run scored. On the mound, she allowed one run on seven hits through the first six innings. At one point, she retired nine in a row and 10 out of 11.
“I don’t think we were maybe as disciplined in the (batter’s) box as we could have been,” Rowland said.
Northwood broke through in the first on Herndon’s RBI double that drove in Jessica Thompson for a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Samantha Chubb came through with an RBI single, and Sydney Segars followed two batters later with a two-run double. Northwood led 4-0 — with all four runs coming with two outs against Grace Beatson.
“This is the fifth time we’ve seen each other,” Rowland said. “When you play someone that many times, there’s always the possibility they might start to string some big hits together. It’s just tough that it had to happen today.”
The Swampcats were having trouble doing the same. LMA grounded into a double play in the first, lined into one with two on and no outs in the second and managed only one run in third inning despite three hits.
Martina Weber led off the third with a double and scored on Hannah Hodge’s RBI single. Maggie Eppley followed with another single. But Herndon got out of the jam with a popup to second and a strikeout.
The Swampcats (29-10) also stranded a one-out runner on third in the fourth. It was their last baserunner until the seventh.
“Haley has a tendency to start out slow, but really gets stronger as the game goes on,” Ellison said. “She pitched very well and trusted her defense.”
Northwood added three more runs in the top of the seventh. Danel Phillips and Chubb had RBI singles, and Thompson had an RBI groundout as Northwood took a 7-1 lead.
The runs seemed meaningless until the bottom of the inning. With two outs and a runner on first, LMA rattled off four straight hits to cut it to 7-4.
But with runners on second and third, Herndon got a final popup for the last out to start the Chargers’ celebration.
Phillips went 2 for 4 with an RBI for Northwood. Chubb had two hits and two RBIs.
Hodge led LMA with a 3-for-4 day, collecting two RBI in the process. Eppley had two hits as well.