It was one of those big-game losses that likely will stick in the emotions of the Potomac School Panthers for a while, because the girls softball team was so close to winning its first state championship.
The top-seed Panthers (8-1) lost to the No. 3 seed and defending champion Bishop O’Connell Knights, 4-2, in extra innings May 21 in the title game of the Division I private-school state tournament at the Dinwiddie Sports Complex near Petersburg. Potomac School rallied from a 2-0 first-inning deficit to tie the high-school game at 2 in the bottom of the seventh. The Knights (9-0) scored the winning runs in the top of the ninth.
The Panthers, as the top seed, also lost to O’Connell, seeded second, in the 2019 state final. The 2020 season was not played because of the pandemic.
The 2021 title tilt was sloppy as far as defense. Each team made multiple errors, and none of the six runs were earned. Take away the defensive miscues, the winner would have been hard to determine as pitchers Maria Urban, chosen as the Division I state Player of the Year, for the Panthers and Katie Kutz of O’Connell were stingy and threw complete games.
Potomac School also had a run disallowed because of an interference ruling on the base paths.
“We came back to tie the game and everybody played their hearts out,” Potomac School coach Wayne Loving said. “We got some key hits and were getting runners on and putting the ball in play, but couldn’t get that key hit when we needed other times.”
Potomac School had five hits, once each by Urban, Yanna Bravewolf, Eva Butler, Fae Butler and Charlotte Thompson.
Urban allowed seven hits, struck out eight and walked six and hit one batter. She struggled in a 41-pitch multiple-walk first inning with a tight strike zone, but adjusted and improved over the final eight frames.
Loving pointed out that right fielder Hayley Richardson made multiple good catches to keep the game close.
Potomac School was 2-1 in the state tourney, winning by 10-0 scores over No. 8 seed and visiting St. Catherine’s of Richmond in the first round, then No. 5 seed Flint Hill in the semifinals at the Dinwiddie Complex on May 20.
Against St. Catherine’s, Urban fanned 10 and threw 67 pitches, facing the minimum 18 batters in the six-inning perfect game.
With the bat, Erika Castellano and Fae Butler (three RBI) each had three hits, Abby Rebhan had two hits and two RBI, Bravewolf doubled and Richardson stole two bases.
In the five-inning semifinal win over Flint Hill, Urban allowed one hit and fanned 10 with no walks. Rebhan had three hits and three RBI, Eva Butler had three hits, Castellano had three of the team’s nine stolen bases, Bravewolf and Fae Butler each had a hit and RBI, Urban doubled and Richardson stole three bases.
Flint Hill defeated host and No. 4 seed Collegiate, 11-1, in the first round.
For Flint Hill, Alexis Chickillo threw a five-inning three-hitter with eight strikeouts. Katie Chong led the offense with three hits. Grace Hausamann, Sarah McCue and Aahna Patel doubled; Kathleen White had a hit and two RBI; Brigit Cook had a hit and one RBI; and Yasmeen Mogharbel stole two bases.
NOTE: Potomac School has never defeated O’Connell in softball, losing four straight seasons to the Knights in the state competition. O’Connell downed the Panthers in the 2017 and 2018 tourney semifinals, then in the 2019 and 2021 finals . . . Urban, Bravewolf, Castellano and Eva Butler were chosen first-team all-state and Thompson second team.