The Caesar Rodney softball team was eliminated from the state tournament by Caravel Academy.
The bases were loaded, it was the seventh inning, there were two outs and the Riders were down by three. The tying run was standing on first base and the winning run stepped into the batter’s box at the plate.
The scene was set perfectly for the unlikeliest of teams to do what they do best — surprise people.
Unfortunately for the Caesar Rodney softball team that perfect scene didn’t play out. There was no game-tying double, go-ahead grand slam or hit and rally for the squad. Instead, there was a hard liner in the infield that was caught for the final out of the Riders’ 2008 season.
No. 5 ranked CR fell to No. 1 Caravel 3-0 in the state tournament semifinal game at Smyrna High School Wednesday.
It was a tough day for the Riders as they struggled at the plate through all seven innings and only were able to manage two hits off the Buccaneers.
Mike Shehorn, head coach for CR, said woes in the batter’s box were the main reason the team was not able to advance to the state finals.
“I’m a firm believer that if you want to win you have to hit,” Shehorn said. “We didn’t hit well today when we needed to and you don’t win when you can’t do that.”
Caravel pitcher Cara Stechter had control throughout the game, and despite having to deal with numerous base runners — the Riders stranded nine — she was able to pitch out of every jam, including the game-ending situation in the final inning.
Stechter helped herself numerous times, pitching around Stephanie Hearin and Megan Bilbrough, CR’s two biggest bats, by walking each twice and getting outs on the batters who followed.
“I knew they were going to do a little bit of pitching around, but our other hitters have been hitting so I wasn’t really concerned,” Shehorn said. “I figured if they were going to walk [Hearin and Bilbrough] that our next batter would come up and get the job done.
“The thing for them is that when [Stechter] walked them she was able to keep the ball where she wanted.”
The game was scoreless through the first two-and-a-half innings before the Bucs were able to capitalize with runners on second and third with an RBI single, making it 2-0.
Riders’ pitcher Jillian Olmstead quieted the Caravel bats for the next three innings, not allowing a run. She finished the game with five strikeouts.
“Jill has done a nice job for us all year,” Shehorn said. “Her job was not to win it; it was to keep us in it. And she did her job.”
The Bucs tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth before ending the game in the seventh.
“At this point in the season you have to play a good game if you want to advance, and that’s what the good teams do,” Shehorn said. “They hit when they need to hit, they play defense when they need to play defense.
“The key to the game was that we didn’t do that, and it was the exact opposite for them. When they got runners in scoring position they were able to come up with a hit.”
The Riders, who two years ago won only three total games, have made tremendous strides and with only graduating four seniors from this year’s team look to improve even more.
“This game just broke a seven-game win streak,” Shehorn said. “I knew we had a team that was capable of getting to the tournament and I’m so proud of these girls. I wouldn’t want to be a part of another group. The things we’ve accomplished both on and off the field were just fantastic.
Caravel advances to the state finals where they will play No. 2 Sussex Central at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 31, at Lower Sussex Little League.