Kim Smith’s hand was throbbing, but this was the last game of her high school career. It was no time to shut it down.
A line drive off the bat of Caravel’s Becky Notte hit Smith’s right (pitching) hand in the third inning of Saturday’s DIAA Softball State Tournament championship game. The senior picked up the ball and threw to first for the out. Then she pitched four more innings and started the winning rally with a hit as Sussex Tech edged the Buccaneers 5-4 at Polytech High.
“I was shook, I’m not gonna lie,” Smith said. “It’s swollen and it hurts. It was hurting a couple of innings after.
“I think it actually helped me, to be honest, because it made me think, ‘You’ve got to throw this hard, you’ve got to spin this right, you’ve got to put a little extra on this because of it.’ “
The Ravens (18-4) overcame adversity all season. One of their players lost her grandmother. Another lost her mother. But on Saturday, they were jumping for joy after winning the program’s second state championship. The first one came in 2007, also over Caravel.
“This team has had more challenges on a day-to-day basis than any team I’ve coached,” said Sussex Tech’s John Marvel, who has been coaching for 36 years. “To be able to get to this point and do what they did, it just says great things about them.”
Caravel (18-4) was making its 14th consecutive appearance in the championship game, and seeking its 10th state title. But the Ravens topped the Buccaneers 4-1 on April 28 at Caravel, and they did it again in the big one.
“We just didn’t have a good day, and they had a good day,” Caravel coach Randy Johnson said. “Sometimes you can not play well and win, sometimes you can’t. We just didn’t do that. They played very well, and we were lucky to get it that close.”
Sophomore Emily Pusey went 3 for 4 for Sussex Tech, including a big two-run single that helped the Ravens go ahead 4-1 in the fifth. She said her familiarity with hard-throwing Caravel pitcher Carolyn Szymanski made the difference.
“I could see the ball better, since this was the second time we saw her,” Pusey said. “I felt like I had an advantage because I had seen her before. She threw a lot inside, and I really like inside pitches.”
The Buccaneers came roaring back in the sixth, stringing four hits together and getting an RBI double from Nicole Maher and a two-run single by Caroline Reid to tie it at 4. The Ravens regained the lead in the top of the seventh when Smith singled before being lifted for substitute runner Cailey Isaacs. Isaacs then went to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a passed ball.
Szymanski almost authored a dramatic ending in the bottom of the seventh. After Notte (3 for 4) led off with a single, the Caravel cleanup hitter launched a drive that cleared the left-field fence, but hooked about 10 feet foul.
Then it was time for Sussex Tech to write the happy ending. Szymanski drilled a ground ball at second baseman Melissa Joseph, whose older sister, Brittany, was the second baseman on the Ravens’ 2007 title team. The freshman confidently scooped it up, tagged Notte and threw to first for a double play. Emily Neal walked and stole second, but Ravens right fielder Ashton Tomlinson charged in and made a running catch on Maher’s flare to end the game.
“I’ve seen a lot of championship games, and that was one of the most exciting,” Marvel said. “Well-played all the way through. Both teams fought hard, and we were just fortunate to be able to get the job done at the end.”