Carolyn Szymanski could have been mentally beaten down after striking out twice and grounding into a double play in her first three at-bats.
But that wasn’t the case as Szymanski, a senior at Caravel Academy, kept telling herself to “stay focused and just make contact” as she strode to the batter’s box in the bottom of the eighth inning in a tied game.
Szymanski proceeded to swing at the first pitch she saw and belted it over the center-field fence for a solo, walk-off home run that quickly erased those earlier plate appearances. Her blast lifted the top-ranked Buccaneers to a magical 3-2 victory over No. 3 Delmar in a nonconference softball game on Saturday evening.
“That was a first for me,” Szymanski said, of her walk-off homer. “It was exciting. I think I just focused. I just wanted to get on base so bad. I think it was a pretty good pitch, but I think I was just so focused on hitting it that it didn’t matter where it was.”
Szymanski’s dramatic shot also gave her the win after she pitched a complete game, allowing only five hits with 10 strikeouts and a pair of walks. Caravel improved to 6-1 overall, with its only loss this season coming to St. John Vianney (N.J.) in the Bucs’ second game.
“She’s doing a great job,” Caravel head coach Randy Johnson said of Szymanski. “I know it’s early in the season, but she’s having a good year so far, so we’re pretty excited for her. Delmar was unbeaten coming in and they’re a tough team every year, so it’s nice. It’s great to play a team like that for us.”
The Buccaneers hit the scoreboard first by plating a couple of runs in the second inning off Delmar pitcher Danielle Bradley, who surrendered six hits and struck out seven in a complete game.
Brittany Ford hit a one-out single before Chloe Kennedy was hit by a pitch with two outs. The runners moved up on a double steal before Holly Brooks came through with a two-run single to left field as Caravel took a 2-0 advantage.
Delmar (8-1) valiantly fought back by scratching for two runs in the fifth to tie it.
With two outs, Bradley hit a run-scoring bloop single to left field that scored Ashton Riddle and Shelby Murphy lined an RBI single to left that scored Bradley with the tying run.
Suddenly, it was a new game. But it was Caravel that finally got the last laugh off Szymanski’s clutch home run.
“I’m very proud to be the Delmar softball coach right now,” Michelle Niblett said after the contest. “They never hung their heads and they stayed in it.
“With Caravel up by two runs, that’s reason enough to give any team a reason to panic. But our girls didn’t. They stayed level, stayed in the game, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Szymanski said she was relieved as she circled the bases waiting to celebrate with her teammates at home plate after her game-winning hit.
“It was a relief that it was finally over, and I was just proud that we stayed in it and ended up winning,” she said. “My team picked me up. Those two runs there at the beginning [by my teammates] really helped things because I wasn’t batting. You just can’t let it affect you.”