The Holton-Arms Varsity Softball team enjoyed a fantastic season, filled with gritty defense, determined offense, and outstanding individual and team performances. After compiling an 8-4 regular season record and a 5-1 record in conference play, the team was awarded the second seed in the ISL – A tournament and played their way into the Championship Game.
The season started in the cold of February with indoor hitting, fielding, and throwing drills. First year head co-coaches Rich Roberts and Larry Janski had more questions than answers as to how the year would play out. How would the team—which featured three freshmen and three sophomores—gel and how long would it take for them to master the fundamental skills to compete at the highest levels? In the early part of the season, Roberts and Janski tried a variety of combinations on the field, searching for the right lineup and allowing the team’s understanding and capabilities to develop. This tentative start resulted in the team losing two very close games at the start of their non-conference schedule. In those two losses, however, the coaches saw something special in the team and believed that their focus on fundamentals and the teams’ desire to improve would pay off.
With the coaches and team gaining confidence daily, the team faced the heart of their conference schedule and went on a five-game winning streak. This stretch featured outstanding team hitting and bunting, as well as aggressive base running. According to Roberts and Janski, there were exceptional plays by every fielder and everyone contributed in crucial situations. Jane McCurdy ’14, Kellie Colgain ’14, and Samantha Beaulieu ’15 were outstanding at third base and short stop. Rachel Clayton ’12, Kayla Chernof ’14, and Kerry de Leon ’15 were similarly outstanding at first and second bases. The outfielders Rachel Amsellem ’15, Lindsay Katz ’12, Gabby Chen ’13, Alison Cohen ’13, and Sarah Lossing ’13 also had great performances. Catcher Abby Hsieh ’13 and pitcher Claire Baker ’13 also proved to be a great battery combination. Providing excellent team support was manager Lia Downing ’14. During this winning streak, Holton defeated Bullis School, Georgetown Day School, Episcopal High School, St Andrew’s School, and Madeira School by a combined score of 75-35.
“The game that proved to be a Holton showcase game for the season—and validated the hard work, growth, and mental toughness of this team—was played at Maret in late April,” said Roberts. Holton took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning with outstanding hitting and aggressive base-running. Maret was able to push across one run to tie the score 5-5 at the end of regulation. In the top of the eighth inning, Holton moved a runner into scoring position but could not bring her across the plate. In the bottom of the eighth, the Maret leadoff batter reached first on a single and was sacrificed to second on a bunt. With one out and the winning run on second, the next Maret batter singled but outstanding defense held the winning run to third. On the next pitch the runner at first stole second leaving Maret runners at second and third and one out. This brought the Holton fans to the edge of their seats. With the winning run only 60 feet away, the Holton team, as they did all year, found a way to answer the challenge with gritty determination. The next Maret batter hit a hard ground ball up the middle that was snagged by pitcher Claire Baker and fired to catcher Abby Hsieh who made a spectacular tag for the second out keeping the run from scoring. With two outs but the winning run still on third, the Holton defense had to continue to be focused. The next Maret batter grounded out with the third out, stranding the Maret runners. In the top of the ninth inning Holton was able to string together two hits and three walks to push 3 runs across the plate and take an 8-5 lead. In the bottom of the ninth Maret placed their hopes on the heart of their lineup but the Holton defense held securing the win for Holton.
Holton started the ISL – A Tournament at home against St Andrew’s School and emerged with a 15-0, three inning run-rule victory in an awesome display of dominance in every phase of the game. Once again the Holton bats were unstoppable.
In the semi-final game against Bullis, Holton grabbed an early 3-0 lead but allowed Bullis to climb back and score five unearned runs. Having overcome opponent’s leads many times during the season the Holton team didn’t flinch. In the late innings—with outstanding hitting and aggressive base running—Holton scored five more runs. With Holton leading 8-5 in the top of the seventh, Bullis quickly scored to make the score 8-6. With a runner on third and the tying run at the plate, the Holton defense stepped up and shut down the Bullis offense. The game ended with the catch of a laser line drive back to pitcher Claire Baker to record the final out and secure the victory for Holton.
The championship game was a rematch with National Cathedral School, the only team to defeat Holton in regular season conference play. Holton jumped off to a quick 1-0 lead but was never able to generate a strong offense they needed to push in additional runs. “While stinging from a loss, the team accepted their runner-up award with the class and grace that is hallmark of Holton softball,” explained Roberts.
The Holton softball team will have to work hard to replace their two departing seniors, Rachel Clayton and Lindsay Katz, whose experience and abilities contributed greatly to the success of this 10-5 season. The team has already set their sights on the 2013 ISL Championship.