Although the Hun School softball team has suffered several heartbreaking defeats to Peddie in postseason play over the years, the Raiders were upbeat as the rivals met last Thursday in the state Prep A championship game.
Snapping a four-game losing streak, Hun routed Blair Academy 7-1 in the Prep A semis to earn its trip to the title game and gain a much-needed jolt of confidence.
“I am shocked the way we played against Blair,” said longtime Hun head coach Kathy Quirk.
“We had lost four or five in a row by one run. The atmosphere had been ‘oh do we have to play another game.’ It just seemed to not be where we wanted it to be. They battled back. The Blair game was the game of our life.”
Hun senior star catcher and Elon University-bound Carey Million and her teammates believed they had
the talent to play with the Falcons.
“I think we realized how close we were,” said Million, noting that Hun had dropped two one-run nailbiters to Peddie in regular season play. “I think everyday could be our day.”
Building on its strong game against Blair, Hun scored three runs in the top of the first in the title game to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Million, for her part, realized that wouldn’t be enough.
“We knew we couldn’t settle with three runs,” said Million. “After that inning, we just couldn’t find holes with our bats.”
Peddie, as its custom, chipped away with its bats, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second inning and adding another in the bottom of the fourth to knot the contest at 3-3. The Falcons forged ahead in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs to take a 5-3 lead.
Hun, though, didn’t throw in the towel, loading the bases in the top of the seventh before succumbing by the 5-3 margin.
Million was proud of how Hun kept battling in the seventh as Kristen Manochio singled, Alexis Goeke drew a walk and Alexa Fares was hit by a pitch.
“It showed a lot, especially with the bottom of our lineup,” said Million.
“I think Fares fought in that at-bat. Sometimes you can’t do it all and it just happens.”
A disappointed Quirk was frustrated as she reflected on her team’s unfortunate case of déjà vu.
“I don’t know what to say; it is like a monkey on our back and we just can’t seem to get rid of it,” said Quirk, who took out starting pitcher Goeke in the sixth inning and replaced her with Dani Beal in an effort to stop the Falcons.
“We come out strong. We have an inning or two and let them creep back in. I made the pitching change, which I thought I needed to do. Goeke just seemed to be struggling a little bit today and I did what I had to do. I don’t think I would change it. And then you have bases loaded and you don’t get anything. We just couldn’t capitalize on it. I was very proud of them: I thought they played a nice game today.”
Quirk is proud of the contributions made by her trio of seniors, Joey Crivelli together with Million and Beal.
“They are going to be missed; there is no doubt about that,” asserted Quirk, whose team ended the spring with a final record of 11-7. “These three seniors are key players for us.”
With such key returners as freshman Goeke, sophomore Julia Blake, sophomore Caitlin Hoagland, and freshman Sierra Hessinger together with juniors Manochio and Fares, the Raiders have a good foundation in place.
“We are young so there is next year,” said Quirk. “Goeke is only going to get better. You have to keep fighting hard and you can’t ever give up. You have to work hard in the offseason, which is something that my younger kids don’t seem to understand. We’ll work on it.”
For Million, it is hard to say goodbye to Hun softball. “I thought I played pretty well, I am glad we won games where I played well,” said Million, who batted .510 this spring with 2 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs, 26 RBIs, and 23 runs scored.
“In games where I played well and we didn’t win, I really didn’t care about what I did. You can’t get anywhere by yourself. I am going to miss everyone; it is going to be rough. I think it is hard for everything to come to an end.”
Million’s brilliant play has her heading somewhere special as she will continue her softball career at Division I Elon in North Carolina.
“It is something I have always wanted to do and I got to go to my No. 1 school so it works out,” said Million.
“I am looking forward to it but I wish we could be holding the trophy right now.”
While Million didn’t end her Hun career with a trophy, she produced some great work over the last four years.