This was supposed to be the spring in which the Broad Run High girls’ softball team fell back to earth following dominant seasons in both 2007 and 2008.
And, in some ways, that did happen to the ’09 Spartans, who were not as powerful, seasoned or as intimidating as the Broad Run squads that went unbeaten and won state crowns the prior two seasons.
But Broad Run never stopped picking itself up and moving forward when things got tough this spring. The Spartans experienced some injuries and even some losses. But at season’s end, it was Broad Run which had, once again, garnered accolades as state champions.
The Spartans completed their improbable season of glory by defeating Tunstall High (Dry Fork), 2-1, in 11 innings at the Virginia State AA finals on June 7. Both the state semifinals and finals took place on the beautiful campus of Radford University.
“The biggest thing was we had lots of injuries early [this season] and had to replace seniors [from the year before],” said Broad Run coach Ed Steele, of some of the obstacles this year’s less heralded team had to deal with. “We had a lot of adversity but our new [players] were flexible and they adjusted to what we do. We learned to win close games. A lot of people got a chance to play and as the season went on we got better and better. It all came together.”
Broad Run (22-3), unbeaten in both of the previous two seasons, proved to be mundane with an early season loss to Ashburn rival Stone Bridge on March 30. But the Spartans fell only one more time during the remainder of the regular season. At the Dulles District tournament, however, Broad Run was beaten in a semifinals game by area rival Park View.
The Spartans, however, still qualified for the Region II playoffs. Putting behind the district tourney loss to the Patriots, Broad Run got onto a postseason roll typical of the program during coach Steele’s long tenure as head coach. It won the Region II tournament, then won two games at states, including a 2-0 semifinals win over Orange County, to reach
“I guess the loss to Park View was a wakeup call,” said Steele.
<b>BROAD RUN</b> won its state titles in ’07 and ’08 behind great team chemistry and great pitching. Ace pitcher Caitlyn Delahaba, over those two years, established herself as the best pitcher in the state. She simply controlled games and was, pretty much, unhittable.
This year, senior Judy Betz, Delahaba’s backup last year, was called upon to take over the mound duties. Early season injuries slowed her down, but the gritty right-hander got healthier and stronger as the season moved on and ultimately earned District and Region Pitcher of the Year honors. She was steady, composed and not at all intimidated at replacing Delahaba. While not as talented on the hill, Betz sort of epitomized this year’s hard-working, never give up team mindset. She allowed just three runs over three games at states.
“I think she was downright magnificent,” said Steele, of his pitchers’ season. “That is not too strong a word. She got healthy and more confident. She pitched most of our games after the middle of the season.”
Betz and senior star catcher Haley Johnson emerged into one of the best pitcher-catcher batteries in the state. A solid defense, that had never been all that tested in recent years when Delahaba was striking out opposing hitters at a record pace, stepped up and became a team strength, making things easier on Betz. The Spartans committed no errors in the extra innings finals win over Tunstall.
“This is a blue collar, hard-working team,” said Steele. “We have real good defensive players. We have Judy [on the mound] and Haley, who is an All-Region catcher. We just did it a different way this year. Over the course of the season, everyone always had a chance to chip in. The tendency last year was that Delahaba was so great, the defense didn’t have to do anything. But we did have a good defense [as well last year].”
<b>THE FINALS WIN</b> over Tunstall was nothing less than pure drama. With the game tied after the regulation seven innings, the game went into extra frames. Finally, in the bottom of the 11th, Broad Run’s Jenn Soroka, with two outs, smacked a double that plated Maggie Betz from first base with the winning run.
That game-winning hit set off an on-field Broad Run celebration.
“They were pretty excited,” said Steele. “We had a lot of young kids on our team. Probably half our team had never been in the state finals before.”
Soroka, a junior, also had the key base hit in the Spartans’ semifinals win over Orange County, a sixth inning single that scored Johnson to break a scoreless tie.
Steele is proud of what his team has accomplished in winning three straight state titles.
“There’s not one that’s better than the others, but this is special because of the way we did things this season,” he said. “I’ve got to give credit to the seniors.”