McLean softball fails to capitalize on regional championship game appearance

Highlanders can’t keep up with Madison in final game before state tournament

On the McLean softball field, cheers and chants echoed from both the Madison and McLean dugouts. On June 3, McLean played in the Virginia Northern Region championship game, where the Highlanders looked to reassert their tradition of excellence on the softball diamond by following up on their district championship victory. Crowds for both teams lined the edge of the field in anticipation for the tournament’s next regional champion. However, McLean players and fans left the stadium that night disappointed after an anticlimactic 8-1 loss to the visiting Warhawks.

“Our energy was high throughout the game, and everyone was cheering and trying to not let it get to us when things weren’t going our way,” junior Caroline Austin said. “Everyone is very disappointed about the loss, but we’re using it as fuel to make us better.”

Despite the high competitive energy, McLean was unable to follow through defensively.

“Usually [the team] is better defensively,” said Gary Engle, grandfather of player Chelsea Engle. “We were having a few lapses [that game].”

Throughout the night, multiple players failed to catch simple pop-ups that easily could have changed the course of the game. By the top of the second inning, Madison had already taken control of the game with a 3-0 lead.

“The lows [of the game] were that our defense was not as tight as we had hoped, and we were not able to string any hits together,” sophomore left fielder E.K Templer said. “A high [of the game] was Elise’s pitching. She gave her all in the circle, and we all appreciate her for it.”

Freshman pitcher Elise Walker set the tone of the game by throwing key strike-outs and having strong hits. Templer also contributed to McLean’s morale, making successful throws to first and diving for the ball in the outfield.

While McLean’s energy never wavered, their on-field play continued to falter, with a Madison home run giving the Warhawks a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning.

When McLean was at bat, it was difficult for players to get on base, as many hits ended in easily caught pop-ups. Simultaneously, Madison was able to fully assert their dominance by the seventh inning, with 13 hits compared to McLean’s six.

“Madison is a good hitting team and came out swinging,” Austin said.

Despite the loss, McLean will continue to the states tournament. They hope to continue to bring high intensity into their games.

“We play at Robinson next Tuesday in the state quarterfinals,” said Austin. “We’re not done yet.”