GLEN BURNIE — It took until the fifth inning of the state semifinals for Bohemia Manor junior pitcher Maddie Penta to allow her first earned runs of the season.
Even still, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Eagles from coming one step closer to making Cecil County softball history.
Penta allowed two runs on two hits, two walks and one hit by pitch, but finished with 13 strikeouts and retired the last seven batters of the game as Bo Manor defeated Brunswick, 4-2, at Bachman Sports Complex to return to the 1A State championship for a third consecutive season.
The Eagles (21-1) move on to face Sparrows Point at University of Maryland on Saturday hoping to become the first county softball team to win three state titles in a row.
“It’s a great opportunity to go back to the championship game, but that’s all because of hard work,” said Penta, who has started every one of her team’s playoff games the last three years. “It’s a big deal, nobody is easy to beat, so we have to bring our A-game on Saturday, no matter who we’re playing.”
Allyssa Albright led off the fifth inning with a walk, Katie Laing followed with a two-out single and Alexis Stone reached on a hit by pitch as Brunswick became the first team to ever load the bases against Penta in her high school career. Abigayle Perry then blooped a two-run single to left field as the Roaders scored the first earned runs off the junior hurler since she allowed one in last year’s state title game.
“They really came through and they found places where we weren’t, they got around on Maddie, so it was good for them to do that, but we battled back and found it again,” Bo Manor junior Carlee Ferguson said. “I wouldn’t say we were shocked. It was more a situation that we’re not used to. You have to work back to when you’ve been in that situation before in previous years.”
Penta, who verbally committed to continue her softball career at Auburn University, struck out the next batter, before firing back-to-back perfect frames to end the contest. She owns a 48-1 record at the varsity level.
“I honestly think I got a little bit lackadaisical, and that is my bad, completely. It was not my best outing,” admitted Penta, who entered Tuesday having allowed one unearned run on two hits over the previous three playoff games. “After [the runs scored], I kicked it into gear and did what I had to do, focused on what I needed to do mechanics-wise and fundamentals-wise, and went out there and pitched like normal.
“Brunswick was a good team. I was expecting them to be a competition. It did surprise me a bit, but that’s my own fault for being a little lackadaisical,” she continued. “My team had my back behind me, defensively and offensively. The offense really carried us to this win today.”
Alexis Bolton drove in two runs with a single in the first inning, Ferguson plated another with a single in the third inning and Morgan Koehler rounded out Bo Manor’s scoring when she crossed the plate on a misplayed ball off the bat of Aubrey Heath in the bottom of the sixth.
The East Champion Eagles also had a run cut down at the plate with no outs in the sixth inning after Perry, the Brunswick shortstop, fielded a pop up from Koehler and fired home ahead of pinch-runner Arianna Frey, who slid into the tag while the catcher transitioned the ball to the mitt. The controversial play resulted in a meeting between the umpires, but the call eventually stood.
Bo Manor finished with four hits off Laing, Brunswick's starting pitcher who fell behind early after allowing a leadoff walk to Morgan Mullin and a double to Reagan Goldsmith to open the contest before surrendering a two-out base hit to Bolton.
The Roaders pitcher threw a complete game, finishing with seven punchouts.
“Finally, we had [Penta’s] back after she’s had our back for so long,” Bo Manor head coach Ed Abshagen said. “The children respect her work ethic so much, they don’t want to let her down.
You don’t have to have 18 strikeouts to win.”
West champion Brunswick made its first-ever appearance in the state tournament. Bo Manor, which has now made 11 state tournament appearances, is chasing the program’s sixth state championship.
The current Eagles squad joins Bo Manor’s 1994-96 teams, Elkton’s 1990-92 teams and North East’s 1988-1990 squads as local programs that have advanced to three consecutive state championships.
“It’s a great experience to be a part of. It’s a great family to be a part of,” Bolton said. “Especially going for the three-peat, because you get to do it with the people that you love.”
On an adjacent field, Sparrows Point advanced with a 5-4 win over Lackey. The Pointers, who have never won a state crown, return to the title game for the first time since 2015.
“I’ve heard a lot about [Penta]. I hear she’s amazing. We’re going to do our best to win,” Sparrows Point head coach Duke Vickery said. “She’s got a special talent.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig