Episcopal softball celebrate first regular season league title since 2008

Episcopal softball celebrate first regular season league title since 2008

By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)

When their five current seniors arrived in the program as freshmen four years ago, Episcopal’s softball team was in a phase of transition with just two upperclassmen on the roster. Since then, the Maroon have undergone a building process that has seen them improve each year as their then-freshmen have taken on a dominant role both on and off the field.

After a 2013-14 season in which they won the Independent Schools League A Division tournament and finished with an 11-3 record overall, Episcopal yet again have something to cheer for on the diamond as they secured their first ISL A Division regular season title since 2008.

The Maroon won their conference with a perfect 6-0 record, securing their title with an emphatic 15-1 win away to St. Andrew’s of Potomac, Md. April 23 as they closed out their divisional schedule two weeks before the end of the regular season. As of press time, their record stood at 9-4 overall.

They were set to finish their regular season slate Tuesday afternoon away to local rivals St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, but their game was curtailed by rain in the top of the fourth with the Maroon leading the Saints by a margin of 12-7. It was resumed on Wednesday afternoon, after the Times’ print deadline.

The team saw a rough start to the season, going 1-3 with three straight losses, but the Maroon came roaring back to win eight in a row. Head coach John Dooley says triumph over adversity has been one of the biggest factors in their success this year.

“One of the things that they’ve learned to do is that in any game, some bad things are going to happen,” he said. “They don’t let those bad things beat them up. They’ve learned to be resilient; they’ve learned to bounce back from some adversity.

“We’ve had some games where we’ve gotten behind and they’ve been able to fight through it and ultimately end up on top in the majority of the games.”

The Maroon have been led by pitcher Ivy Houde, who has been the only Episcopal player to throw from the pitching plate this year and has balanced that responsibility by being an offensive force and a strong fielding presence at her position too. Over the course of the season, Houde has thrown three shutouts, and also managed to come away with victories from games with close margins.

Other offensive weapons have been Houde’s fellow senior captains Aubree Phillips and Mary Helen Tarbutton. They helped engineer a strong start to the game against the Saints on Tuesday as the visitors batted around in the first inning without giving up an out to move ahead 7-0. By the end of the second, Episcopal were up 8-0 and well on top.

The Saints got after Houde in the second inning and managed to score five runs, but she stayed calm in the third after her teammates upped their lead to 11-5. The hosts’ batters then grounded out to Houde for all three outs in the bottom of the third as they could add only two runs before the rain started in the fourth with Episcopal up 12-7.

Once they bring that game to a conclusion, the next challenge for the Maroon will be the ISL A Division conference tournament, which they enter as the No. 1 seed at the semifinal stage. Dooley said that while they are filled with confidence ahead of a possible playoff run, they will need to stay alert against some strong opponents.

“We move into the conference tournament next weekend, and going in there, having faced all the teams once and beating them is certainly a boost,” he said. “However, we’ve had some games where the scores were tighter than we’d hoped, specifically the game against Stone Ridge [a 16-13 win for Episcopal]. If we face them again, it’ll be another very, very good contest.”

In addition to the ISL A Division tournament, the Maroon can look ahead to a berth in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state tournament as well, which is set to begin on May 12 and conclude three days later with the state final at the Dinwiddie Sports Complex in Sutherland, Va.

Having been ranked No. 6 in the VISAA poll released on April 28, the Maroon fell to No. 8 in Tuesday’s latest poll, which would leave them in the last playoff place for the state tournament. With a strong possibility of taking on some of the best teams in Virginia, Dooley knows that there are plenty of challenges still ahead for his team, and they must keep their discipline, even as other commitments dominate in the spring.

“One of the things that we need to do with the number of seniors we’ve got is to try to keep them focused,” he said. “It’s a big time of year for them. Episcopal graduates earlier than the majority of the other schools around here, so they’re already working on senior seminars or going to work each day instead of going to school, looking forward to their graduation at the end of the month.”