GLEN BURNIE — Facing a new opponent on new territory didn’t faze the Lions on Tuesday, May 21. Their four runs in the first inning certainly helped.

Those four runs provided plenty of support for Cameron Whiteford.

A sophomore right-hander, Whiteford limited West Region champion Middletown to just two hits in a 9-0 shutout at Bachman Sports Complex as Queen Anne’s County High’s softball team advanced to the Class 2A state championship game.

Making the school’s first appearance in the state tournament in softball, the Lions didn’t wait long to get on the dance floor.

Julia Smith’s speed down the baseline created a throwing error that set the Lions’ offense in motion in the first inning. Kamryn Brandt knocked in two runners with a first-inning double and finished with three RBIs, and Alyssa Sofinowski also drove in three runs for Queen Anne’s, which improved to 19-3.

“Great team performance,” Lions head coach Kim Betts said. “Cameron was phenomenal on the mound today. She kept them off-balance. She kept great composure. She was definitely in her zone. Our bats were on fire, all the way through the lineup. Super proud of their hitting. Some big timely hits, clutch all the way through. And the balls that Middletown put into play our defense made the plays. Just solid performance across the board, offense and defense. We just have to keep our momentum, one game at a time and now we just have to prepare for Saturday.”

The East Region champion Lions advance to the 2A title game at noon Saturday at the University of Maryland in College Park and will face South champion La Plata, which topped North champ Eastern Tech in the other semifinal, 6-3.

Whiteford also went 2 for 2 with a pair of doubles. She drew a walk off Knights senior right-hander Victoria McClain to load the bases without an out in the bottom of the first inning. Smith had reached base on the throwing error and Taylor Walls (three runs) followed with a bunt that Middletown mishandled. With the sacks loaded, Brandt blasted a deep fly to right field that slipped under the fence for a ground-rule double, plating Smith and Walls.

“All day yesterday I was working on situational hitting in the batting cages,” Brandt said. “Today I knew when I got up with bases loaded that I needed to find a way to bring them in.”

McClain rebounded to fan Queen Anne’s next two batters, but Alyson Hall lined a single into shallow left field to knock in Whiteford and Brandt to make it 4-0.

Whiteford only needed one run to win, although she appreciated the extra runs. She allowed only two Knights to reach second base and neither made it to third.

“I just had to go out there and do my thing,” Whiteford said. “They don’t know us either, so it kind of goes both ways. We don’t know each other. It kind of makes it more exciting. We just went out there and did our thing.”

About her team’s four-run first inning, Whiteford said: “That was huge. It feels so good, feels so good. Makes it 10 times better.”

McClain opened the game with a one-hop liner to left for a signle for the Knights. Jordan Long moved her to second with a sacrifice bunt, but Whiteford fanned the next two batters. Six innings later, with one out, Haley Miller picked up the Knights’ next and final hit, a single to left. Whiteford retired the next two batters on a line out and a pop up to end the game.

Whiteford (12-3) finished with seven strikeouts. She walked two. Her battery mate, Brandt, didn’t allow a wild pitch or a passed ball.

“We really work well together,” Brandt said. “We’ve known each other for so long. We just know what we need to do when we get out there.”

The Lions played solid defense all around, including a pair of catches by left fielder Belle Fields. Playing shallow, she caught a looper in the infield dirt for the first out in the third and a liner to short left for the second out in the seventh.

McClain held the Lions to a double by Whiteford in the second and third innings before they added three runs in the fourth. Emily Gunther (2 for 2) reached on an infield hit and took second when Smith grounded a single up the middle. Walls then smacked McClain’s first offering for an RBI double to left that also rolled under the fence to hold Smith at third. Whiteford was hit by a pitch to load the bases. McClain struck out the next batter for the second out, but Sofinowski hit a sharp grounder between third and shortstop to knock in Smith and Walls for a 7-0 lead.

“Today we were able to pick each other up,” Brandt said. “Find a way on base and when somebody got out, we had to pick each other up. I know Alyssa toward the end of the game I had a strikeout but she picked me up and that was awesome.”

“I love this team,” Sofinowski said. “We’ve been playing together this year like a group. We connected together and I think that our heart came out and we showed that with our play today. One game at a time. We can do this. We’re a team and I can’t wait to go to states.”

Queen Anne’s added its final two runs in the sixth. Walls singled to right before Whiteford smashed a grounder that caromed off Middetown’s shortstop and into left field for a double. Walls scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Brandt and Whiteford came home on Sofinowski’s sacrifice fly to end the scoring.

McClain (6-3) surrendered nine runs (five earned) on 12 hits and one walk. She fanned six.

Follow me on Twitter @csknauss / email me at cknauss@stardem.com

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