WCHS softball team wins regional title 28 years after their first


Photo courtesy of Ashley O'brien

The WCHS varsity softball team poses with the regional championship plaque after defeating Walt Whitman high school.

By Rachel Mattison, Online Editor-in-Chief

A short line drive was caught at second base marking the third out of the seventh inning. Gloves were thrown up into the air, players came running out of the dugout and the field erupted with hugs and cheers. The pride of winning reverberated through the air and the joy of the season culminating in success-filled squeals. The win over the Walt Whitman team earned the WCHS varsity softball team their first regional championship in 28 years. 

The title did not come from luck; it came after a season of hard work, persistence and lessons learned. When tryouts began on March 1st, a group of girls gathered with excitement and high expectations for their season. After the 2020 season was canceled because of the pandemic and the 2021 one modified, desire for a normal season of softball was bubbling at the surface and the squad of players was some of the best in recent history.

The season started off strong pulling off a no-hitter win against Einstein high school. Their first challenge came against Damascus high school, a game they lost 7-4. Instead of putting their heads down though, they held them high, proud of the fight they had put up against an eventual County champion team. That mentality, continuing to support each other and move on to the next game instead of dwelling on the last, is what helped them progress through the season and never losing two consecutive games.

“We played one of the toughest, if not THE toughest schedules in the county but that didn’t demoralize the players,” varsity Coach Andrew Sonnabend said. “Our performance against some top teams let us believe in our capabilities, and, even in games we didn’t win, we were able to move on. The entire roster bought into what we were trying to accomplish which is what let everyone stay motivated.”

Keeping consistent team morale was integral to powering through a draining season. Given it is a high school sport, in addition to accolades and titles, athletes gain life lessons and friendships, those are what are most valued by many. 

“I love softball because of the intense joy from winning a close game or making a diving play but also because of the little moments,” WCHS freshmen and starting pitcher Maggie King said. “It has brought so many close friends into my life and happy moments”

The team recognized that the key to their cohesion was the connections built off the field. From team dinners, karaoke, carpools to practices and games and more, they worked to create friendships and a positive team culture.

“We learned during the season that our results had a lot to do with our team dynamics,” WCHS junior Elyse Pender said. “We made conscious efforts to have better communication and create fun memories together after that realization. When we were all positive and had our head in we played extremely well and were able to go far knowing we had each other’s backs.”

The game following their Damascus loss was against a strong Sherwood team who WCHS had never beaten. Going into the game they were extremely focused on one thing: winning. They knew they had a shot this year, but it would require clean defense, solid pitching and getting bats going early.

“We were the underdogs of the game given Sherwood’s consistently strong program, but I knew if there was a year we could beat Sherwood it was with this team,” Sonnabend said. “We went out and battled fighting all the way to the end. We tied it up again in the sixth and then went into extras where we had a walkoff win in the eighth. It was the highlight of the season for most of the team and me.”

Throughout the season they battled adversity, dropped some close games and worked through some adjustments to dynamics. That only proved to the team how strong they were though and gave them extra fire for their fight. 

“At the end of the season, we were playing our best, which is exactly what was needed to go far in the playoffs,” Pender said. “The regular season doesn’t matter anymore and we gave some of our strongest performances when it really mattered. For example in the regional championship we didn’t have any errors which was crucial.”

Their first playoff game against Wootton threw a unique situation at them. Instead of being able to go out, play and keep rolling with the momentum of the game, it started to pour right as the first pitch was thrown. The team did not let the dreary weather or two separate rain delays stop them. They kept their head in the game and had a commanding 16-4 win in five innings.

In the next round they played Richard Montgomery and again experienced a rain delay. Once the game got going WCHS proved that their regular season win was not a fluke, again beating RM consistently putting up runs throughout the game for a final score of 9-3.

Advancing to the regional championship was a huge accomplishment for the WCHS team. A program that was blown over until recently they proved that they were a legit team with skill to back it up. As the higher seed than Walt Whitman, the game was played at WCHS, the first time WCHS has ever hosted a softball regional final. Players were not willing to stop at that piece of history though, they wanted the plaque.

“We went into that game with the mindset that losing was not an option,” King said. “We knew we were capable of winning so we played for each other and gave it everything we had.”

Whitman came out strong scoring two runs in the first inning but WCHS did not let that deter them. They kept up strong defense and great pitching to not let Walt Whitman score again until the seventh inning. WCHS bats came alive and their offense produced, especially in the second half of the game. That combined in a 10-3 WCHS win to earn them the regional championship as a culmination to a great season. 

“Winning the regional championship was really exciting,” Pender said. “We all cheered and hugged each other because we were proud of everything we had accomplished not only that game but all year that led up to that. It gave us the plaque we deserved to commemorate the season that we had.”