While the Bishop Carroll softball team was celebrating and taking photos after its 10-0 win over Blue Valley West in the Class 5A championship game, four cakes were placed on the vacant dugout bench by the team’s managers.
“2015 Softball State Champs,” the first cake spelled out in green frosting. It was almost as if Bishop Carroll knew it would win its fifth straight Class 5A title on Friday.
“It was expected,” said junior right fielder Briana Hogan, who closed out the title game with a two-run home run to secure the run-rule. “But we worked really hard all season to make sure it turned out like this.”
And maybe Carroll was right to believe it would win the title again. It’s hard to find a flaw: A top 10 team in the nation, according to MaxPreps, with more than a half-dozen Division 1-caliber players, a win streak that has now eclipsed 50 games, and a history of excellence.
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Most importantly though, Carroll was confident. It wasn’t shy about thinking it was the best.
“I go into every game expecting us to win. I don’t expect anything less,” said senior pitcher Brittany Finney, who pitched all three games of the tournament, including a six-inning no-hitter in the championship.
“We just had to push through every single game that we had. Every game, it was just a new opportunity to show everybody what we’ve got. Each win was just that much more important.”
Finney was vital in carrying on the Golden Eagles’ state championship run. A year after watching pitcher Jessi Haffner carry the team, it was Finney’s turn, and she delivered. In less than 24 hours, Finney churned out 24 strikeouts in 20 innings and allowed one earned run on seven hits. She also homered in each game.
“Brittany was on a mission; she was here to get her championship in her senior year,” Carroll coach Steve Harshberger said. “Brittany saw it happen last year, so she knew that importance of it, and it showed up. She gutted it out all day to get those two wins.”
Finney credited some of her longevity on the rubber to her catcher, senior Lauren Buchanan. Buchanan will leave Bishop Carroll as one of two players leaving this season as a four-time state champion. Since Finney transferred prior to the 2014 season, the two have grown close, even hosting their graduation parties together.
“It’s such a blessing to have Lauren as a catcher,” Finney said of the Colorado State signee. “She knows what she’s doing, she’s so confident in everything she does.… I’ll step on the mound with a pitch in mind and she will call it.
“It’s just so awesome to be able to work that in sync with someone.”
Also key for Carroll was its offense. After scoring seven runs in the 7-2 semifinal win over Shawnee Heights, the bats really clicked late in the championship game for Carroll. The Golden Eagles scored three runs in the fifth inning — including Finney’s second solo home run of the day — then notched four hits in the final inning for five more runs.
“They never hit as good as the coach wants them to hit, but they did all right,” Harshberger said. “It took us a while in the championship game to get going, but the defense did their job, Brittany did her job on the mound, and finally we got a chance to break loose and we did it.”
Carroll loses three seniors from this team, but Harshberger is sending those three off with one more championship. His team might have wasted a few cakes if he wasn't.
“I told them, ‘Don’t fear the reaper because the reaper is coming.’ Whether we’re champions or not, this team is going to end,” Harshberger said. “Fortunately, we’re the champions.”
Carroll 10, BV West 0
0 0 2
10 14 2
W — Finney. L — Downey. HR — Carroll, Finney, Hogan.
Carroll 7, Shawnee Heights 2
2 7 1
7 9 2
W — Finney. L — Lang. HR — Bishop Caroll, Finney.