Gwynn Park wins pitchers' duel in county title game
Mattia, Jackets turn back Flowers, Shackelford to take county softball crown on Thursday
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The Gwynn Park High School softball team kept its perfect record intact by downing Charles H. Flowers, 2-0, on Thursday in the Prince George's County championship game at Cosca Regional Park in Clinton.
The contest was a battle between two of the county's top pitchers. Gwynn Park (17-0) scored two runs on two hits and one walk in the bottom of the first inning against Flowers' senior Michelle Shackelford, and that was all the support Gwynn Park senior Jessica Mattia needed.
Mattia struck out eight and blanked the Jaguars on four hits as Gwynn Park won the county title game for the third time.
"It was great to win this game," said Mattia (15-0), who has struck out 160 this season and has yet to yield an earned run in 76 innings. "All of my teammates were behind me. They made some great plays. I got a little worried there in the fourth, but we got out of it. Now our focus is on winning the [2A South] region next week."
Flowers' best scoring threat came in the fourth inning, as Marissa Hughes led off with a bloop single and Taylor Walters reached on an error by Gwynn Park second baseman Raelea Taylor. Both runners advanced when Parisse Barnett flew out for the second out of the inning. But Mattia struck out Aerial Spencer on a called third strike to end the inning.
Shackelford's only trouble came in the first inning. Gwynn Park's Brittany Marbury opened the game's only scoring rally by sending an 0-1 pitch toward the right field corner for a triple. She scored on a one-out wild pitch as Raenelle Taylor drew ball four. Taylor then advanced on a throwing error by catcher Markia Shade and scored on a two-out double by Raelea Taylor.
Over the next five innings, Shackelford blanked the Yellow Jackets on one hit and one walk and finished the game with seven strikeouts. Gwynn Park thoroughly dominated its opponents in the County 3A/2A/1A League during the regular season, averaging nearly 21 runs per game while batting a collective .550 as a team. But the Yellow Jackets scored only two runs on three hits and two walks on Thursday.
Shade opened the Flowers' half of the first inning with an infield single and reached second on a throwing error by Gwynn Park catcher Kaitlyn Mattia. But Jessica Mattia corrected her younger sister's mistake when she retired Marissa Hughes on a popup and struck out Walters and Shackelford.
Shade opened the sixth with an infield single and went to second on a one-out sacrifice bunt by Walters. Shackelford grounded out to end the inning. Kira McCall had a two-out single in the seventh, and Mattia struck out Alexandra Fitch on an 0-2 pitch to end the game.
"I'm proud of the way the girls hung in there," said Flowers coach Molly Bender, whose team dropped to 15-2 and will head into the 4A South Region playoffs as the defending champion and top seed. "We just had that shaky start. I really wanted Michelle to warm up for 30 or 35 minutes, but she didn't do that. She got into a nice groove when she did get warmed up, but that first inning was the difference. Our girls made a lot of good plays on defense. We really need to face more competition like this. We don't face a lot of fast pitchers and I'm sure they don't see too many pitchers like Michelle in their league. But it was a great experience for my girls. I have a young team with only one senior [Shackelford] and a lot of players who could come right back and play again next year."
Gwynn Park heads into the 2A South Region tournament as the top seed and will be at home Monday afternoon against the winner of Friday's Southern-Oakland Mills contest. Should they win, the Yellow Jackets could be in line to face defending state champion McDonough on Wednesday. McDonough defeated Gwynn Park, 6-0, in last year's region final.
Mattia, who is headed to Virginia State University this fall, notched the second county championship game win of her career. She threw strikes on 64 of 82 pitches and allowed two runners to reach in the same inning only once. Shackelford threw strikes on 64 of 95 pitches, allowing only one hit after the shaky first inning.