At the beginning of the softball season, South County coach Gary Dillow knew that his young, but experienced, team needed a challenge to set the tone for the year.
So when he filled out his request for out-of-district games, he pitted his team against reigning Northern Region champion Westfield for the very first game of the season.
“Part of the reason I wanted to play them is because they are always very good,” he said.
South County lost 4-2, but the lessons learned from that game have resonated with the team and resulted in a 10-game winning streak capped by Wednesday night’s 6-0 road victory over West Potomac.
“[The Westfield game] gave us a measuring stick,” Dillow said. “We had numerous opportunities and we left a lot of kids on base. It made my kids realize we’re a good team, but we have to do the things we need to do to win ball games.”
All of the missing elements from the season opener have been corrected by the Stallions in their current run, including their win over West Potomac.
“We had good defense, but we weren’t getting our hitting going [against Westfield],” pitcher Rebecca Martin, who threw a complete game against the Wolverines, said. “We’ve all been working hard to improve on that and it’s shown in our last games.”
Aggressive hitting was the key to beating West Potomac. After jumping to an early three-run lead in the first two innings, the Stallions used aggressive hitting from Whitney Burks, Laura Bettwy and Caitlin Maglich to cement a 6-0 lead in the top of the third.
“We’re getting our runners on base and doing a better job of working them home,” Burks said.
The win is South County’s tenth consecutive since their home opening loss, but beating the Wolverines came with special significance it puts the Stallions alone at the top of the competitive Patriot District standings.
“This game was important because we beat them in the district finals last year and they’ve been gunning for us,” Martin said. “It’s a really big game for us and the beginning of a rivalry.”
Dillow called the win a statement game -- one that South County could use to deter any other teams from thinking they’re the team to beat in the Patriot District but the coach is still aware of how strong the Patriot is this season.
Lake Braddock figures to be in the title picture and West Potomac’s loss is just a minor setback in a long season.
“We need to remain consistent,” Dillow said. “We have the toughest part of our schedule coming up with two games against Lake Braddock and West Potomac. They are the tougher teams in the district and we’re going to be competing with them. We have to figure out where we stand with them.”
Consistency doesn’t seem to be an issue yet for the Stallions. Offensively the team has found ways to drive home runs, reaching double digits in four games this season, and defensively the team has given up only 11 runs in the past five games.
The results are a testament to an experienced line-up that the team believes can carry them far this season.
“We’ve been very solid throughout the line-up on defense,” Dillow said. “We have a lot of travel players on our team and where most teams have a weakness, we’re very strong throughout the line-up. We don’t really have a weakness.”