By Linda Jacobs
PORTER—Corrigan-Camden's record-breaking softball season came to a bittersweet end, as they dropped the first two of a best-of-three playoff series Friday night. District 24-3A champion Danbury defeated the Ladydogs 5-2 and 11-1 to win the Region III Area Championship on the campus of Porter High School.
Despite the loss, the Ladydogs have much to be proud of. The team, which includes no seniors, set a school record for most wins in a season, and broke a six-year playoff drought.
A lot of credit goes to head coach Michael Scoggin, a graduate of Corrigan-Camden. The first-year skipper led the team to the postseason for just the third time in program history. The team improved from five wins a season ago to a school record 27 wins this year.
"Of course you hate to lose, it always really hurts to lose, but I tried to tell them, it's not necessarily a loss, it's a learning experience. It's only going to make us stronger next year," said Scoggin.
"We made portfolios at the first of the year for our expectations and I think when we look back through them on Monday, we're going to see that we did have a good year. As much as you hate to lose, we had a good year."
Not only does Scoggin believe his team will be better next year, he hopes to do a better job himself. "I'm a first year coach and even though I played sports all my life, I learned a lot this year. I'll be a better coach for the girls next year.
"They'll know me, they'll know our signs. There are a lot of little things that will add up to a lot of wins. We should be back here again next year, and we're going to be much stronger."
Corrigan's offense had been potent leading up to the playoffs, and it came up big in their Bi-district championship win versus Trinity. Unfortunately, the team combined for just six hits in the two losses to the Lady Panthers.
"We just ran out of gas," Scoggin said. 'They were tough and jumped out on us, so a lot of credit to them.
"We hadn't had back-to-back games all year and we just came out flat. It's always easy to do everything when you're winning, but we got down. We're not used to being down a lot, so we've got to learn next year to be able to dig ourselves back up."
Brooklyn Swacker dictated the first game, limiting the Ladydogs to just four hits while striking out nine in a 5-2 victory. All four hits were scattered to the first, fourth, sixth and seventh innings.
Molly Rayborn registered the first hit for Corrigan, connecting a two-out single to center field in the top of the first. Swacker, however, kept her from advancing by fanning cleanup batter Keely Smith for the third out.
The Lady Panthers finished with seven hits and scored all five of their runs by the third frame. The damage was done on four hits, one walk and one Corrigan error. Danbury managed three additional hits in the final three innings, but a solid defense kept the Panthers from crossing home plate.
Defensive standouts were catcher Molly Rayborn, who gunned down a base runner in the fourth inning. Eryka Price caught three pop flies in right, and center fielder K.K. Harrison snagged a fly ball. Hailey Nash halted four plays from her shortstop position.
It would be the top of the fourth before Corrigan erased the zero from their side of the scoreboard. Sophomore MaKenna Hughes had a hand in both of the Ladydogs' runs. She smashed a home run over center field for a 5-1 margin, and then belted a double to score Keely Smith in the sixth inning for her second RBI.
Alex Harrell had the final hit of the game, smashing a two-out triple to deep left field in the bottom of the seventh. Harrell was stranded when Danbury snagged a line drive at third to end the game.
Leadoff batter Madison Garza went 3-for-4 and hit two of Danbury's five doubles to be the driving force in the Lady Panthers' 11-1 victory in game two.
Garza would hit the first of three two-baggers that bounced off the outfield fence to stake an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
"They were a good hitting team," added Scoggin. "Our outfielders hadn't had to go back on that many balls. When you're running full speed toward the fence and you're not used to it, it can be a challenge."
Corrigan's offense was held to only two hits in the five-inning contest. Rayborn hit a two-out single to left field in the bottom of the first, but was stranded when Allie Neubauer recorded the second of her eight strikeouts to end the frame.
MaKenna Hughes had her second big hit of the game in the bottom of the second when she rounded all the bases for an inside-the-park home run to slice the deficit to 3-1.
The Lady Panthers took advantage of four hits, two walks and three errors to plate seven runs in the top of the third to increase the lead to 10-1. Garza and Brynna Stout had RBI knocks, while two Ladydog errors allowed three runs to cross home plate.
Corrigan was hitless the final three frames, although three Ladydogs managed to get on base. Two boarded when hit by a pitch, and another drew a walk. The Panthers would strand two and catch one stealing to wipe out any threat.
Danbury added a run in the top of the fifth to garner a 10-run lead. Garza hit a one-out single to right-center and later scored on a single by Swacker to give the Panthers an 11-1 advantage.
The Ladydogs were unable to extend the game beyond the fifth. Brook Martin, who came in to pitch in the fourth, struck out Paige Hooks and Abigail Pinon for the first two outs. Alex Harrell was the last to board the bases when hit by a pitch. She stole second, but was stranded when Katy Burris flied out to center to end the game.