The softball team celebrates and awaits as senior Carly Gilder rounds the bases after hitting a home run. Gilders home run was the first hit she had gotten off of Churchill pitcher Maggie King in nine attempts and sealed the victory for the Wildcats in the regional semifinal.
Softball overpowers Bulldogs behind Gilder homerun
Seyun Park
The softball team celebrates and awaits as senior Carly Gilder rounds the bases after hitting a home run. Gilder’s home run was the first hit she had gotten off of Churchill pitcher Maggie King in nine attempts and sealed the victory for the Wildcats in the regional semifinal.

Softball overpowers Bulldogs behind Gilder homerun

Wildcats advance to third region final in four years

Before Monday evening, senior second baseman Carly Gilder was a career 0 for 8 at the plate against Winston Churchill High School pitcher junior Maggie King.

But Monday, May 13 was different.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, instead of trying to shorten her swing like she previously had against King, Gilder swung with her full power. With her full swing, Gilder sent the ball high into the air, deep into center-field and over the outfield fence to score a home run.

Gilder’s home run sealed the deal in a tight pitching duel on Monday evening, with the Wildcats emerging victorious over the Bulldogs 4-2 to advance to the regional final.

Churchill pitcher junior Maggie King slides safely into second base on a double. King is one of the team’s best hitters and is also a star pitcher. (Seyun Park)

The Bulldogs fought their way to the regional semifinal by beating B-CC 6-3 on Friday, May 10. On the other hand, the Wildcats advanced on a bye with the first seed in the region.

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Heading into the matchup, the biggest x-factor was King, and how good she would be. King, who is committed to play Division I softball at George Washington University, is one of the best pitchers in the county, being named the 4A South All-Division Player of the Year in 2023, striking out over 100 batters each season since her freshman year and averaging over 2 strikeouts per inning pitched during this year’s regular season.

“After having a few at-bats, we eventually were able to hit her really well, we all adjusted to the pitching … the most important thing was that we kept our energy up the entire game which hyped us up to get hits,” sophomore catcher Alina Bonior said.

The two teams started strong on defense with no runs scored in the first two and a half innings, including multiple 1-2-3 innings. Right fielder Allie Berube made clutch plays on line drives to right to end the top of the first and second innings while WJ pitcher senior Sami Rosenberg and King both picked up multiple strikeouts.

In total, Rosenberg struck out 10 batters while allowing six hits while King struck out eight and allowed eight hits.

The Wildcats’ first hit of the day came in the bottom of the third inning off the bat of senior center fielder Mackenzie Norris, who like Gilder, had struggled in the past against King. A line drive to right field landed perfectly in between the first baseman and right fielder and got Norris onto first base, before multiple advances on wild pitches and a single from junior left fielder Vivian Leibreich brought Norris home for the Wildcats to take a 1-0 lead.

Sophomore Addie Strbak leads a team huddle at the top of the fifth inning. Many of her teammates attributed Strbak’s energy and leadership to the team’s win. (Seyun Park)

“We definitely came into this knowing that Churchill was a great team and so are we, so we came in preparing. This weekend I had the whole team over at my house and we put in more work than we ever have, we’ve been having a good mentality” sophomore shortstop Addie Strbak said.

Strbak’s leadership organizing the team’s first weekend practice and high energy during the game drove the team, while Strbak also led at the plate with a hit in the bottom of the third inning.

“Addie was really adamant on our team spirit, [saying] we need to be cheering throughout the entire game, and it really showed,” Gilder said.

Rosenberg and the defense held off the Bulldogs in the top of the fourth before the Wildcats added on insurance runs off successive doubles from sophomore third baseman Ella Reynolds and Bonior. Bonior’s double brought Reynolds home and brought Gilder up to the plate.

Having struck out in her first at-bat of the game, in her second at-bat, Gilder knew something had to change.

“Usually with the faster pitching, I try to change my approach, just shorten up my swing, and I kind of just gave up on that. I swung it like I normally do, and it just worked out, connected, and it went far enough,” Gilder said.

As the ball soared deep into centerfield, sophomore outfielder Jacqueline Le ran towards the fence before running out of room and putting her hands up in desperation, as she could only watch as the ball flew over her head. The home run was the first home run King had given up in over a year and scored two runs to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.

The team huddles to congratulate senior Carly Gilder as she approaches home plate after hitting a home run. It was Gilder’s third home run this season. (Seyun Park)

“We knew if we could score three or four runs, that we could beat them … we need to put the pressure on them early, score some runs in the first couple innings, so we can have that cushion. I think we play best from ahead,” head coach Richard Carter said.

In the final three innings, the Bulldogs applied pressure to Rosenberg, scoring a run in the top of the fifth inning. The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the top of the sixth with no outs, but the Cats escaped mostly unscathed, giving up a run but retiring the inning with two Rosenberg strikeouts and a ground out.

Rosenberg throws a pitch in the early innings of the game. Rosenberg picked up ten strikeouts on Monday, two more than the GW-committed King. (Seyun Park)

In the seventh and final inning, the team notched a quick first out, forcing out King at first base. However, with two outs separating the Wildcats from a shot at the region championship, things started to go poorly as Rosenberg gave up a single and a walk to get runners on first and second base.

“I was like [thinking] ‘maybe if I could throw a damn strike,’” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg got what she wished for as she clutched up two successive strikeouts against senior Ashley Williams and sophomore Amy Moon to end the game.

The team next plays in the 4A West Region II Region final, a game it is no stranger to. The team has won two region championships in three years and is looking for a third. The Cats will face off against the second-seeded Whitman Vikings, who they beat 10-6 in the regular season, on Wednesday at home at 7 p.m.

The Pitch Radio Network will live broadcast the Regional Final at

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  • Sophomore catcher Alina Bonior swings on King’s first pitch to her in the bottom of the fourth inning. Bonior drove the ball in for a double to set up Carly Gilder’s two-run home run.

  • Churchill head coach Andrew Sonnabend has a mound meeting with pitcher Maggie King and the infield after King gave up the home run to Gilder.

  • The two teams congratulate each other after the game. This was the second year in a row the Wildcats knocked out the Bulldogs in the region semifinals after beating them 7-3 last year.

  • Sophomore Addie Strbak (center) asks to say a word as the team huddles for their post-game meeting. Strbak spoke about how the team’s hard work over the weekend in preparation for the match paid off and how the job was not yet done.

  • The team celebrates after senior pitcher Sami Rosenberg won the game on an off-speed strike looking. The team next plays Whitman HS in the region final.

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Seyun Park
Seyun Park, Print Editor-in-Chief
Junior Seyun Park is in his third year of the Pitch, happy to join this year as a Print Editor-in-Chief. Outside of Pitch, Seyun plays tennis and cello, and likes to follow hockey.
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    Josh hananelMay 14, 2024 at 3:55 pm

    nice use of multimedia and layoutbuidlding