When a team wins 26 games, not all play out the same. Some come with relentless hitting, some with lights-out pitching, and some with shut-down defense.
Tabb got a bit of each in Saturday’s 9-2 win over Cave Spring for the VHSL Class 3 state softball championship at the Moyer Complex. But the biggest factor was what the Tigers did on the bases, and not just the eight they stole in as many attempts.
Tabb (26-0) continuously took the extra base, only once getting burned. Sydney Jacobsen scored from second on a bunt that went about 10 feet. Abbie Overbay ended up with a double on a ball that dropped just into the grass in center field.
“That’s what we do,” Tigers coach Brian Verstynen said. “It starts with our slappers. They get on and they create havoc on the bases. Their pitcher was doing a great job keeping our hitters off balance early, so we went to small ball. And it was successful.
“We’re a very aggressive base-running team. If a ball gets away or they bobble it, we’re going.”
That was evident early. After the Tigers fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first, Jacobsen singled with two outs. She stole second and then scored on Kristen Malloy’s single to left.
In a five-run third inning, the Tigers had five hits. Three were bunts, another a slap single. Malloy had a perfect bunt that scored two runs after the ball bounced off Cave Spring pitcher Abby Weaver’s glove and rolled to the backstop.
“Being aggressive and getting our runners in scoring position is what helped us score as many runs as we did,” Jacobsen said. “Getting into position where we could score helped the batters behind us drive in runs.”
The morning didn’t begin well for Tabb. Starting pitcher Alyssa Lowe, who threw a six-hit shutout in Friday’s semifinal, gave up two runs on five hits to the 10 batters she faced.
After Lowe allowed consecutive one-out singles in the second inning, Verstynen made the switch. Freshman Hannah Maltos pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings, giving up only a single and a walk.
Cave Spring had scouted Tabb’s 6-0 win Friday over Skyline, in which Lowe pitched a complete game.
“We knew they hadn’t scouted her,” Verstynen said, referring to Maltos. “She has a little different movement and she was able to keep them off balance.”
Maltos said the only nerves she felt came before the game.
“I have a lot of trust in my team,” she said. “I felt completely comfortable.”
After falling behind 2-0, Tabb got a run back in the bottom half of the first. Then came the five-run third, and the Tigers coasted from there.
“I liked how we stayed calm even though they got on us in the first inning,” Malloy said. “We stayed calm and pushed through it.”
That didn’t surprise Verstynen, whose school had never played for a state softball championship before Saturday.
“Great players make great coaches,” he said. “I have a team of great players, and the coaching ended a long time ago.
“What you see on the field now is all the kids. They play for each other. They’re a pleasure to coach.”
TABB 9, CAVE SPRING 2
Cave Spring 200 000 0 — 2 6 1
Tabb 105 120 x — 9 10 0
WP: Maltos (13-0). LP: Weaver (18-4). Standouts: Tabb, Jacobsen 2-4 (3 runs, 1 RBI), Malloy 3-4 (4 RBI), A. Overbay 1-2 (3 RBI).
Johnson can be reached at 757-247-4649. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveJohnsonDP.