Hagerstown, MD - May 20, 2019 - Two weeks ago Emily Talbert did not know the name Casey Woods. Now the two are forever linked in Hagerstown Community College softball history.
In 2006, Woods, a graduate of Jefferson, pitched HCC to the NJCAA World Series. The connection between Woods and Talbert — a Williamsport graduate — runs deeper because history has a tendency to repeat.
In addition to majoring in elementary education, both pitchers have the similarity of having to go through powerhouse Catonsville.
Amy Sterner, an assistant coach for the team in 2006 and now the ARCC facility coordinator at HCC, remembers the team riding the strong arm of Woods.
"Casey was legitimately 6-feet tall, all arms and legs, and could bring it," Sterner said. "That girl could pitch all day, every day. She would've been the best hitter on our team but we didn't bat her because we didn't want her to get hurt."
At 5-foot-7, Talbert isn't as imposing, but brings the same grit and intensity to the circle.
"Both are big, strong pitchers who handle the ball really well," Sterner said. "They both had several nice pitches and were so consistent. They don't get rattled and can paint the edges when they need a corner ball."
Sterner remembers the pivotal moment in a 2006 win over Catonsville, 2-1. Things could have been different had it not been for left fielder Megan Riggleman using her speed to track down a fly ball.
The 2019 Hawks had one of their own turning points, also against Catonsville, but under different circumstances.
Trailing 4-0 in the top of the sixth, Maddy McDonough ripped a line drive to the outfield and dove into third base with a triple. The throw to third was high and head coach Jenna Knable sent McDonough home in an attempt to chip away at the deficit.
Even though McDonough was thrown out at the plate with none out, it was still a turning point.
"It kind of lit a spark because I think they were all so mad at me because I was mad at myself," Knable said. "After that they just started crushing it."
Especially Talbert, who launched two home runs and drove in five to ignite a dramatic comeback win, 7-5.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Talbert had fanned 13 in a win over four-time defending region champion Potomac State.
On championship Saturday, Talbert and her fellow sophomore teammates missed their commencement ceremony to travel back to Catonsville to face the Cardinals, who had defeated Potomac State earlier in the day.
Talbert pitched a four-hitter while striking out 11 as the Hawks clinched the World Series berth, 6-1.
"It was well worth it," Talbert said of missing her graduation. "The mom of one of our players graduated too, so we went up to her house and celebrated with her, but we didn't do anything major. We were all just really tired and clocked out."
As a bonus, Talbert was named NJCAA Division II pitcher of the week.
"I didn't know I was selected until Jenna FaceTimed me at 10:30 Wednesday night and was like, 'Emily!'" Talbert said with a laugh. "It was just kind of shocking I guess. I couldn't ask for a better sophomore year. It's the perfect way to close out playing with the girls I have for the last six or seven years."
The double-elimination NJCAA Division II World Series will be played at Traceway Park in Clinton, Mississippi, Wednesday through Saturday. Knable and the Hawks have made plans for the trip.
"We get to practice at Mississippi College and I looked up their field and it's pretty sweet," Knable said. "We're going to do some stuff in our downtime like going to downtown Clinton and there's a Challenger Little League game at the fields we'll be playing at. I think it's important for us to just enjoy this time together no matter what happens because it's our last thing together as a team."
While most teams are entering the 16-team field with no prior knowledge of the competition, the Hawks do know one team. HCC and No. 14 Cuyahoga (Oh.) squared off in a doubleheader at home on March 24 with the Hawks losing both games by a combined score of 15-3. The 14th-seeded Triceratops (35-11) on the opposite side of the bracket.
The Hawks (36-9) are the No. 16 seed, setting up a first-round matchup against top-seeded and No. 1-ranked LSU Eunice (47-7) on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30. The Bengals have claimed five national championships since 2011, the most recent coming two years ago.
The winner will play No. 8 Madison (Wis.) or No. 9 Johnson County (Kan.) on Thursday afternoon. The loser of the HCC-LSU Eunice game will face the loser of the game between Madison (41-10) and Johnson County (24-12).
Notes: HCC's previous World Series appearances came in 1993, 1997, 2001, and 2006. The program has never won a national title. ... Fans can follow the World Series at njcaa.org or on HCC's athletic department website at athletics.hagerstowncc.edu. ... NJCAA TV will broadcast a live video feed, starting with the semifinal round.