Trunnell leads Linganore softball to 3A state final with win over previously unbeaten Chopticon

GLEN BURNIE — As an eighth grader two years ago, Lilly Trunnell watched from the stands as Linganore’s softball team won its first state crown.

“I went there because I was like, ‘That’s my school. I want to be walking into that type of program,’” said Trunnell, who is now the Lancers’ starting catcher and cleanup hitter. “And it’s so crazy that I’m going to be in it now.”

Trunnell helped the Lancers return to the state final for the first time since 2022. She smacked a two-run double to highlight a huge four-run rally in the fifth and also caught senior Gracie Wilson’s complete-game four-hitter as Linganore toppled previously unbeaten Chopticon 4-1 in the Class 3A state semifinals at the Bachman Sports Complex on Tuesday.

Linganore (18-5) will face Sherwood — a 7-2 winner over Chesapeake-AA in the semis — in the 3A title game at 8 p.m. on Friday at the University of Maryland.

Third baseman Autumn Rinehart caught a fly ball behind the bag for the game’s final out, triggering a celebration among the Lancers, who held up a poster with senior Leo Cline’s picture on it as they congregated for postgame photos. Some of them — like Wilson and Cline — will be making a return trip to the championship, and some — like Trunnell — will be playing on that stage for the first time.

“This means everything and more,” Trunnell said. “This is going to be exciting. Money can’t buy this experience.”

No, this experience was bought with the fortitude needed to knock off 23-1 Chopticon, a team the Lancers beat in the 2022 state final.

Take Wilson. After playing the bulk of the season in center field, she has been logging plenty of innings in the pitchers circle. And she entered this game with minimal rest.

“I graduated yesterday,” she said. “And I was up all night, til 5 a.m. So I was a little rusty at first, but I got into a groove.”

Wilson held the Braves hitless for the first four innings, and the only run she surrendered came on a sac fly in the seventh. She struck out four and seemed better at getting ahead in the count as the game progressed.

"Oh my gosh, once she gets in a really good rhythm, she’s on,” Trunnell said. “Her screwball’s amazing, they kept missing it. Her curveball is great, too, and her change-up keeps hitters off balance. She did great.”

As usual, Wilson also made good use of her defense. Rinehart made a nice backhand stop and strong throw to first to prevent an infield hit in the fourth.

In the fifth, shortstop Bradyn MacKay dropped to her knees to make a tough stop, then fired a throw that barely nabbed the runner at first.

And the ever-reliable first baseman Cline made a running catch on a foul ball near Linganore’s dugout in the sixth.

Despite all those plays and Wilson’s fine pitching, the Lancers found themselves locked in a scoreless tie heading into the top of the fifth.

But Taylor Droneburg and MacKay opened that frame with infield hits. Wilson then smacked a single to right field, and Droneburg touched the third-base side of the plate with her cleat to barely beat the throw home.

After Cline’s sac bunt, Trunnell drilled a standup double to right-center for her first hit of the night, giving the Lancers a 3-0 lead that held up.

“I struck out twice,” Trunnell said of her earlier at-bats. “She started me outside. I knew it was going to come again, so I was looking for a ball outside and I just drove it that way, looking aggressive.”

A fired-up Trunnell sprinted to the dugout as she was replaced by courtesy runner Trinity Lindblade. The first-year varsity player has been making an impact.

“She’s amazing,” Wilson said of the catcher, who finished with two hits. “She’s grown a lot over the season and she’s really honed her hitting and the pitch calls, what she needs to call. I’m proud of her, and she’s learned a lot.”

Kylie Thompson also had an RBI single in the fifth to provide Wilson with an insurance run.

Wilson, a Maryland recruit, isn’t going to the school as pitcher. But her pitching on Tuesday gives her a valid excuse to go there a little early.