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Jun. 19—GLEN BURNIE — Allegany’s batting order fittingly logged the same four names at the top of it, with the exception of a Senior Week trip, in every game this season.

It began with speedy slap-hitter Katie Sterne, followed by all-around star Samara Funk, dominant pitcher and slugger Kyra Pittman and power-hitter Kelsey O’Neal.

All four seniors. All four leaders by example. And all four instrumental in Allegany’s first appearance in the 1A state title game since 2017.

For first-year coach Brian Miller, he couldn’t have asked for a better group.

“I told them I’ll never forget them because if you’re a first-year coach, you might be doing things a little different than the coach before,” Miller said. “They never questioned anything. They always had my back. They always led by example. I’ll never forget that, I never will.”

Miller could’ve hardly hoped for a better opening campaign. Allegany came up just short of its first state championship since 2010 with a 4-1 loss to Patterson Mill (22-0) on Friday to finish 12-1.

The Campers also went 3-0 against city rival Fort Hill.

All three of Allegany’s assistant coaches are fathers of seniors. Keith Pittman called pitches, Adam Sterne coached first and Jim O’Neal manned the third-base coaching box.

Samara Funk, who was first-team All-Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference as a sophomore and will be playing softball at Frostburg State next year, said she will cherish the bonds she made with her classmates and the knowledge imparted by their fathers.

“I’ve been playing with them since I was like 10, so it really meant a lot for me to get to step out on the field with them one more time,” said Funk. She cracked a crucial three-run double in Allegany’s semifinal win over Cambridge-South Dorchester on Wednesday.

“I love them, they’re like sisters. I’d do anything for them. And I love their dads, they’ve coached me forever. It’s just going to be hard not stepping on the field with them. They’re all hard workers and really athletic.”

Funk will be joined at Frostburg State by Katie Sterne, though not on the softball field. Sterne — the co-recipient of the Miriam Sincell, Esq., Goalkeeper of the Year Award in 2020 — is playing soccer in the fall.

Though she won’t compete in softball with the same group again, Sterne isn’t forgetting the friends she made along the way anytime soon.

“I’ve played with them since the sixth grade, some longer,” said Sterne, who went 2 for 2 at the plate and scored Allegany’s lone run in the state title game Friday. “They’ve come to be my best friends. Couldn’t ask for better teammates, couldn’t ask for better supporters.

“They’re my support system. They always have my back. … Just really good people and I’m glad to be around them for as long as I have been.”

Kelsey O’Neal will also take to the pitch next year as a soccer player at Potomac State. As a junior, she was named the area’s soccer Player of the Year.

On the softball field this season, she snagged a leaping line drive and turned a double play to spark the Campers defensively in their semifinal win; she also slapped a run-scoring single up the middle in the victory.

“These four are the only ones who have stuck it out since (we started playing together),” she said. “We’ve had a connection with each other ever since.”

And that leaves Kyra Pittman, who is off to the University of Maryland on a softball scholarship.

She was a two-time All-Area first-teamer, earning the Averey Bridges Memorial High School Softball Player of the Year award following a dynamic freshman campaign.

As a senior, she dominated from start to end, the high point a complete-game shutout triumph against Cambridge-South Dorchester to out-duel fellow future Division I pitcher Madison Pleasants (Marist).

Despite all the accolades, she knows she couldn’t have done it without her classmates.

“It was great to play with them up to the end, they always had my back, they always fought for me,” Pittman said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Going forward, Allegany will turn to a young group of players, one molded by the leadership of Pittman, O’Neal, Funk and Sterne.

Riley Gallagher (Fr.), Ryland Kienhofer (Jr.), Skyer Porter (Fr.), Kylie Hook (Fr.), Mackenzie Lambert (Fr.) and Savannah Roach (Soph.) are the future of the Campers’ decorated softball legacy.

They learned from the best.

“We did our best as seniors to show them how to act in practice, how to act in the field and how to act with each other,” O’Neal said. “We didn’t want to be apart from them, we wanted them to be included and prepare them for their upcoming seasons.”

“They just already know that the Allegany mentality is to play hard and never give up,” Funk said.

“They have some pretty good teams that they need to live up to.”

Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.