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Cougars, Lenhart get it right

May 26, 2004|BY TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

SEVERN, Md. - For Catoctin junior Ashley Lenhart, moving to the left has turned out all right.

Lenhart, a natural right-handed hitter who switched to the left side of the plate last year, had three hits to spark a 13-hit attack as the Cougars blanked North Caroline 10-0 in the Maryland Class 1A softball semifinals Tuesday at Randazzo Park.

Catoctin (20-2) advances to face Beall, a 12-7 winner over Perryville, in the state final, which is likely to be played Thursday at the University of Maryland.

Catoctin coach Amy Hunt, who will try to lead the Cougars to their first state title since 1986, said Lenhart has been "unbelievable."

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"It was frustrating for her last year and she struggled," Hunt said. "She learned how to hit from the left side and it has paid off for her this year."

Lenhart is reaping success as a leadoff batter this year after going through the growing pains a year ago.

"It was tough changing to the left side and took a while," Lenhart said. "The biggest thing was getting the timing down from out of the box. During the summer, things started working. Today was a big accomplishment."

Lenhart's three hits and three runs catapulted Sam Weaver to her 12th win in 13 decisions. The senior allowed five hits and struck out three.

Lenhart led off a four-run first inning with a base hit for the Cougars (20-2).

Sara Wastler followed with a single, and Alecia Brandenburg drove in both with a double to left. She scored on a single by Jenn Kelly, who came around to score on an RBI groundout by Mardi Lambert.

The Cougars made North Caroline pay immediately for a mental mistake in the top of the first. The blunder killed any momentum the Bulldogs (14-8) might have gained.

Weaver allowed a double to Jen Holden and hit Claire Berkey after Holden stole third with one out.

On a fly ball to center field for the second out, Holden headed to the plate but left third base early. The Cougars appealed immediately and Holden was called out.

"That play got us fired up a little more," Hunt said.

The Cougars added a single run in the second on Lenhart's single, a wild pitch and double by Wastler. Two more runs came across in the third on triples by Weaver and Kelly Stiles, a fielder's choice and a single by Jess Krietz.

Lenhart walked in the fourth, stole second and scored on an error, and the Cougars finished it off with a two-out burst in the fifth when Krietz and Brittany Brown walked, Lenhart singled to score Krietz and Wastler singled to score Brown.

"The way we hit today is the way we've hit all year," Hunt said. "Our strength and conditioning program has really helped and our defense was great today also."

The victory helps erase the memory of Catoctin's loss in the semifinals a year ago. The 2003 Cougars were unbeaten through 21 games before losing to Rising Sun.

"We really didn't talk about the loss last year," Hunt said. "The girls were focused here and for now. Unlike last year, everyone was relaxed and made this game look like the others."

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