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Wildcats play one for the ages

May 25, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

When the Williamsport softball team takes the field today, it will be playing to be the team of the year.

The Wildcats face Colonel Richardson today at 5:30 p.m. for the Maryland Class 1A crown and the right to be the last team standing in the state tournament.

But by the time Williamsport leaves the field, it could well be the team of a generation in Washington County softball.

These Wildcats are the first team to represent Williamsport in the state tournament since 1980. They are the first Washington County team to play for the state title since South Hagerstown's run to the finals in 1998.

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And a victory would make the Wildcats (17-5) the first Washington County team to win the state championship since Smithsburg turned the trick in 1987.

"I know the kids are extremely excited about this, but I don't think they have mentioned it in the terms of years," said Williamsport coach Tom Dzur. "They are so happy to be in the state playoffs. It's like Disneyland.

"The support of the community has been great. Students have come up to talk about the team. I have been getting e-mails from past players."

These Wildcats were just starting to play the game when the Rebels made their attempt, but none of these players was born - let alone thought of - back when Williamsport and Smithsburg had their previous successes.

That history is ancient. The Wildcats are poised to try and scribble their names in the revised edition of history books.

Williamsport has taken an interesting route through the playoffs, needing extra innings to knock off Catoctin to end the Cougars' defense of the 1A title before knocking off Beall (11-0) to win the West title and North Point (14-1) in convincing fashion in Tuesday's state semifinals to reach this point.

Colonel Richardson (18-3) is the final hurdle after advancing with a 2-1 over Bohemia Manor in Tuesday's other semifinal. The Colonels won state titles in 1993 and 1996.

Dzur isn't banking on the law of averages finally evening it up for a Washington County team.

"We are going to play a very good team," he said. "They won 2-1 on Tuesday. But we are a very good team, too. I told the team that we have to just go and play and let everything take its course."

The Wildcats' strength comes from their pitching. Williamsport entered the playoffs with three pitchers with earned run averages under 1.50 - senior Jessica Bennett (5-2, 0.30), sophomore Kelly Beard (4-2, 0.64) and senior Emily Huff (5-1, 1.34). Bennett is scheduled to pitch today.

Williamsport's top hitters through the region tournament were senior Casey Siler (.386, 11 RBI), Bennett (.358, 15 runs), freshman Alexis Fisher (.345) and senior Jess Patey (.340, five home runs, 23 RBI), who is the Wildcats' top power threat. Fisher hit a three-run homer against North Point.

Colonel Richardson have depended on senior Taylor Webb (14-3, 2.60 ERA through regional playoffs) or junior Renee Staton (3-0, 1.12) as pitchers this season. In 94 innings, Webb allowed 64 hits and 53 walks while striking out 94. Staton has allowed 15 hits and one walk while fanning 19 in 25 innings.

The Colonels' top hitters are juniors Lexie Holder (.423, 18 RBI) and Tiffeny Ricks (.404, 19 RBI).

The championship podium has been a final stop for many Williamsport girls teams in the past. The Wildcats have built a name for the school with its volleyball program. But this year, there was no state title.

The softball team is conscious of that fact and the players want to start a new tradition.

After Saturday's win over Beall, Bennett said this team wanted to be the first to put a state champion softball banner on the Williamsport gym wall.

"I have thought about it," Dzur said. "Every year, since I started coaching, I've said we had to win a region title. We needed it to get over the hump."

Now the Wildcats are over the hump and near the top of the mountain.

- Staff writer Dan Kauffman contributed to this story.

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