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Late opening has rivalries in full swing

April 21, 2008|By DON AINES

WILLIAMSPORT -- Jaiana and Jenaya Francis, Krystal Holl, Allison Kibler and Lindsay Clopper wore their war paint Saturday, studying a future opponent while waiting their turn to take the diamond against another club at Kemps Mill Park.

"FEAR ME" was painted across Kibler's forehead, perhaps with good reason after Friday night, when she stroked an inside-the-park home run to break at 2-2 tie and give Ritter Appraisal Service a 3-2 win over Antietam Title. The other girls had uniform numbers painted on their cheeks and nicknames down their arms.

The opening ceremony for the Washington County Fast Pitch Girls Softball League was to have been the previous Saturday, but it was rained out, league President Steve Danfelt said. It was held Saturday morning, but Ritter Appraisal had played and won its first two games earlier in the week and was looking for a third that afternoon against Glocker Group.

"Last year on opening day, we lost to them, but we're coming back," said Jaiana, 14.

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"We're gonna beat 'em," said her 12-year-old sister, Jenaya.

There are 355 girls from third through eighth grade playing this spring, Danfelt said.

"Our numbers are up. We've probably got 100 new girls who have never played before," Danfelt said. "With the schedule we have, we probably don't want to get much bigger."

From now through the first half of June, the league will have 13 Elementary Division teams and a dozen Middle School Division teams playing at the fields the county built in 2001, Danfelt said. That includes games every weeknight, all day on Saturdays and Sundays when there are rainouts.

These are some busy kids with equally busy families.

"It's a lot of running around for my mom and dad because there's five kids" involved in various sports and activities, said the 13-year-old Holl. Jaiana Francis said it was the same for her family.

"It's crazy, but we still make it," she said.

The girls studied the pitcher for another team, who was fast, but having control problems.

"Usually when they're fast, they pitch more balls than strikes," said Holl, allowing hitters to get ahead in the count. Jaiana said she is a bit leery of redheaded pitchers "because they always hit me."

Both said Bethany Stavrakas of Hott and Scott Construction was close to unhittable.

Greg Clopper, Ritter Appraisal's manager, has been coaching softball for six years and baseball for 16 years. While Lindsay is in the Middle School Division, daughter Lacey plays in the Elementary Division.

Clopper also is involved with the Smithsburg Youth Athletics Instructional League and the River City Rippers, Lindsay's travel team.

"Love of the game, and I love to be with the kids," Clopper said of his involvement, which is year-round.

"We were working concession stands before we had kids," said his wife, Tricia.

Once summer gets here, the High School Division will take over the fields, with seven or eight teams and another 150 girls. It still is up in the air whether there will be a fall season, a decision Danfelt said is up to the county.

The players and fans take it all pretty seriously, with plenty of chatter from the dugouts and cheers from the bleachers.

"The best thing is they beat on each other for seven innings and leave friends," Danfelt said.

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