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Blue Devils look to build on District 3-AAA title

June 02, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

On paper, 2008 was not supposed to be the year in which the Greencastle-Antrim softball team had its most successful season in school history.

Fortunately for the Blue Devils, the kind of season they had was determined on the field -- where they were better than expected.

Greencastle returned just two seniors this season and lost two-time Herald-Mail Pitcher of the Year Sarah Signore to graduation -- she now pitches for St. Bonaventure. But instead of a rebuilding year, the Blue Devils have had a historic one, the highlight to this point coming when they defeated Donegal 9-0 on Thursday for their first-ever PIAA District 3-AAA title.

"The last couple years, the players we depended on graduated, and we're very young, so it's a surprise," Blue Devils coach Jamie Richardson said. "I knew we were very talented, but I didn't expect to win districts and get to states. ... That was just an awesome win for the young ladies, especially those in the program the last couple years. We've had some heartbreak."

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Greencastle (21-4) will face Nazareth Academy (20-2) -- the District 2 runner-up -- this afternoon at 5 at the Heishman Softball Complex in Newville, Pa., in the first round of the state tournament.

"I know they're very solid," Richardson said. "They come from District 1, which has very good softball. They're very solid up the middle, they have a good second baseman and shortstop. I know they've got three pitchers. They're going to be very good, and it's going to be important for us to come out and play our 'A' game and play great defensively. If our lineup can put the ball in play, that's going to be a key."

Blue Devils freshman Autumn Appleby has pitched beyond her years in the circle, giving her team a boost. She tossed shutouts in the District 3 semifinals and final, and she's 14-2 with a 1.64 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 115 innings.

"We knew a little about her coming into the season," Richardson said. "We had a couple pitchers coming up as freshmen with (Erin) Garns. Autumn, from midseason on, with her pitches and her control, she's done a really nice job. She has some different pitches and some nice velocity, and we knew as the season went on and she got experience, she'd get better."

Greencastle's lineup features a talented leadoff hitter in senior Roxanne DeWalt, a fearsome power threat in junior Rochelle Christman and several other players capable of making things happen.

DeWalt (.420, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 9 steals) set the tone for the Blue Devils against Donegal with two hits and three runs.

"She's been really good batting on both sides of the plate," Richardson said. "She bats lefty as a good slapper and drag bunter, and if we need power, she goes to the other side, too. We're fortunate to have a leadoff hitter like that."

Christman (.436, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 6 homers, 8 steals) can change the game with one swing from her No. 3 spot.

"What can you say about her? She bats for contact, for power, she's always that important person who can bring in the RBIs," Richardson said. "She's started since her freshman year. That's a great situation, if you can get your leadoff hitters on, with Rochelle coming up, that's what we want is for her to have the opportunity to get the big hit."

Junior Cheyenne Melius (.380, 8 doubles), sophomore Kali Ball (.425, 3 triples), senior Kayla Pond (.330, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 3 homers), junior Rachel Statler (.300, 2 doubles) and sophomore Katy Bobbitt (.285, 3 doubles, 2 triples) all can make teams pay for a mistake.

"If people don't want to pitch to Rochelle, behind them we have some quality hitters," Richardson said. "A lot of our girls at the bottom of the order have come through with big hits."

Greencastle has passed all of the tests so far this season, and Richardson believes the experience of winning the District 3 title will benefit the Blue Devils.

"I'm hopeful it tells them they do belong here," Richardson said. "It's just nice to see all of our hard work has been rewarded. I feel our girls have gained confidence."

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