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Beard takes controls for Williamsport's drive to state fame

March 20, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Kelly Beard was just a sophomore when she pitched the final inning to preserve Williamsport's 7-6 victory over Colonel Richardson in the 2007 Maryland Class 1A state title game.

Two years later, Beard is the premier pitcher in Washington County, and the Wildcats may be poised for another title run.

"She's been chomping at the bit," Williamsport coach Tom Dzur said. "This is very important to her and the team. She's a workhorse. She's always working on her pitching."

Beard came of age last year, going 10-2 with a 1.10 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 96 innings to earn Herald-Mail Washington County Pitcher of the Year honors.

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"With her out there, you're pretty well aware you're going to be in the game and have some measure of control," Dzur said.

Beard did plenty of damage with her bat as well, hitting .375 with 10 extra-base hits. With several other players back, including All-County First Team junior outfielder Felicia Bohn and sophomore shortstop Kayla Ewing, the Wildcats' offense could be just as formidable as Beard's right arm.

"We've got to continue to do what we've been doing," Dzur said. "We have some tough competition, but hopefully these kids will continue to improve."

Boonsboro

The Warriors' toughest task will be replacing All-County First Team pitcher Bridgette Ringley, who went 13-5 with a 2.23 ERA last year before graduating. Juniors Amber Welch and Megan Long will get time in the circle.

"That's going to be the key," Warriors coach Lisa Lewis said. "I think that's the key for every team, moreso with softball than baseball. The pitchers set the tone for the team."

Boonsboro has a pair of All-County honorees back in First Team junior shortstop Breanne Lohman (.456, six doubles, five homers) and Second Team senior outfielder Jessica Manuel (.283).

"Breanne is my security, because she's a good leader as well," Lewis said. "She's been playing since she was a freshman, and the other players look up to her. ... We've got to get our bats going and make sure we're giving ourselves opportunities, at least get the ball in play and give ourselves a chance."

Welch hit .349 last year while playing second base.

Clear Spring

It will be tough -- maybe impossible -- for the Blazers to replace Christina Mehaffie, an All-Area First Team honoree last year who hit .500 with 17 doubles and four homers and also went 5-3 with a 2.09 ERA in the circle.

However, junior Damara McDonough has the talent to come close. An All-County Second Team pick as a sophomore, McDonough hit .305 with nine extra-base hits and posted a 3.16 ERA.

Hancock's other top returnees are junior catcher Hannah Leizear (.351, four doubles) and senior Korey Atherton (.274), who will be asked to play multiple positions.

"It will be a pleasure watching the girls develop this year. We picked up some very talented freshmen this year and when they start to mesh, I think you'll hear some noise from the western part of Washington County," Clear Spring coach Ron Baker said. Amber Forrest and Morgan Purdham are freshmen pitchers, and pitching is something where talent can come full circle very quickly. I believe it's going to happen."

Hancock

The Panthers have a solid group of seniors returning, led by All-County Second Team first baseman Karly Logsdon, who hit .396 last year. She's joined by catcher/outfielder Brittany Moats (.477), third baseman Shawnda Wills (.302) and shortstop Hayley Ruppenthal (.327).

"Hayley and Shawnda are the leadership roles. The other seniors will have to step in, too," Hancock coach Rocky Wills said.

Ruppenthal and senior Kaitlyn Sterner will be called on to lead the pitching staff.

"We've got four kids who are throwing for us, so if we can get them to throw strikes, field the ball and put the bat on the ball, we'll be OK," Wills said.

North Hagerstown

A pair of All-County Second Team infielders -- second baseman Caroline Kreiger (.311) and shortstop Alyssa Collier (.338, six doubles) -- return for their senior season to anchor the Hubs.

"(Our) strength is definitely going to be our infield play and our batting," North coach Amanda Fleming said.

Sophomore third baseman Shanan Plunkett (.300, eight doubles) adds more pop to the lineup, and senior outfielder Courtney Bowlus (.227) also earned All-County Second Team honors a year ago.

A sister act will toe the rubber for the Hubs -- senior Rachel Amalfitano and freshman Rebecca Amalfitano.

"They've been working really hard," Fleming said. "They've been pitching a lot in the offseason, gotten pitching lessons and working on the things that they've learned."

Smithsburg

Leopards coach Brian Getz has the luxury of sending the county's top strikeout artist -- senior Bethany Garnand, who fanned 217 in 133 innings last year -- to the circle every game. If Smithsburg can field the balls opponents do hit off the All-County First Team pitcher, they can be a threat in the MVAL Antietam.

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