That kind of defensive play is important given the Hubs' two pitchers -- sophomore Rebecca Amalfitano (5-2, 2.54 ERA) and freshman Rachel Thomas (5-3, 2.43 ERA) -- are not overpowering strikeout pitchers (76 strikeouts in 101 innings). They pitch to contact, have shown good control (just 37 walks) and their combined 1.22 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is solid.
North's offense has produced all season, averaging 7.2 runs per game. Shanan Plunkett (.458) is arguably Washington County's most feared slugger with 13 extra-base hits -- including three homers. Leadoff hitter Ragan Shaw is hitting .439, and Danielle Wissinger (.304), Thomas (.300), Lindsay Irving (.292), Faith Ricker (.280) and Amanda Fiery (.277) have all contributed. Wissinger's average jumped almost 50 points thanks to a 6-for-13 week.
The Hubs (10-5, 9-2) close their regular season at Catoctin (11-2, 8-1) on Wednesday in what could decide the Antietam title. Before that happens, North travels to Smithsburg (7-5, 5-4) today and hosts South Hagerstown (0-13, 0-10) on Monday.
"We're taking this one game at a time," Hubs coach Amanda Fleming said. "We're focusing on each game and getting past that before we look to the next one."
Christian Binford will return to the mound for Mercersburg Academy on Tuesday.
The time between Tuesday's appearance and the last time Binford toed the rubber goes back to April 2009, when something was not right with his right elbow.
The hard-throwing junior, who hails from Hagerstown, visited noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and soon thereafter underwent Tommy John surgery.
Assistant coach Matt Mauriello reported Binford "was lights out" during a simulated game Thursday, throwing 70 pitches.
"Christian will start against Musselman and he will throw only 15 pitches," said Mauriello. "That might seem like a small amount but he'll be pumped and we don't want him to overdo it."
Binford has grown to 6-foot-5 and has added about 10 pounds. In recent games, Binford has played first base and hit three home runs for Mercersburg.
The free pass
Is it the fear of the batter, just bad pitching or the batter's selective approach at the plate?
Whatever it is, walks are in abundance this season and one just has to look at the batting leaders and see the walk totals -- or conversely, the pitching leaders and the number of walks allowed.
Among the leaders in taking the free pass to first base: Jason Hammond of Williamsport (20), T.J. Weisenburg of Martinsburg (19), Nic Martin of St. Maria Goretti (16), Tyeler Presgraves of South Hagerstown (16), Brandon Glazer of Clear Spring (14) and Brett Rosenberry of Waynesboro (13).
They shared top billing during the boys basketball season as The Herald-Mail's Washington County co-players of the year, and Glazer and Martin are at the top of the stats sheet for baseball.
Through Wednesday, Martin was fifth in the Tri-State with a .550 batting average and Glazer was seventh at .527.
Martin has 33 hits -- including nine doubles and four home runs -- and also has 24 RBIs and 16 walks in 19 games.
Glazer had 17 hits -- including six doubles and three homers -- to go with 19 RBIs and 14 walks.
* Staff writers Dan Kauffman and Tim Koelble contributed to this notebook.