SMITHSBURG — The first inning continued to be a good-luck charm for the Smithsburg softball team.
The top-seeded Leopards scored five runs in the bottom of the first to give them all they would need in a 6-0 victory over Manchester Valley on Tuesday in the Maryland Class 1A West East Sectional semifinal.
“I’m really proud of them coming out, especially after a long break, and playing hard,” Smithsburg coach Katy Barnhart said. “I think it’s very important to score runs early to relax your defense and relax your pitcher.”
And the Leopards (18-1) followed that blueprint to a T.
Shayla Murray hit a leadoff single to center to start Smithsburg’s opening rally. After Sam Gladhill reached on an infield error with one out, Brooke Parks walloped a two-run triple to right to put Smithsburg on top. Parks scored on Kinsey Shifflett’s RBI single.
Pitcher Cara Ferguson advanced Shifflett to third with a single and took second on a throwing error to set up Sabrina Green’s two-out, two-run single to center to cap the five-run outburst.
The win allows Smithsburg to host third-seed North Carroll in the East Sectional final today at 4:30 p.m. The winner will advance to face the West Sectional champion for the West region title on Friday at 4 p.m., at Kemps Mill Softball Complex, near Williamsport.
The Leopards haven’t won a region title since 1989.
Ferguson pitched a perfect game until Mavericks pitcher Katie White singled to left with one out in the fifth. Ferguson went on to complete a three-hit shutout with no walks and six strikeouts to move her record to 18-1.
“I mixed in a lot of different pitches,” Ferguson said. I couldn’t ask for a better defense behind me. They were phenomenal again.”
The Leopards picked up their final run in the bottom of the fifth as Parks, Shifflett and Ferguson hit consecutive singles. The trio finished with two hits each.
“I hope that our good hitting carries over into tomorrow,” Parks said. “When we win the first inning, it normally sets the tone for the rest of the game. I like to get runs on the board whenever I can, because it puts less stress on the others.”
Smithsburg 6, Manchester Valley 0
Man. Valley 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
Smithsburg 500 010 x — 6 8 0
White and Geremy. Ferguson and Shifflett. WP — Ferguson (18-1). LP — White.