But it was at the plate where Forrest made huge strides.
In 2011, she hit .327 with a .413 on-base percentage, a .436 slugging percentage and an .849 on-base plus slugging (OPS) mark.
This season, those numbers jumped to a county-best .534 average (31-for-58) with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 17 RBIs. Her .879 slugging percentage and 1.429 OPS also led the county.
“I worked really hard over the winter working on (hitting) outside pitching because I wasn’t very good at it. I just kept trying and it worked,” Forrest said. “I started off good this year and kept it going.”
“She worked inside and outside as well as any pitcher I’ve seen and when she was on, she would challenge anybody,” Blazers coach Ron Baker said. “She was one of those players in the lineup that, regardless of the situation, when she got up, you tend to expect her to hit the ball. ... The ball probably looked much bigger to her this year than in previous years. She wanted to make this her best year. She demonstrated that in her performance in the circle and at the plate.”
Ferguson — who was the best two-way threat in the county last year even though she missed out on the pitcher of the year award (to Forrest) and the hitter of the year award (to Williamsport’s Kayla Ewing) — was even better this season.
She was a true workhorse in the circle, once again throwing every pitch for the Leopards and finishing 18-2 with a 0.67 ERA. In 126 innings, she allowed 82 hits and 25 walks while striking out 100. She led the county in wins, strikeouts and WHIP (combined walks and hits allowed per inning).
“I added more pitches to mix in — a rise and screw — and I was definitely confident,” Ferguson said. “I couldn’t ask for a better defense. They really support me a lot. I know people will hit me and I have to work with different speeds, but I have complete confidence in my defense.”
At the plate, Ferguson hit .508 (33-for-65) with five doubles, two triples, two home runs and 18 RBIs. Her .556 on-base percentage and 1.294 OPS both ranked second in the county.
“She works very very hard in the offseason and it definitely paid off for her,” Leopards coach Katy Barnhart said. “She took the skills she already had, which were very good, and improved on them. She has more pitches, hit her spots and improved her speed. ... She’s very relaxed at the plate. She’s aggressive but she’s relaxed and she has a great eye. She’s not going to swing at bad pitches.”
Both players showed their stuff when they went head-to-head as the Blazers (15-3) and Leopards (18-2) split two games.
Forrest got the win in a 3-2 Clear Spring victory on April 11, while Ferguson was victorious in a 2-1 Smithsburg triumph on May 2. Combining the two games, Forrest went 3-for-6 with an RBI, while Ferguson was 2-for-5 with a triple and a walk.
“Every time we play Smithsburg, it’s always one of those games you’re up for because it’s a good game between two great teams and you’re going to face the best hitters in the county,”Forrest said. “I couldn’t give them anything good to hit.”
“It’s definitely good competition,” Ferguson said.
“She knows in those kinds of games that she has to perform and pitch a great game, because Clear Spring has a great team and Amber is a phenomenal pitcher,” Barnhart said.
Forrest and Ferguson are joined on the All-County First Team by:
Lexi Albert, Clear Spring
Freshman outfielder hit .415 (22-for-53) with two doubles, two triples, three home runs, 18 RBIs and 18 runs. Finished with a 1.181 OPS.
Tori Albert, Clear Spring
Junior infielder hit .438 (21-for-48) with three doubles, one triple, two home runs, 14 RBIs and 17 runs. Posted a 1.116 OPS.
Haley Demory, Hancock