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Prep Softball: Leopards set to pick up where they left off

March 20, 2013|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Preps Previews
Washington County Preps Previews

With five first-team All-County players back, it appears Smithsburg is the team of all teams.

It’s probably safe to say no other Washington County softball team has averaged 10 runs a game for the past two seasons.

The two-time defending MVAL Antietam Conference champions have slugged their way to the top, only to have their bats silenced by solid pitching in the 1A West playoffs.

If the bats aren’t always working, the Leopards have unquestionably the top pitcher in Washington County returning.

Right-hander Cara Ferguson, who shared player of the year honors with Clear Spring’s Amber Forrest last year, is back on the mound.

Ferguson went 18-2 with a 0.67 ERA in 126 innings last season, struck out 100 and allowed only 82 hits.

And don’t forget she hit .508.

“Ferguson leads the seniors coming back,” coach Katy Barnhart said. “We had a great class last year, but this class has experience. They are almost like having extra coaches on the field.”

Senior Kinsey Shifflett is back to continue catching Ferguson and to provide punch on offense. Last year she hit .522 and had eight doubles and two homers among her 31 hits.

Senior Sam Gladhill brings back a .435 average and three homers, senior third baseman Brooke Parks hit .500 and sophomore Kayla Huntzberry hit .360 with 15 RBIs.

Gladhill and Parks have been All-County first team players each of the last two years and Huntzberry was named last year.

Over the last two seasons Smithsburg has won 36 of 42 games.

The strongest challenger to the Leopards could be Clear Spring, which has two first-teamers and three second-team players returning.

“We’re not hurting with experience,” Blazers coach Ron Baker said.

If they are the top teams, then their first meeting of the season should be a good one on April 1.

Boonsboro

Mark Wadel takes over the coaching reins at Boonsboro as the Warriors hope to turn things around from a 5-14 won-loss record in 2012.

“We want to change softball from just being an activity to being important,” Wadel said. “We’re bringing structure and discipline and it starts with a new mentality to succeed and change the culture.”

Helping a reversal would be an improved defense.

“We’re stressing fundamentals,” Wadel said. “We made 54 errors last year.”

There are but three seniors on the roster — shortstop/outfielder Tristan Hartle, second baseman/outfielder Carly Mazzone and catcher Natelie Tobery. Hartle was an All-County honorable mention last year.

Wadel also said junior Skyler Casto, a utility player who can play several spots, and sophomore pitcher Hannah Thompson should help the Warriors.

Clear Spring

What do the Blazers do to fill the shoes of All-County Co-Player of the Year Amber Forrest?

Just simply reload with several award winners.

“In order for us to play with the big teams we have to have underclassmen step up,” Baker said.

Forrest was 8-2 with a 0.66 ERA and hit .534 with a pair of homers as the Blazers went 15-3.

Stepping in as the key hurler will be sophomore second-teamer Kristin Mellott, who went 6-1 last year with a 0.82 ERA.

“It’s tough to fill Amber’s shoes with the success she had and now it will be up to Kristin,” Baker said.

There’s senior outfielder Sarah Elwood, a first-teamer, who returns after hitting .516. There’s Tori Albert, a first-team outfielder returning after hitting .438 and sophomore outfielder Lexi Albert, who hit .415 with three homers.

Baker is also looking to freshman Savannah Mills, a big right-handed pitcher, to help out the team — although Baker said he won’t “throw her to the wolves.”

Hancock

Hancock coach Todd Ruppenthal is looking for his team to accomplish one important goal: Make routine plays.

“If we can do that, we have experience in some spots and I think we’ll be fine,” Ruppenthal said.

Coming off a 7-9 season, the Panthers are at least set behind the plate where senior Jessica Martin begins her fourth year taking pitches. She was also Hancock’s leading hitter at .449 with 23 RBIs.

“Having (Martin) back there takes care of a lot of problems,” Ruppenthal said.

Delivering the pitches will be Emily Harvey, a lefty who threw 34 innings last year and went 3-4. Haley Demory, who hit .438 last season, will also pitch.

The Panthers coughed up the ball too much last season and the left side of the diamond should be set with Sara Wagner at short and Courtney Royce, a Clear Spring transfer, at third base.

Hancock also has experience in the outfield with Joan Leavy in right and Alisa Shives in center.

North Hagerstown

Danielle Wissinger was All-County as an infielder in 2011, as a catcher/DH last year and will lead the Hubs into action for a third year hoping to forget about a 6-14 record in 2012.

Wissinger, who is signed and headed for the University of Delaware, hit .448 last year with three homers.

Coach Amanda Fleming also has experience on the mound with senior Rachel Thomas (3-6 last season) and junior Lauren Harbaugh (3-7)

“We’re pretty solid in pitching with Rachel in her fourth year and Lauren in her third,” said coach Amanda Fleming. “They’ve taken on the pitching load for several years.”

Emily Gist, an all-county second-teamer along with Thomas, returns and will move to first base from the outfield. And Fleming is high on sophomore shortstop Emily Folk.

“We have good girls returning and those up from the junior varsity that will have big roles,” Fleming said. “Our offense will be better. We just didn’t score, but we’ll manufacture runs.”

Saint James

Veteran coach Tom Dzur is finally getting his team together after spring break and exams.

The Saints hope to improve on their 2-6 year in 2012.

“We’re hoping to steal a few victories,” Dzur said. “Right now we’re busy teaching fundamentals.”

Senior Alyssa Blank, a pitcher/shortstop, returns with her .577 average. Others returning with some playing time behind them are outfielders Ellie Bruns and Ra Yun Kim.

“We’ve told the players to keep on improving and be better by the end of the year,” Dzur said. “We’re a young team with a tough schedule.”

Smithsburg

The Leopards have another stacked team, beginning with Ferguson’s right arm as the center of attention.

To go along with the experience, Barnhart is also putting five newbies into the mix.

Senior first baseman Laura Hartman and senior outfielder Sarah Garver, along with sophomores Madison Bachtell (first base), Cassidy Vega (outfield) and Vanesa Cuevas (infield/catcher) are on Barnhart’s ‘help’ radar.

Opposing teams are going to need strong pitching to hold back the Smithsburg bats, capable of producing big offensive numbers.

“We hope so,” Barnhart said about the offense. “These kids are in the cages hitting year round. They are constantly improving and already I’ve seen an improvement in the approach and in their power.”

Ferguson and Shifflett, both two-time all-county first team selections, have plenty of varsity experience, both having been moved up during their freshmen year.

South Hagerstown

In the midst of a 38-game losing streak dating back to the 2010 postseason, South Hagerstown doesn’t have a cupboard filled with experience, but does carry some hope for winning games.

“I think we’ll break into the win column,” head coach Angela Jeffries said. “It’s not so much that we lack on defense, it’s really lacking having a pitcher.”

That might change this season.

Senior Ashlyn Hinkle will split time pitching and playing shortstop. The newbie will be freshman Katelyn Mehrling, who is bringing in some hope with her arm.

Senior Shayna Bickford will anchor the infield at second base.

“We’re looking for that improvement,” Jeffries said.

St. Maria Goretti

The Gaels languished through a winless season with 13 losses in 2012 and coach Terry Holderby is hoping to break the losing streak.

If they do, it will be with a young team — only third baseman Cecilia Trybus is back and it’s her fourth year.

“We’re a young team with six freshmen,” Holderby said. “The infield will be more solid and I think there are some games we can compete in.”

More often than not, sophomore Maggie Litzinger will be throwing to catcher Drew Holderby, a junior. Sophomore Abbey Eich, an honorable mention last year along with Holderby, will play first base.

“We’re looking for leadership from Abbey,” Holderby said. “She’s a good athlete.”

Williamsport

The Wildcats had an unusual subpar season at 4-14 in 2012.

Only one senior — first baseman Casie Files — dots the roster. Otherwise, coach Jennie Finafrock has a mix of players.

“We’re fairly young, but I think we’ll be able to make some strides,” Finafrock said.

All-County second-teamers Caitlin Kennedy and Sarah Kindle are back in the fold. Kennedy will move from a utility role to catcher and Kindle will also see time on the mound in addition to her outfield duties.

Autumn Stotler was the Wildcats’ catcher last year, but has moved to shortstop.

Finafrock is also looking for plenty of help from freshman Kate Wade, versatile with three positions at short, in the outfield or on the mound.

“Kate has experience playing summer ball and she’s going to help us out,” Finafrock said. 

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