"She continually made gutsy defensive plays that helped her team get out of jams. She is one of the most versatile players in the county, earning all-county honors as an outfielder, a catcher, and now an infielder," Frisvold added.

Juliana Natoli, Howard, senior. Natoli was "the silent leader in the field," said coach Chuck Rice. "She made plays which I know saved us multiple runs throughout the season." Batting third, Natoli led the Lions in RBIs (29) and hit at a .493 clip. She showed her power with four doubles, a triple and a home run that helped stop Reservoir's win streak at 12 in the teams' first meeting of the season.

This is the fourth year Natoli, also a Player of the Year candidate, has earned first-team honors.

Katie Wilkinson, Howard, junior. Wilkinson led the Lions with an on-base percentage of .562 and home runs (4) to earn first-team honors at third base for the second straight year. The junior had nine extra-base hits and a good eye at the plate, drawing nine walks. She also showed her speed with eight stolen bases. Defensively, she played the hot corner nearly flawlessly, making the big plays time and time again.


Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

But, most importantly, said coach Chuck Rice, "Katie will be back next year and one of the leaders of this new Lions team."

Outfield

Alicia Grant, Howard, senior. With solid defense and strong arm, Grant was the center piece of the Lions' outfield. "She kept us in games with her strong play in the outfield," said coach Chuck Rice, who coached Grant for four years. At the plate, the centerfielder hit .397, with 25 hits and an on-base percentage of .479.

Grant also drew a team-high 10 walks to give Howard more offensive threats and help the Lions advance to the Class 3A regional finals.

Megan Maloney, Reservoir, senior. A first-team pick for the second straight year, Maloney again anchored the Gators' outfield with her ability to deliver the big plays defensively. And like last year, Maloney led the county in hits (45 this year) and runs (36). She also tied for the most triples (4) and added seven doubles and two doubles. The centerfielder stole 15 bases — and was never caught — hit .479 and posted a .525 on-base percentage. Maloney, who will play for Slippery Rock, "always seemed to come through in clutch situations," said coach Julie Frisvold.

Her leadership was essential in getting Reservoir a regional title. "Megan pushed her team throughout the season to reach that goal," said Frisvold.

Nykita Vernot, Glenelg, senior. After being a fixture at second for two years — and making the all-county second team last year — Vernot started the season there again and was part of a triple play that Glenelg pulled against Reservoir.

Mid-season, however, Vernot moved to the outfield.

"She did whatever was necessary for the team to succeed," said coach Ray Gerstner. At the plate, Vernot was a clutch hitter and was savvy on the basepaths with 16 stolen bases to help the Gladiators win the county title. She hit .477, with 31 hits. "Her senior leadership will be missed," said the coach.

Vernot was part of three county softball championships at Glenelg.

Designated player

Loryn McMillin, Howard, senior. After surgery last fall on her shoulder, McMillin stepped into the role of full-time DP for the Lions this spring, said Rice. Her bat had to be in the lineup. With seven doubles and two home runs, McMillin hit .359 from the fifth spot. She was second in doubles (seven) and home runs (two) for the Lions. "I'll miss her calm attitude toward the game," added coach Chuck Rice.