Hereford softball coach Bill Moore was concerned about the distractions his 16-Under travel team might face at the United States Specialty Sports Association World Series in Salisbury.
After all, the players stayed in Ocean City, where fun and sun were a big part of the trip.
"My expectations were that they would have a good time, but they would be more interested in the beach activities," said Moore, whose 14-player roster includes 11 from Hereford High School. "I thought I wouldn't have the focus of the group."
As it turned out, focus wasn't a factor for a team that placed fifth in a bracket that featured teams from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Delaware.
"Everybody wants to be the overall champion, but I was elated with our finish," Moore said. "I anticipated playing four or five games and getting knocked out of it. The fact we played eight games and won five was overachieving, in my mind."
Moore's players felt the same way about the team's finish.
"We were really happy with the way we did in the tournament," outfielder Catie Denz said. "It was such a big tournament and we hadn't been a tournament team."
It was the first time in the travel program's seven-year history a team played in the USSSA World Series.
"I know some teams went down there for the first time with much higher expectations and they failed," Moore said. "I wanted them to have a good experience in their last tournament together. We have girls graduating and stuff like that."
Hereford posted victories over two Pennsylvania teans, the Arden Lady Sharks and Adams County Aftershock, the Connecticut Hurricanes and had two wins over Delaware's First State Force.
"The girls played 23 1/2 innings of softball nonstop in the heat to finish on the last day," Moore said. "That was over four games, and the only break they had between games was the time it took to fill out a new lineup."
Hereford received strong pitching, hitting and defense.
"We lived and died, quite honestly, by our defense in the tournament," Moore said. "When our pitching struggled, the defense was extremely solid."
He cited the play of left fielder Cassie Beinert, center fielder Denz and right fielders Mary Stout and Nina Ciolfi.
"My outfielders, all tournament long, were just making outstanding plays," Moore said.
Shortstop Cori Spartana and first baseman Madison Moore, the coach's daughter, also excelled.
"When they were on, they kept us in games," the coach said.
The offense wasn't bad, either. Moore (.526, 7 RBIs), Denz (.438), Spartana (.412, 5), Stout (.400) and Faith Loraditch (3 doubles, 4 RBIs) paced a lineup that hit .302.
"Madison has been pretty solid all year with that kind of average and that kind of hitting," Moore said. "But there were some players that stepped up and performed in the tournament, like Gillian Thompson, Catie Denz and Mary Stout."
Moore also praised pitchers Noelle Alessi and Brenna Lane.
"Noelle pitched the last two games back-to-back," the coach said. "It was 12 straight innings. She did a fantastic job of striking girls out or allowing them to put the ball in play for our defense. Brenna started my first two games in pool play and came in relief to pitch five innings of shutout ball (over two appearances). The pitchers were amazing. They carried the team."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun