Laurel softball off to solid start behind pitching

When Ashley Woodall was about 10 years old, she began playing softball in the Laurel Little League.

Her mother, Rikki, had played softball at DuVal High in Lanham with Jennifer McGillin, and soon after that McGillin began to teach Ashley Woodall how to pitch.

Now, a few years later, McGillin is in her first season as the head varsity softball coach at Laurel High and her top pitcher is Woodall, a sophomore.

She was approached by Woodall's mother about teaching the young girl the finer points of pitching a few years ago.

On March 21, Woodall pitched a no-hitter with six strikeouts in a 20-0 win over DuVal.

Against Wise, she struck out 16 batters in the victory.

The Spartans, with Woodall batting cleanup, won five of their first seven games this season under their new coach.

"Ashley is doing a great job of pitching," notes McGillin, a 1996 graduate of DuVal, who played a year of college softball as a catcher for Division III Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire.

Laurel lost five senior starters from last year's team, which lost to Eleanor Roosevelt in the regional playoffs under former head coach Julie Provino and ended up 13-6.

Laurel third baseman Katie Cardinal, a sophomore tri-captain, started as a freshman for Provino.

McGillin has been around softball for most of her adult life and said team bonding is important..

"I love the sport. I love the interaction with the girls," said McGillin, who has coached softball for youth leagues in Laurel, Beltsville and Savage. "I think they are responding to my directions. I think we are doing well, despite the weather issues."

"I think we have a very good team unit. That is one of the biggest things for us, I think it is important that everyone is involved. The pitcher and catcher get the most focus. They are important to the team, but so are the infielders and outfielders," adds McGillin, a 911 dispatcher in Anne Arundel County.

The regular batting lineup for the Spartans this season has been sophomore center fielder Sharon Gibertz, senior first baseman An'Drea Williams, Cardinal, Woodall, junior catcher Michelle Craft, senior shortstop Tia Craft, junior second baseman Jamie Snider, junior left fielder Adriana Little and junior right fielder Odalis Delacruz. Michelle Craft and Williams are also tri-captains.

"We have a really solid infield. All of them are good hitters," noted McGillin.

All of them played varsity last season for the Spartans except for Williams, a transfer from Hammond High in Columbia, and Delacurz, who played for the Laurel junior varsity squad last season under McGillin.

After beating DuVal in the season opener, Laurel lost 11-10 at Eleanor Roosevelt in Greenbelt before beating Wise 12-8.

The Spartans then lost 9-0 to Bowie before bouncing back to beat Largo 12-1 as Michelle Craft hit a home run in the win.

Laurel came back from a 3-0 deficit to score nine runs in the bottom of the fourth and beat Friendly, 9-4, on April 4.

They improved to 5-2 with a 9-7 win on April 11 against Douglass as Cardinal had two hits, two walks and a key two-run hit;

Tia Craft had a single and walked three times and Williams had a single and four steals.

"We don't have as much experience on the team year," notes Cardinal. "But I feel we have pulled together really well."

A home game slated for April 9 against Bladensburg was postponed when umpires determined the field was too wet.

Laurel is slated to host High Point on April 23 and then entertains Roosevelt on April 25.

Other members of the team are senior outfielder Alexis Ojeda-Brown, senior outfielder Precious Young, junior outfielder/infielder Britaney Harris, sophomore outfielder/pitcher Heather Healey and freshman outfielder/infielder Elizabeth Leishear.

Ojeda-Brown and Young did not play last season while Young was on the varsity two years ago.

Harris and Healey were both in the program in 2013.

A varsity assistant coach is Deidra Giles, a teammate on the softball team with McGillin at DuVal.

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