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Hereford softball replaces ace pitcher with younger sister

Hereford sophomore Erin Collins earned all-county honors as a shorstop last year, but she's seeing more time as a pitcher this spring after the graduation of her sister, LeAnne.
Hereford sophomore Erin Collins earned all-county honors as a shorstop last year, but she's seeing more time as a pitcher this spring after the graduation of her sister, LeAnne. (File photo/BSMG)

The early storyline this season for the Hereford softball team has been about a younger sister moving from shortstop to the pitcher's mound to fill in for the absence of her older sister.

LeAnne Collins won more than 50 games over four years for the Bulls, including a 13-3 senior season with a 1.21 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 87 innings. She also hit .721 with 22 RBIs.

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Hereford coach Laura Blama said it's not easy to replace a pitcher of her quality, but Collins' sister, Erin, a sophomore, has stepped up for the Bulls.

"LeAnne was very special," said Blama, pointing out that Collins is starting this spring in the outfield for Division III Salisbury State, which is ranked No. 2 in the country.

"LeAnne was a strikeout pitcher. Erin is more of a contact pitcher. She is very good at getting people to ground out, which is great because we have a very good defense."

Erin earned first-team all-county honors as a shortstop last year after batting .525 with six home runs and 35 RBIs.

She has had some outstanding efforts on the mound this spring, although she has struggled at times with her control. Collins is 4-2 with a 3.89 ERA in 27 innings. She has given up 19 hits, and 18 walks.

Against Dulaney, she struck out 16 and gave up three hits and one earned run in an 11-2 victory. She also struck out 10 and yielded four hits and one earned run in an 11-1 win over Lansdowne.

"I think she is one of the top three pitchers in the county and when her control is on, she is dominant," Blama said. "She has the best changeup in the county, I will say that. What I love about her is that she isn't afraid to throw the changeup whether it's the first pitch to a batter or whether she is behind in the count."

Blama has used two other pitchers, senior Madison Moore and freshman McKenzy Hall.

"I think our pitching will get better," Blama said. "I think our freshman will throw more innings. She will be able to get more confidence and take some of that pressure off of Erin. Erin will continue to grow as a pitcher."

Collins thinks of herself as a shortstop but is adjusting to the mound.

"I don't consider myself a big pitcher," Collins said. "After a few games, I have gotten into a groove. I feel more comfortable now."

Hereford's offense also is clicking.

Collins, senior second baseman Caprice Roche (.525, 10 RBIs), senior third baseman Vanessa Hogan (.480), Moore (.412), an outfielder, and sophomore designated hitter Destiny Sutton (.385) lead Hereford.

The Bulls are hitting about .400 as a team after batting .300 last year.

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"I believe it's our strongest offense in five years," Blama said. "We have weapons up and down the lineup. We have speed, players who can hit for average and players who can lay down a bunt."

Blama also likes his defense. Senior outfielders Cassie Bienert and Courtney Fuller, Roche, Hogan, senior catcher Lizzie Bienert and Collins are returning starters.

Those players contributed to a defense that committed 18 errors in 16 games last season when Hereford went 14-4.

"I would say we are just as good defensively as last year, if not better," Blama said.

The Bulls (4-2) appear headed for another strong campaign despite early-season losses to Class 2A defending state champion Eastern Tech and Perry Hall, which is 5-1.

"We are on the right track," Blama said. "We are hitting the ball like we should be and we are making the plays in the field. So we are definitely capable of being a ranked team and making it back to the county championship."

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