Softball: Optimistic Owls 'taking it in stride' for another successful season

Softball: Optimistic Owls 'taking it in stride' for another successful season
Westminster catcher Olivia Herman throws to first as coach Courtney Johnson, left, looks on during a softball practice in Westminster Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

Westminster may have won its first state championship in 12 years last season, but don't let that override the continued progress of this year's new squad.

Seven seniors graduated from last year's Class 3A title-winning team, but five members of that team return aiming for another successful ride. Four of those players are seniors Nicole Barrett, Jenna Escobar, Meghan Lockwood and Sarah Sexton.


"I'm definitely excited," Sexton said. "We have a good number of people back that were really important last year but we also have a big group of freshmen, even on JV, we have a lot of freshmen on JV, so the next couple of years, even though we'll be leaving the program, we should have a pretty strong group getting better, kind of like we both were freshmen year. We got better every year, so it's nice to see that start again."

First-year coach Courtney Johnson said she followed the Owls during their successful run in the state tournament last year, but her involvement with the program is totally new. Johnson, who teaches chemistry and physics at Westminster, played college softball at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. for four years.

"It's really kind of been the same because she and Coach [Amanda] Lahner are kind of similar," Owls junior catcher Olivia Herman said. "We've been taking it in stride and we've really been enjoying having her in our program."

Lahner, one of Westminster's assistant coaches, guided the Owls through the remainder of the 2016 regular season and into the playoffs when former head coach Ashley Harford went on maternity leave. Together, the women led the Owls to the 3A West region title and topped it off with a state championship.

The Owls lost Times Softball Player of the Year Emily Maseth to graduation last year, but return Herman, a Times first team all-county pick in 2016. Herman's batting average was .420 and she had 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 15 RBIs.

Four potential pitchers are listed on the Owls' roster – Barrett, Jill Haines, Lisa Scanlon and Emily Sicinski — Johnson is optimistic in every one of them to step in and fill the void Maseth left behind.

"That is a crucial position and Olivia [Herman] and Sarah [Sexton] are our catchers and I think that they are strong and they'll help any pitcher that's on the mound," Johnson said. "Our pitchers are a senior, a junior and two freshmen so I think the leadership will be important and I'm confident in all of them."

Westminster coach Courtney Johnson throws pitches during Wednesday’s practice.
Westminster coach Courtney Johnson throws pitches during Wednesday’s practice. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

The Owls had their first practice on March 1st, but last week's snow storm put a damper on potential scrimmages and other preseason activities. Herman said it's been hard to get into game-time situations, but they've been receiving plenty of guidance from the Owls' pitching staff.

If there's a message that this year's upperclassmen want to send to the incoming players, it's that anything is possible.

"Even with the girls we had last year, it's totally possible," Herman said. "You can have these girls that worked together for a long time and even though we have some younger girls who came up from last year, we all jell together and it's possible to go the distance and perform to the best of our ability."