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Softball tally: one up, one down, one out


The Liberty softball team was eliminated in region play Thursday, while North Carroll appeared poised to make it a third straight state championship.

But perhaps the most notable development of the postseason was the absence of a team with a 13-5 record.

Francis Scott Key came on strong at the end of the season, only to come up short in qualifying for the Class 1A Region II playoffs.

The regions were realigned in softball after last season, when the Eagles won the Class 1A Region II title. Playing in a much tougher region, the Eagles came up one point shy of qualifying.

"We found out late Tuesday evening [we didn't qualify]," Key coach Joe Linthicum said.

"It all came down to our win against North Hagerstown. We thought they were a 3A team but they were 2A. That was the one less point that would have tied us with Williamsport and we'd have won the tie-breaker."

Teams earn points in the state playoff point system corresponding to the size of the schools they beat. Teams earn eight points for beating the largest Class 4A schools, seven for the somewhat smaller 3A schools and so on.

The Eagles won eight of their last nine games to make things close, but Linthicum said his team's slow start proved costly.

"We didn't take care of business early on with some costly losses and it came back to haunt us," he said.

The Lions (9-10) season came to an end Thursday in the Class 2A Region I semifinals. But they did not go down without a fight.

Fourth-seeded Liberty gave top-seeded Glenelg all it could handle, but dropped a 5-4 decision.

"I was pleased with the overall effort," Liberty coach Dale Green said. "We waited until the last inning to put our bats to work, and I was happy with the way we came back."

Trailing 5-1 in the seventh inning, the Lions cut the lead to one on Kelly Cathey's two-run double with one out. But the Lions couldn't push the tying run over the plate, stranding Cathey at second.

For North Carroll, winning two straight state titles seems to have instilled confidence in the team. Even though its 13-7 regular-season record was modest by North Carroll standards, the Panthers rolled to an 18-0 win against Southern of Garrett County Thursday in the opening round of the Class 2A Region I playoffs.

The second-seeded Panthers were scheduled to take on Glenelg yesterday [after press time].

North Carroll coach Phil Bonnell has built a winning tradition in Hampstead and perhaps, most importantly, the Panthers are simply having fun when they take to the diamond.

"We try to make it fun for the kids," Bonnell said. "The kids give us two hours of hard work in practice every day and you can see the results. We try to instill a positive attitude in them and we work with them handling different situations so they are prepared. If they make a mistake, we try to learn from them."

They didn't make too many mistakes on Thursday.

Pitcher Jenni Heindel worked six innings yielding only one hit, while striking out 10. She got the defensive support behind her as well, including a nifty double play in the fourth. The Panthers played error-free ball.

As the score indicates, the offense was there, too. The Panthers got eight extra-base hits (seven doubles and one triple) and quickly jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning.

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