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Freshmen lead way for Century softball

Freshmen may dominate Century's lineup this season, but that hasn't kept the Knights from dominating their softball competition.

Despite relying on five freshmen to fill starting roles this season, Century last week defied the odds, defeating rival Liberty, 14-4, to clinch the school's first-ever Carroll County championship.

"Having five freshman on varsity, obviously we knew they had some talent," first-year coach Jay Seaborg said. "When the season started, though, we didn't know how far that talent would take us."

Heading into tomorrow's Class 2A West regional playoff game against Rockville, the fourth-seeded Knights are 13-7, including 5-1 in the county. A win could earn them a date against top-seeded Clarksburg in the regional semifinals.

Century, however, is no stranger to postseason success. The Knights, in fact, have claimed regional championships each of the past two seasons.

Given the team's recent history, Seaborg said he wasn't about to lower his expectations just because of a few newcomers.

"I told them right from the get-go, you guys have won regions for the last two years. I think it's time to set our sights a little bit higher -- see if we can't go farther this year," he said.

The Knights' lineup currently includes four freshmen -- shortstop Mary Hartman, third baseman Jen Straitz, second baseman Katie Pugh and right fielder Sam Straitz. The latter took over for another freshman, Christa Giannaccini, who suffered a broken jaw around midseason.

Seaborg said that returning pitcher Anna Struhar and catcher Emilie McFarland, both first-team All-County picks a season ago, helped take pressure of the younger players, as did second-team infielder Morgan Wheeler and another standout pitcher in Brooke Stambaugh.

"They're very focused on what they do and they're good hitters, so my freshmen didn't feel like they had to come in and really carry the team," Seaborg said. "They just had to come in and sort of be role players. We've got these experienced players in place, then I can just fit the freshmen around them."

As fun as it is to be part of the present, however, Seaborg said he sometimes can't help but dream of what may lie down the road for his team.

"We have these guys for three more years," he said. "By the time they're seniors. ... There's definitely a feeling that things are going in the right direction."

Eagles step up

Coming into Wednesday's Carroll County track and field championships, Francis Scott Key coach Tim Walsh felt his boys team had a good chance to match defending champion North Carroll point for point.

The Eagles, however, did that and more, picking up unexpected points in several events to top the Panthers by 41 points and earn their first outright county title in 27 years.

"Our guys who were supposed to get seventh or sixth just stepped up and got third and fourth and fifth," Walsh said. "Just those little extra points made a huge difference in the end."

Among those contributors were Travis Miller, who took third in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles; Irving Jeffries (fourth in the high jump); and Mitch Hill (second in the long jump). Another athlete from Key, David Thomas, won the long jump after coming into the meet with only the fourth-best distance among county performers this season.

Walsh said that Brad Martz and Thomas flip-flopping second and third place in the 100 and 200 dashes also earned big points for the Eagles.

The decisive win was a momentous occasion for Key, which two years ago had to share the county title with Westminster.

"We don't have to share it this year, so it's nice," Walsh said.

Gold standard

The county track and field meet was a golden day for a pair of North Carroll standouts, who each walked away with four gold medals.

On the boys side, Panthers senior Issa Connell won the 100 and 200 dashes, and ran legs on the Panthers' winning 400 and 800 relay teams, both of which set county records. With the effort, Connell personally accounted for 40 of his team's 102 points on the day.

Junior sprinter Alexis Hurd also earned 40 points for the Panthers girls, taking individual golds in the 100, 200 and long jump, then running a leg on the winning 1,600 relay team. Her performance helped the Panthers cruise to a 55-point victory over South Carroll.

To submit news and story ideas about Carroll County high school athletics, contact Rich Scherr at CarrollSports@comcast.net.

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