HAMPSTEAD — The Westminster Owls softball team improved to 3-0 on the young season with a convincing 16-5 win over defending Class 3A state champion North Carroll yesterday afternoon.
Senior Jacqui Harmon went 4-for-5 and drove in five runs, while senior Steffanie Owings had three hits and drove in three to lead the Owls.
Junior pitcher Stephanie Harrell and a solid defense behind her did the rest, shutting down the Panthers' attack.
"I'm really pleased, it feels good (to beat North Carroll)," said third-year Westminster coach Kathy Hodgkins.
"I'm really confident in our defense. I told (pitchers) Stephanie and Jacqui if they can just get it over the plate, our defense can get it done. We also hit the ball real well today. Everything is really coming together."
The Owls jumped out toa 3-0 lead in the top of the first with sophomore Julie Backof and Harmon both driving in runs on singles.
North Carroll, 1-2 on the season, threatened in its half of the inning, but Harrell got Jenni Heindel to hit into an inning-ending double play -- pitcher to catcher to first -- with the bases loaded.
Westminster scored five more times in the top of the fourth to take an 8-0 lead.
The big blow came off the bat of Harmon, who doubled to left-center to drive in the final three runs of the inning. Harmon's hit came after a pair of North Carroll errors that could have ended the inning.
Owings had a double to center earlier in the inning that scored seniors Kasin McLainand Holly Chatfield.
"It was a case where Westminster hit the ball well and we didn't hit consistently," said Panther coach Phil Bonnell.
"We made some mistakes on the field, but you have to give Westminster a lot of credit. We have to play smarter defense. We'll work things out. It's still early."
The Panthers did get to Harrell andthe Owls in the bottom of the fifth, scoring five runs on just one hit to cut the lead to 9-5. Harrell, who struck out three on the day, walked four in the inning.
But that's all the closer the Panthers would get.
"I got a little worried in that inning when they got the five runs. I thought if they could score five runs in that inning they could do it again," Hodgkins said.
"But Stephanie (Harrell) usually comes back strong after a bad inning so I let her stay in. Jacqui (Harmon) said she was ready (to pitch) if we needed her."
It turned out the Owls didn't need her, putting the game out of reach withthree in the sixth and four more in the seventh.
Backof and McLain both collected two hits for the Owls, while North Carroll was led by senior Kim Piccione (two singles).
The Owls will try to remain undefeated at home tomorrow against Frederick, which opened the seasonwith a 10-9 win over North Carroll.
The Panthers will try to get back on the winning track tomorrow at Thomas Johnson. The Panthers nipped the Frederick County team, 11-10, for its only win of the seasonon Monday.