Smith, N. Carroll stifle Westminster

Freshman's one-hitter, `D,' help No. 12 Panthers shut down No. 4 Owls, 3-0

Softball

April 23, 2002|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Because of a transportation glitch, North Carroll's team bus arrived more than a half-hour late for yesterday's game at Westminster.

Once there, however, the No. 12 Panthers and freshman pitcher Jessica Smith made quick work of the fourth-ranked Owls in a 3-0 victory.

Smith, a 5-foot-9 drop-ball specialist, took a no-hitter into the fifth before finishing with a one-hit shutout, as North Carroll avenged a one-run loss to the defending Class 4A state champions.

It was the seventh straight win for the Panthers (9-3 overall, 7-1 Central Maryland Conference, 3-1 Carroll County) after a 2-3 start.

Smith induced the Owls into 14 groundouts and allowed just three balls out of the infield in improving to 5-1 and lowering her earned-run average to nearly 0.50.

"She's a good drop-ball pitcher, and when it's working that's what they do -- they beat it into the ground," North Carroll coach Lloyd Ford said.

Westminster (7-3, 5-2, 2-1), which primarily faced pitcher Tara Lowder in the teams' first meeting, struggled to make solid contact.

"I give their pitcher a lot of credit for probably making us swing at a lot of pitches," Westminster coach Bryan Shumaker said. "She worked pretty well up and down, and there wasn't a whole lot middle. But I probably give their defense as much or more credit, because I thought they were superb."

North Carroll's defense, which had struggled mightily earlier this season, was nearly flawless and turned several tough plays -- including a backhand grab down the line and putout by third baseman Ashley Martin, and a charging shoe-string catch by center fielder Jess Worden.

With the game scoreless, North Carroll took command with a three-run third inning off pitcher Nichol Moeller.

The Panthers started the inning by loading the bases on Katie Riley's infield single sandwiched by walks to Kristy Shaffer and Martin. With one out, Riley and Shaffer scored on consecutive singles by Lisa Worden and Ashley Devilbiss. The lead was extended to 3-0 when Smith grounded to third, Martin scoring when catcher Casey Brengle couldn't hang on to the throw home.

"[The runs] helped a lot," Smith said. "It took the pressure off me."

Westminster, meanwhile, never managed the big hit, stranding runners in scoring position in three innings. The Owls' only hit was pinch-hitter Natalie Tiburzi's double to center with two outs in the fifth but she, too, was left on base.

"We got the runners in scoring position, but never got the one to drop or the one to come through," Shumaker said. "I'm not going to get too worried about us offensively just yet. We didn't hit a ton, but I thought their defense played really well behind her."

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