Hard-hitting N. Carroll off to rolling start at 3-0

Panthers heed Snyder, avoid early hole of '02


April 04, 2003|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

North Carroll baseball coach Denny Snyder spent the pre-season preaching the importance of not repeating last year's slow start. The Panthers appear to have listened.

The Panthers have won their first three games and battled Class 3A state champion South Carroll to a 5-5 deadlock in a game suspended after eight innings Wednesday.

Snyder is thrilled to see how North Carroll (3-0 overall, 2-0 county, 3-0 Central Maryland Conference) has overcome early-season problems such as the weather and an unfriendly schedule.

"The kids have responded," Snyder said. "We're finding a way to win early in the season. It took us a while last year."

North Carroll lost its first five games last year, but rallied to finish 10-10 (including a 1-1 playoff mark). But Snyder repeatedly emphasized to the Panthers in the preseason that getting off to a slow start was not the way to go.

The weather caused more problems, forcing the Panthers to open the season with five straight road games - including today's battle with CMC rival Linganore - before finally coming home next week.

Offense has been the team's backbone so far. The Panthers beat Liberty, 9-8; Urbana, 14-8; and Century, 6-2. They're batting .380 as a team and are led by Jimmy Smith (.700, two homers, five RBIs), Jon Berich (.667, two doubles, three RBIs) and Ricky Raska (.556, one homer, two RBIs, six runs).

North Carroll also should get some help soon from senior Danny Kahline, who missed the first four games after breaking a bone in his hand in the basketball team's finale. Snyder is hoping to see Kahline become available at some point this month, and the senior will give the Panthers even more punch.

The Panthers showed some more hitting prowess against South Carroll Wednesday in a game that likely will be completed on the same day the teams meet for the second time on April 28. They also got good pitching from Elijah Wingate and Kenny Dunpy (both 1-0 with a save) and Aaron Myers (1-0).

"We're getting some different output from some different people," Snyder said. "With the weather and the road games, we could have had excuses. They're playing well."

Liberty turnaround

Liberty's softball team struggled throughout last season en route to a 3-15 record. The Lions, however, are so far enjoying this season much more.

Coach Lee Kestler's team already has matched its win total by going 3-2 through Wednesday - and could easily have been 5-0. The Lions (3-2 overall, 0-1 county, 1-2 CMC) had won two straight before dropping a 2-1 decision to Urbana Wednesday.

Sophomores Lauren Locklear (2-1) and Jamie Gardner (1-1) have given Liberty solid pitching. The Lions have allowed a total of only 10 runs in their first five games. They held opponents to one or two runs in four of those games.

Senior Stephanie Hartman, a four-year varsity player, is the team's top hitter with a .516 average. Locklear is helping at the plate with a .444 mark.

"We're playing pretty good ball right now," Kestler said. "There's a lot more stability here."

Wrestlers cited

Two county wrestlers have received postseason honors from the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

South Carroll's Drew Winfield was named to the MSWA's All-Junior team at 160 pounds. Winfield came back from a broken hand to finish 26-2 and lead the Cavaliers to the county regular-season and tournament titles.

He then won the regional crown before losing in the state finals.

Junior Josh Kelleman of Francis Scott Key was named to the All-Academic honorable mention team.

Rich Scherr contributed to this article.

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