North Carroll made Lloyd Ford a very happy coach in the first inning of yesterday's season opener with visiting Francis Scott Key.
Ford wanted a more potent offense this year after the Panthers struggled at times last year en route to their third straight region title. That's why the seven-run first inning that helped No. 4 North Carroll roll to a 10-0 victory over Francis Scott Key pleased Ford so much.
The Panthers sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning, and their first nine batters reached. North Carroll had a 6-0 lead before Francis Scott Key starter Sarah Storey could retire a batter in the game that was stopped in the fifth because of the 10-run rule.
"You get a start like that and get runs on the board, it lets everyone relax and play the game," Ford said. "We got some solid swings and made some solid contact."
Making any kind of contact was tough on an afternoon more suited to football. The wind chill was in the high 20s with gusts throughout the game.
Storey seemed to be having trouble with the wind early, walking six in the first inning before settling down and throwing better the next two innings. Jessica Linthicum replaced her in the fourth and pitched the final inning.
Third baseman Ashley De Vilbiss got the first inning's big hit. The Panthers already had scored once and had the bases loaded with none out when De Vilbiss lined a three-run triple to deep right field. That gave North Carroll a 4-0 lead and broke the game open.
"That high [pitch] looked good," De Vilbiss said. "I was just trying to get it out of the infield."
Also in the first inning, Jessica Worden added an RBI single and Mandy Pickard drove in a run with a groundout. North Carroll got one more run on a wild pitch for the quick 7-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Jessica Smith, an All-Metro pick from last year who seems to have added some overall speed plus more touch on her riser. She allowed only Jess DeJesus' third-inning infield single and struck out seven in five innings.
The Panthers also added two runs in the third plus one in the fourth. They finished with 10 walks and seven hits and showed good patience at the plate.
The Eagles hit only one ball out of the infield in their first varsity game with North Carroll since 1989. The two schools played in different conferences, but now both are in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League.
"It was a very rough first inning," Francis Scott Key coach Joe Linthicum said. "But they didn't quit and made some nice plays."