Thornton named top player, Fisher top coach
Queen Anne’s Jackson earns first-team selection; Saints well-represented after banner year
ST. MICHAELS — Two-thousand sixteen was the year of the Saints.
Typically a .500 team, St. Michaels High’s softball team epitomized the word “team” this year as a combination of senior leadership, talented underclassmen, and heady coaching resulted in a remarkable undefeated regular season for the Saints and their first Bayside Conference championship.
Leading the way for St. Michaels was gritty senior catcher Melissa Richardson who, combined with pitchers Angelica Sichette, Savannah Stewart, and McKenna Browning, kept opposing teams’ bats in check. The Saints’ offense took advantage of every opportunity on the bases and came of age with a 19-1 pasting of county rival Easton on April 18.
For their efforts, Browning and Richardson were among the top vote-getters of Mid-Shore players as selected by coaches at the end of the season.
As good as Richardson was this season, another senior catcher received the most votes of any player, North Caroline’s Clara Thornton, whose presence behind and at the plate drew earned her respect around the diamond, as well as the All-Mid-Shore Player of the Year.
Dave Fisher, in his first year as the head coach for the Saints, was an obvious choice as this year’s MidShore Coach of the Year.
Here’s a look at this year’s All-Mid-Shore teams: First Team
Pitcher McKenna Browning
St. Michaels Browning went 14-0 on the mound and finished the regular season with an 0.87 earned-run average. She struck out 122 batters.
“McKenna is one of those rare gems that only comes along every so often,” Fisher said. “Already arguably one of the best pitchers to ever attend St. Michaels High and only a sophomore, I’m excited to see what the future holds for her. Her talent, drive, and dedicated work ethic can only help her get better. She is the quiet confident player that you can always count on to do her job, but she is always working to get better.”
Paige Bleyer Cambridge-South Dorchester Bleyer struck out 160 batters this season and finished
with a 1.44 ERA. At the plate, she knocked in 14 runs, had a batting average of .396, and an on-base-percentage of .475.
“Paige Bleyer has been our starting pitcher since her freshmen year and has led us to two section finals and one region final,” Vikings head coach Kareem Otey said. “Without her, we would have never been able to go as far as we did and not having her next year will be a tremendous loss.” Catcher Clara Thornton North Caroline Thornton’s throwbacks to her pitcher were glove-popping and served notice that runners at first should stay put. She led the Bulldogs with a .517 batting average. She stroked 30 hits, including 13 doubles, a triple, and a home run, and knocked in 24 runs.
Thornton and Mackenzie Short were the only two seniors playing for the Bulldogs this season.
“Clara and Mac have been brick walls for us for four years,” Bulldogs head coach Renee Barringer said. “Their athletic ability is top notch and they will both be missed.”
St. Michaels Richardson caught 20 games and finished the season with a .444 batting average and an on-base percentage of .538. She stole five bases and scored 30 runs. She blasted a pair of homers, tripled four times, and doubled twice among 24 hits. Behind the plate, she threw out 14 of 16 baserunners trying to steal.
“Melissa is the kind of athlete coaches look for in a player and team leader,” Fisher said. “As a captain this year she not only led but was part of the foundation we were able to build our successes on. Even though she also led in many of the team stats, she constantly worked to improve and help those around her improve.”
Alyssa Kendall Kent County Kendall caught all but one game for the Trojans with a fielding percentage of .988. Like Thornton and Richardson, she also produced plenty of offense, finishing the season with a .468 batting average. Among her hits were three doubles, two triples, and a home run.
“Babe Ruth said ‘It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.’ And that is the truth about Alyssa,” Trojans head coach Jory Mitzel said. “She will give 110 percent every minute of the game and I couldn’t think of anyone better to earn first team to represent Kent County.”
Infield Jazmine Brooks Colonel Richardson Brooks’ athleticism shined for the Colonels at shortstop. Consistent with the glove, she was also consistent at the plate with a .410 batting average. She scored 32 runs, knocked in 15 runs, walked 17 times, stole 12 bases, and belted nine extra-base hits, including two home runs.
“Jaz has been a four-year starter for us and has had a tremendous career,” Colonels head coach Brett Ireland said. “She does what we ask of her and leads the team and we will certainly miss her next year. We wish her the best.”
Brooks finished her prep career with an MVP performance at the Bayside Conference Senior All-Star game.
Mackenzie Short North Caroline Short, a four-year varsity starter and three-year captain, played first base for the Bulldogs. She collected 27 hits this season, including five doubles, a triple, and a home run, for a batting average of .491. She also knocked in 24 runs.
She is headed to Rowan (N.J.) University to play for the Profs. Rowan ended its season 42-11, which was a school record for wins. The Profs tied for third at the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
“She was like a brick wall over at first base, picking balls and making plays that seemed almost impossible,” Barringer said. “And then with her batting, she was one of the top hitters on the team. And you could almost always count on her to pull through with a hit.”
Alyssa Jackson Queen Anne’s County Jackson finished with a .519 batting average and a slugging percentage of .865. She rapped 30 hits and knocked in 20 runs. A shortstop and second baseman, she had a fielding percentage of .985.
“Alyssa was indisputably our most consistent all around player,” Lions head coach Kim Rementer-Betts said. “She is heads up, versatile, and aware of situations at all times. Game after game, we looked to her for consistent defense, quality at-bats, and power, and she often delivered leading the team in every offensive category.”
A senior, Jackson belted two home runs and five RBIs to lead Queen Anne’s to a 13-1 victory over Wicomico in the opening round of the playoffs.
Morgan Willoughby Colonel Richardson Willoughby, a junior, played first base and pitched for the Colonels. On the mound, she went 7-2 with an ERA of 2.59. At the plate, she batted .406 with 23 RBIs. She scored 16 runs.
“Morgan had a great year for us,” Ireland said. “She worked hard over this offseason and it showed. Her ability to throw the offspeed pitches for strikes was huge. With the bat she came up in big situations all year and delivered. We look forward to having her back next year.”
St. Michaels Sichette, a junior, brought versatility to the Saints with the ability to throw the ball well on the mound and to slug the ball at the plate. As a pitcher her ERA was 1.93. When she wasn’t pitching, she played first base. She hit .441 with eight doubles, three triples, and 20 RBIs.
“Angelica helped solidify our infield at first base and our offense,” Fisher said. “She also added her pitching skills to our rotation during the season going 4-1. She accepted her role quickly as a team captain challenging her teammates to never settle for OK.”
Outfield Jayna Turner Colonel Richardson A consistent, solid performer, Turner hit .383 this season with 15 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
“Jayna has been a great asset to our team,” Ireland said. “She has started in right field since her freshman year and has come up with numerous big plays out there all throughout her four years. She also always came up with a big hit when we needed it and she will be missed.”
Easton Foster showed excellent range in center field. At bat, she stroked seven doubles among 24 hits, finishing with a .367 batting average. She walked 13 times and scored 21 runs.
“She was a very positive team player,” Easton coach Jen Powell said. “She led the team with her actions. She was a defensive asset in center field and saved us many times with outstanding plays. She was also a threat at the plate as our leadoff batter. Overall an amazing player on and off the field.”
Kent County Nelson roamed the outfield and played first base, finishing the season with a 1.0 perfect fielding percentage. She hit .444 with two doubles, four triples, and two home runs for an .800 slugging percentage.
“Racheal is the ideal softball player any coach would love to have,” Mitzel said. “She is the most hardworking and dedicated athlete I have had the opportunity to coach. She will put 100 percent effort in the field during not only games but practices as well.”
Second Team Kaylie Seabrease, shortstop, Cambridge-SD
Karli Lewis, catcher, Cambridge-SD
Gabby Galante, pitcher/ first base, Colonel Richardson
Madison Bee, third base, Colonel Richardson
Kassidy Willis, outfield, Easton
Peyton Elzey, DP, Easton
Carley Peet, shortstop/ pitcher, Kent County
Julia Blackburn, pitcher, Kent County pitcher/
Brea Bishop, North Caroline
Ali Ward, outfield, North Caroline
Autumn Hassler, catcher, North Dorchester
Chase Browning, shortstop, St. Michaels pitcher,
Honorable Mention: Cambridge-SD: JaMira Chester, Alyssa Swann; Colonel Richardson: Kaylie Moore, Camryn Plugge; Easton: Anna Slaughenhoupt, Jada Murray, Tori Weems; Kent County: Lindsey Elgin; Kent Island: Amber Gardner, Aly Hall, Julia Fitzpatrick; North Caroline: Sara Mast, Megan Robbins; North Dorchester: Maddi Nossick; Queen Anne’s: Gracie Ray; St. Michaels: Samantha Romberger, Savannah Stewart, Layla Berry; Saints Peter and Paul: Jill Koski.
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