North Caroline Bulldogs seek another big splash
Defending state champs look tough, but unbeaten repeat may be unlikely
The highly competitive North Bayside produced a state champion last season in undefeated North Caroline. With talented players continuing to evolve and experienced coaching throughout the division, another state championship is possible, but staying unbeaten throughout the upcoming season doesn’t seem likely for any team.
The defending Bayside Conference and Class 2A state champion Bulldogs will have to find a way to replace their top pitcher from last season Brea Bishop (17-0), now playing for Salisbur y University. Last year, the Bulldogs topped Queen Anne’s and Easton in the 2A East Region Section II playoffs before nipping Rising Sun, 9-8, in the region final. The Bulldogs also edged North Region champion Eastern Tech, 3-2, in the state semifinal before a convincing 8-1 victory over South champ South Carroll in the state final.
Mardela reigned as the 1A East champion, topping St. Michaels, 7-2, in the region final. The Warriors’ season ended with a 5-0 setback in the state semis to eventual state champion Bohemia Manor. The Saints reached the region final with an 8-5 victory over Colonel Richardson and a 10-1 win over North Dorchester.
Colonel Richardson reached the 1A East Section I final with a 15-0 victory over Kent County after the Trojans opened their postseason with a 9-7 win over Cambridge-South Dorchester. Will any team dominate the Bayside Conference season like North Caroline last year or St. Michaels the year before that? We’re going to find out.
Here’s a look at this year’s teams:
The Vikings introduce ninth-grader Maddie Pleasants on the mound. Pleasants has experience playing travel ball for the Delaware Diamonds.
“Although we are still ver y young, these girls have a lot of heart and work very hard together,” Vikings head coach Kareem Otey said. “I’m looking forward to them growing together throughout the season and seeing the great things they accomplish.”
Sophomore Ariah Matos starts at catcher. Brooke Windsor, a junior, is at first
base. Sophomore Delanie Henry plays second, ninth-grader Chloe Warrel third, and junior Maddie Lednum shortstop.
The Vikings’ outfielders are left fielder Adrienne Kane (Jr)., center fielder Abby Robinson (Jr.), and right fielder Natalie Kerr (Fr.).
The Colonels, who went 16-4 last season, lost the services of Morgan Willoughby, Camryn Plugge, and Gabby Galante to graduation, but return plenty of skill.
Top returners are Kaylie Moore (Sr., shortstop), Jen Larrimore (Jr., pitcher/infield), Megan Stubbs (So., catcher), Cassidy Stubbs (So., 3B), and Reagan Tull (Jr., outfield). Talented newcomers include Madison Covey (Fr., infield) and Marissa Hyland (Fr. pitcher/infield).
“We hope to be strong up the middle with our catcher, shortstop, and pitcher returning,” head coach Brett Ireland said. “We need to continue to work hard and improve throughout the season. Hopefully we are playing our best when the playoffs come around. Our playoff region got tougher this year with Bo Manor and Perryville coming into it, so we want to be playing our best when the playoffs come around.”
Easton, led by Joy Kolakowski on the mound, went 15-4 overall last season and 10-2 in the North.
The Warriors may be starting as many as five freshmen, but they also may have a formidable senior on the mound in left-hander Peyton Elzey.
In 2016, Elzey only allowed 45 hits in 47.6 innings for a 2.79 earned-run average, while striking out 47 batters. Her time was limited last season due to injury, but she played with a travel team, the Gold Coast Hurricanes 18U National Team, last summer. In 65 innings pitched, she allowed just 45 hits and 22 earned runs for a 2.36 ERA.
Ninth-grader Udairi Jackson will play catcher. The infield looks like Jess Millard (Fr.) at first, Olivia Ball (So.) at second, Chloe Briner (Fr.) at third, and Olivia Brown (Fr.) at shortstop. Starting outfielders will likely be Megan Kolakowski (Jr.) in left, Kate Chapple (Fr.) in center, and Charlotte Frase (Sr.) in right. Megan Kettering (So.) will DH.
“We have a young team this year but look to be competitive,” Warriors head coach Jen Powell said. “This team is very close and more of a family already. Excited for the season with a wonderful group girls that are eager to learn and compete.”
Michelle Phillips has been coaching one sport or another for many years at her alma mater, and she is bringing an “old school” approach of discipline, hard work and emphasis on the fundamentals to her newest assignment as the varsity softball skipper. She also is bringing along veteran coach Doug Walters.
Last year, the duo of Phillips and Walters led Kent’s junior varsity to a 9-2-1 record.
The top players on the jayvee team — including MVP Mattie Cesarini — have been called up to varsity.
“The girls want to play and learn. I am excited about how well they can do if we can learn to play as one unit and limit errors,” Phillips said.
Returning from last year’s 6-13 varsity squad are pitcher Lexi Langenfelder, catcher Lauren Edwards and the infield of first baseman Macy Willis, second baseman Ashley Metzbower, shortstop Lily Trego, and third baseman Ally Hickman.
Everyone else is new, including freshman Maddy Kendall, who can play the outfield or first base.
The outfielders are Jaime Heavlow and Jillian Hyland in left, Cesarini in center, and Kendall in right.
“We had a great season last year, but that is done with and this is a new season,” head coach Andrea Ward said. “We know that we have to come out this year and put in a lot of time and hard work every day because there is a lot of great competition in our division and in the Bayside. Our motto last year was ‘One game at a time’ and that still holds true this year; we are just hoping to be competitive with all of the strong teams that we are about to face. We are lucky enough to have a great group of girls that love each other and love putting in the time and they are ready to play the game that they know and love.”
Seniors Emily Ward, Mackenzie Werner, and Megan Robbins, and sophomore Sarah Kintop all may see time on the mound when they’re not playing in the field. Senior Sarah Mast returns behind the plate. Kendall Dixon (Sr.) plays second and either Hayden Smith (Jr.) or Lauren Williamson (So.) will play third. Outfielders are seniors Abigail Trice in left, Alison Ward in center, and Azalie Haro in right.
Dixon homered in the first inning for North Caroline in the state final last season, and Robbins knocked in all three Bulldog runs in the state semifinal and three runs in the final.
aren’t resting on
Head coach Clark Harrison said the Eagles are young but excited.
“After losing five seniors last year we have a young team but have high expectations for being competitive with the best,” Harrison said. “We have a solid infield and outfield defensively to keep us in contention and strong bats from top to bottom in the batting lineup. We’re young, but we are coming to play ball. The girls are excited and look for good season.”
The Eagles starting lineup looks like LeAnn Asplen (Jr.) on the mound with Rachel Windsor (Jr.) behind the plate. Maggie Meilhapper (So.) is at first, Kara Robbins (Fr.) at second, Lily Allen (Fr.) at third, and Brooke Harding (Sr.) at shortstop. Outfielders are Abigail Callahan (Fr.) left field, Meredith Coulbourne (So.) in center, and Savannah Windsor (Fr.) in right.
St. Michaels finished 15-6 last season with a 9-4 record in the North. McKenna Browning returns for her senior season to lead the Saints on the mound and at third base.
“We’re pleased with our progress, considering the weather this preseason, but realize we are still learning and have a long way to go to fill some of the positions vacated by our graduating group last year,” Saints head coach Dave Fisher said. “The girls have been working hard despite the weather. With a mix of experience and some very good freshmen we feel once again we should be able to compete in the always strong Bayside.”
Senior starters are Jordan Bateson (OF), Caroline Lenkiwiecz (1B, Util.), Jasmine Robinson (OF, 1B), and Gracyn Colborn (OF). Juniors are Layla Berry (C), Savannah Stewart (3B, 1B, P), and Jozie Wilson (2B, OF). Sophomores are Sincere Taylor (SS) and Kate Lenkiwiecz (2B, OF), and ninthgraders are Kristin Lednum (OF, 2B, SS, P) and Hannah Seek (1B, P).
Kent County News writer Trish McGee contributed to this article.
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Cambridge-South Dorchester’s Maddison Lednum drives a pitch to left against Colonel Richardson.
North Dorchester’s Leann Asplen blasts three-run homer against Cambridge-SD. her