Blair Softball Thriving Early with 4-0 Start
Last season was an exciting one for the Blair varsity softball team. The Blazers finished the year 16-5 and emerged from the highly competitive MPSSAA 4A West region in the playoffs, topping Clarksburg 3-0 in the final. It was Blair's third regional title since 2011.
As fantastic a season as it was for Blair though, it still didn't have quite the ending the group wanted.
"We lost in the Maryland state semifinal to Chopticon 10-9. It was a great season and I feel we improved throughout the season and peaked at the right time," head coach Louis Hoelman III said. "We had a big lead in the state semifinal and ended up losing the game, so that left a bad taste in our mouth."
If their start to this season is any indication, the Blazers have a chance to go even further once the playoffs come around. Blair is 4-0, outscoring opponents 32-12.
It's been a welcome sight for Hoelman, who knew his team was losing four key pieces from last season. The Blazers graduated their main pitcher, catcher, right-fielder and first base. The departing seniors also batted in the first four spots of the order, so Hoelman knew new players would have to step up if Blair was going to replicate its 2016 season.
"We are young but we have a good group of senior leaders that're really helping us come together as a team," Hoelman said. "I feel our strengths at this point are pitching, catching and team speed. We have a very fast team so it is important for us to be aggressive on the base paths. We play a lot of slap and drag on offense to try to put pressure on the defense."
In order to play that style of offense, Blair has needed good performances from its top of the order, which has been led by leadoff hitter Allison Mackenzie. The senior centerfielder has done a superb job of getting on base and finding ways to score once on the basepaths. Senior right fielder Cami Vanderwolf has also been particularly productive at the plate, consistently picking up RBI's and getting on base.
In the infield, the play of third baseman Lily Montgomery and shortstop Izzy Lott has also been encouraging. The seniors have done a good job of organizing Blair's defense and ensuring those around them know what their jobs are in any given situation.
The play of the team's pitcher-catcher battery has been big as well. Pitcher Courtney Wyche and catcher Niamh Ducey have begun the year brightly. The pair of sophomores is continuing to grow together, and Hoelman believes the tandem could prove to be one of Montgomery County's best if they continue to work hard.
It's an encouraging start for Blair that's seen the players really gel together, though Hoelman still sees ways for his team to improve, especially one the Blazers struggled with against Chopticon last season.
"We've won two close games that I feel will help us be tough down the road. We beat Paint Branch 5-4 and Magruder 6-4," Hoelman said. "We need to play more consistently throughout the game and put teams away when we have a lead."
For now, Hoelman and his players will continue to work at their craft, hoping to play their best softball at the most important time.
"We would love to win the region, get back to states this year and see if we can bring home a state championship," Hoelman said.
|March 28th, 2017||By: Wick Eisenberg|