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Montgomery County Gazette

Softball: Warriors McMakin the trip back to states

Junior pitcher goes where Ward has gone before

by Jennifer Beekman | Staff Writer

No one envied Sherwood junior Erin McMakin at the start of 2008. The first-year varsity softball pitcher had to fill the shoes of graduated three-year starter Dana Ward.

With many similarities between them — both are lanky lefties with good speed and ball movement — McMakin couldn’t escape comparisons to her predecessor. Saturday, on the biggest stage of her fledgling career, McMakin measured up to Ward in another respect, delivering the Warriors’ second-straight regional title.

McMakin struck out 10 Gaithersburg batters en route to a 7-3 road win over the top-seeded team in the Class 4A West Region.

Ward struck out a county-high 243 batters in 2007, leading the Warriors to their first state tournament appearance since 1984. Sherwood (17-2) will now try to go one step further than its 3-2 loss to Anne Arundel County’s Chesapeake in last year’s state semifinals.

‘‘It’s so exciting,” McMakin said. ‘‘I don’t even know. I just really want to get this [state title] for the seniors who lost in last year’s state tournament.”

Sherwood faced South Region champion Eleanor Roosevelt (17-2) of Prince George’s County Tuesday at Bachman Park. For coverage of that game, visit www.gazette.net.

McMakin, whose natural lefty spin has helped her rack up eight strikeouts per game, has displayed exceptional maturity and poise this season. The Trojans (16-3) loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, but with the tying run at the plate, McMakin bore down and finished the game.

‘‘What can I say about Erin?” Sherwood coach Pat Flanagan said. ‘‘This whole season, I don’t think I’ve heard her say more than 30 worlds to me. But she goes out there and does exactly what we need her to do. ... She never looks over here like, ‘I need help; get me out of here.’ She never looks to anyone else to be responsible. And that’s pretty darn good for a first-year varsity player.”

McMakin is only part of the equation in what has been a unique season at Sherwood. So reliant on Ward’s shutdown pitching for three years, the Warriors’ fourth-straight finals appearance came courtesy of a more well-rounded group.

Sophomores Shayna Popkin and Kat Korrea, junior Taylor Stockinger and seniors Jamie Karp and Kathy Holonich each contributed a hit in Saturday’s win. The defense has backed McMakin up superbly; Sherwood was flawless in the field Saturday, while Gaithersburg made four costly errors.

‘‘The defense has been so great,” McMakin said. ‘‘Anywhere the ball gets hit I know someone is going to be there. I’m so glad I have this team behind me. It’s really helped me feel comfortable out there.”

Gaithersburg succumbed to some big-game nerves, but the Trojans’ seeding belied their youth: Saturday’s starting pitcher, Julie Hance, is only a freshman.

Gaithersburg will graduate some stalwart players, including four-year starting shortstop Becca Kirshner, who will play on scholarship at Howard University next year. Kirshner tripled and scored two of the Trojans’ three runs Saturday.

‘‘I know a lot of teams who wish they could say, ‘I lost in the region final,’” Gaithersburg coach Don Dillingham said. ‘‘Being in the running, knowing you can do it is what it’s all about.”

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