St. Michaels High head softball coach Dave Fisher summed up the competition in the North Bayside this year after a playoff loss to Cambridge-South Dorchester: “It’s the North Bayside. It’s a tough division. There are no easy games.”

The divisional champion wasn’t decided this year until the last games of the regular season. Colonel Richardson claimed its first North Bayside title in 14 years with a 12-2 victory over North Dorchester benefitting from the Vikings’ 5-1 victory over Queen Anne’s the same day.

Queen Anne’s faded a bit down the regular-season stretch, but that adversity and experience against talented foes in the North ultimately played a part in its best season ever. Behind the pitching of Cameron Whiteford, the Lions won their first regional title in softball and earned a trip to College Park as a Class 2A state finalist. Honoring her team’s postseason success and 19-4 record, Lions head coach Kim Betts earned the Mid-Shore Coach of the Year.

Colonel Richardson’s divisional title maintained the North Bayside championship as the exclusive property of Talbot and Caroline counties for the 25th consecutive year. How much longer will that last? Many of this year’s top players return next season, including Maddie Pleasants, the Vikings’ phenom who, as a sophomore, earned her second straight Player of the Year accolade.

Pleasants and the Vikings reached the Class 1A East Region championship game where they fell to Bohemia Manor, which went on to win its third straight state championship. Bohemia Manor junior Madison Penta, an Auburn University commit, pitched a no-hitter and tied the state championship record with 19 strikeouts. She also struck out 18 as a freshman in 2017’s final. Will the Eagles’ run end in 2020? Next year will likely be just as contentious as this year. Here’s a look at the top players on the Mid-Shore this season as chosen by coaches and The Star Democrat staff.

First Team

First Base

Madison Kendall, So., Kent County

Kendall batted .396 with two home runs, a triple, four doubles, and 19 RBIs.

“Madison played most of the year at first but can also play outfield. She is a player that does what is needed for the betterment of the team,” Trojans head coach Michelle Phillips said. “She has softball smarts and is fast and always thinking in the base path. I am excited to see her to continue to develop over the next two years.”

Second Base

Alyssa Sofinowski, Jr., Queen Anne’s County

Sofinowski led Queen Anne’s in RBIs and home runs and provided a solid presence at second. She knocked in three runs during Queen Anne’s 9-0 victory over Middletown in the Class 2A state semifinal.

“Alyssa was a great addition to our team,” Betts said. “She was clutch in the field. Not only was she sure-handed for the fundamental plays, she made several diving plays for us throughout the season. At the plate, she recorded a team-high 23 RBIs and four home runs.”

Third Base

Cassidy Stubbs, Jr., Colonel Richardson

Stubbs hit .438 with four home runs, 26 runs scored and 23 RBIs.

“Cassidy really played a good third base for us this year. She has gotten better each year and she has tremendous arm strength,” Colonels head coach Brett Ireland said. “Offensively, she really came through with some big hits and she really concentrated and waited on the pitch and drove it up the middle. She can be dangerous when she waits.”

Shortstop

Madison Lednum, Sr., Cambridge-SD

Lednum batted .441 with 26 hits and 23 RBIs. She belted nine doubles, three triples, and three home runs.

“Maddie Lednum has been a wonderful leader the last four years,” Vikings head coach Kareem Otey said. “I’ve seen her game evolve to what it is today, a sound batter and fielder. I can always count on Maddie to bring her A game day in and day out, and I can’t wait to see the great things she does at Salisbury University under Coach Margie Knight.”

Catcher

Layla Berry, Sr., St. Michaels

Berry batted .545 with a slugging percentage of .955. She knocked in 28 runs and belted 16 doubles, two triples, and two home runs. She recorded 132 assists and 14 put outs.

“She’s just a natural leader, someone you can count on to take care of her position and control the game,” Saints head coach Dave Fisher said. “She worked well with having a McKenna (Browning) and having a seasoned pitcher and she worked well with a freshman pitcher (Haley Sadler). She was just a great leader to have to keep the game under control and an extremely talented young lady.”

Outfielders

Emily Blum, Jr., Kent Island

Blum hit .525 with an on-base percentage of .627. She stole 17 of 18 bases, knocked in 17 runs, and scored 30 runs. She stroked five doubles, three triples, and four home runs, with just two strikeouts. Defensively, she contributed six assists and had a fielding percentage of .950.

“Emily is our emotional and vocal team leader and really has been for longer than just this year,” Bucs head coach Justin Lewis said. “An absolute take-the-bull-by-the-horns player. She always has suggestions for other players and was the coach-to-player liaison on a regular basis. On the field she is a definite five-tool player — she is a blazing fast, excellent baserunner who chases down almost anything in the air from her center-field spot and has a cannon for an arm. She hits for power and average — she can even slap! Her softball IQ is incredible.”

Julia Smith, Jr., Queen Anne’s County

The Lions’ leadoff hitter rapped 43 hits and scored 29 runs. She finished the season with a .524 batting average, knocking in 19 runs along the way.

“Julia was the spark plug in our lineup,” Betts said. “Her reaching base was a guaranteed run on the board. Her speed and strength is unmatched. She had a phenomenal year at the plate leading our offense in five statistical categories. She is an intense player, always pushing herself to the limit for the betterment of her team.”

Taylor Walls, Jr., Queen Anne’s County

Walls hit .403 with 29 hits, including four home runs. She knocked in 13 runs and scored 20 runs.

“Taylor carried a hot bat for us this season,” Betts said. “She is the perfect threat — she is able to execute a bunt and hit the long ball. She had many game-winning hits. She secured our outfield easily transitioning between left and right field. Great glove and strong arm.”

Designated Hitter

Leann Asplen, Sr., North Dorchester

Asplen, who pitched and played third, hit .553.

“She only had three fielding errors during the regular season and is a super dependable fielder,” Eagles head coach Carol Hubbard said. “She was also one of our leading hitters with a .553 average and a .915 contact percentage.”

Pitchers

Jen Larrimore, Sr., Colonel Richardson

Named by coaches the North pitcher of the year, Larrimore tossed 111 2/3 innings with an earned-run average of 1.81 and a record of 14-4. She struck out 122. At the plate, she hit .566 with 35 runs scored, 32 RBIs, and four home runs.

“Jen will be missed next year,” Ireland said. “We have really been dependent on her the last three years and she has come through. This year she even stepped up more both at the plate and on the rubber. She also matured more this year and stepped up into the leadership role for us. The girls looked to her to lead us and she was always ready for the challenge.

“Pitching-wise Jen throws strikes and really fields her position well. She finished with a career high in strikeouts due to her ability to locate her pitches. Offensively, she led us in a lot of different categories, and came through time and time again. Her RBI total is the most since I have been at Colonel. We will certainly miss her stick in the middle of the lineup.”

Maddie Pleasants, So. Cambridge-SD

Pleasants (14-6) pitched 126 innings with an ERA of 0.89. She struck out 221. She did not allow any triples or home runs.

At the plate, she hit for a massive batting average of .701 with 47 hits in 67 at-bats, including seven doubles, three triples, and five home runs. She also stole seven bases out of eight attempts.

“Maddie Pleasants is both a presence at the plate and on the mound,” Otey said. “With her there is no offseason. She is softball 24/7, which is why she has been so successful. I’m ecstatic to have her returning next year.”

Cameron Whiteford, So., Queen Anne’s County

Whiteford led the Lions with her tenacity on the mound and at the plate. She hit .386 with three home runs and 17 RBIs. On the mound, she had an ERA of 2.14 for 101 1/3 innings, with 131 strikeouts.

“Cameron was our ace in the circle finishing with an impressive 12-3 record,” Betts said. “She is a gamer and strong competitor. She works diligently with her battery mate to keep our opponents off balance. She too carries a strong stick. When she steps in the box, her coaches and teammates are confident that she will put the ball in play and push runs across.”

Kate Chapple, So., Easton

After a season-opening loss to Chopticon, Chapple (11-2) never lost the remainder of the regular season, piecing together a North Bayside-best 10-game winning streak, which reached 11 in the postseason. She finished with a 2.294 ERA, striking out 111 and walking 20 over 79 1/3 innings. Her four shutouts were second only to the five earned by Pleasants. Chapple batted .255 with two doubles and 11 RBIs.

“I think she pitched phenomenal,” Easton head coach Jen Powell said. “She kept her head in a lot of games when she could have gotten down and thrown off. Works very hard. Recognizes there’s areas that we need to grow on and continues to work on them. Great player.”

Second Team

First Base: Brooke Windsor, Cambridge-SD; Second Base: Olivia Brown, Easton; Third Base: Ally Hickman, Kent County; Shortstop: Madison Covey, Colonel Richardson; Catcher: Megan Stubbs, Col. Richardson; Outfielders: Grace Buchanan, Col. Richardson; Megan Kolakowski, Easton; Meredith Coulbourne, North Dorchester; Pitchers: Makayla Lowery, Kent Island; Haley Sadler, St. Michaels; Designated Hitter: Kamryn Brandt, Queen Anne’s County

Honorable Mention

Cambridge-SD: Delani Henry; Colonel Richardson: Alexis Bates, Delainey Sann, Marissa Hyland, Reagan Tull; Easton: Chloe Briner; Kent County: Mattie Cesarini, Sydney Usilton; Kent Island: Katie Sonneveldt, Allison Curry, Danielle Kosowsky; North Caroline: Hayden Smith, Lauren Williamson, Katie Hutchinson, Emily Darling, Alexandria Penn; North Dorchester: Kaitlyn Wolfe; Queen Anne’s: Ally Hall, Breanna Athey; St. Michaels: Savannah Stewart, Kristin Lednum.

Follow me on Twitter @csknauss / email me at cknauss@stardem.com

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