Rec Sports Spotlight: Hot Shots want to ‘continue the magic’

You might say Carlos Hall’s North Carroll Hot Shots softball team had a pretty good season.

His girls went 26-6-1 and came within a couple of runs of winning the USSSA’s Maryland-Delaware 18-under B championship.

Hall, in his second year of running the team, had been an assistant coach with the girls since they played 8-under ball. He’d watched the core of the team develop over the years. By last fall, when the USSSA season was ready to begin, he saw that they had become a topnotch group.

Hall, along with his assistant coaches Yule Denicker and Jimmy Lankford, were so impressed that they felt at least half of the girls would be good enough to someday play softball in college. The original group as formed was young enough to play in 16-under competition, but Hall wanted to challenge them.

So, he picked up a few older girls and moved the lot of them up to 18-under B.

He has never regretted the move considering the season the team had, and the numbers the kids put up.

Stephanie Barksdale was the No. 1 pitcher and the closer.

“When you got to Stephanie, you were lights out. She only gave up two runs the whole year,” said Hall.

Pitchers Jill Haines and Zoey Denicker made most of the starts.

Hall had a nice problem at catcher — rather, two nice problems. They were Ansley Annable and Emily Issing.

“Both were great catchers. I can’t decide which was better,” Hall said.

Team captain Bailey Whalen, who played shortstop and third base, paced the squad in batting with an.829 average. She will attend Loyola University Maryland this fall.

Also playing third and short was Kassidy Johnson, who batted .666 and was the Hot Shots’ top home run hitter this year.

Briana Lankford at second base had steady hands and was a top glove.

Teresa Bussard could play anywhere, but Hall played her at first most of the time.

Left fielder Maddie Fawley graduated from Winters Mill in June and will soon join the Air Force. She batted .544 this season.

Lauren Wiley played center field and hit .429.

Right fielder Taylor Knatz was the team’s youngest player and the smallest. But she batted .543.

Allyson Koelher was another girl who could play wherever she was needed. Injured early in the year, she returned to the outfield later on and hit .545.

The Hot Shots got off to a fast start last fall when the current USSSA softball season began. In their first competition together, they won October’s Hot Shots Fall Classic at Hampstead Elementary School. In November, they took the Central Maryland Softball League’s 18-under postseason championship tournament.

They later finished third in the USSSA Stars and Stripes tournament.

This spring and summer yielded some good finishes but none at the top.

In July, the Hot Shots were fifth in USSSA’s 18-under Open Tournament. While they were an 18-under B team, the tournament was open to all, and they faced some of the best 18-under A teams in the area.

The biggest tournament, and most frustrating, was the Maryland-Delaware 18-under B championships June 30-July 1.

The core of the team had a history with the Maryland-Delaware tournament dating back six years or more. In 2014, it was second as a 12-under team. That was a good year overall for the team as it won four USSSA tournaments.

Two years ago the Hot Shots won in the Maryland-Delaware 14-under championship.

Hall and the girls felt good about this one too.

“We thought we’d do well as long as our bats didn’t go cold,” he said. “We had good vibes going into this tournament. If we could put a few good games back-to-back, we could win.”

At first, they did.

Barksdale pitched the three-inning opener that saw her Hot Shots blank the Bayside Breeze 14-0. She had a family scheduling conflict, however, and left the team after that game.

Haines blanked the Cumberland Heat 7-0 in Game 2. The defense sparkled in this one.

Game 3 was against a different Bayside Breeze team that had hammered the Hot Shots badly in an earlier tournament. This time, though, North Carroll got revenge and beat Bayside 7-2.

Denicker and Haines combined for the victory. The pair also pitched the next game, also won by the Hotshots 8-3.

However, that was the team’s fourth game on a day in which the temperature averaged in the high 90s, and Hall was getting concerned.

The championship game was against Bowie Blue, a team that his team had beaten 14-0 earlier in the year.

North Carroll led 2-1 in the fourth, But an error led to a pair of runs for Bowie, and the Prince George’s County team held on to win 3-2.

“I really wanted this for the girls, but I think they just ran out of gas,” Hall said.

However, a new season is coming, and the Hot Shots coach looks forward to it.

“We’ll come back as an 18-under team, and we’ll have a young team. We should have six girls back, and I think we’ll be competitive,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of winning. Maybe next year we’ll continue the magic we had this year.” or through our online submission tool. Photos appear in Sunday’s edition of the Times.

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