The lineup is stronger, and the pitching can be downright nasty. But the most important factor for the Maryland District 7 team as it makes another run at the Big League Softball World Series could be experience.

Seven of the 15 players on the roster were on last year's team, which placed third in the World Series. Coach Tom Morrison, who headed first-place Waldorf American during the regular season, has coached 13 of the players over the past three summers.

"[Previous experience with the players] helps considerably because we have a number of girls who are away at season-ending tournaments that won't be able to practice until the end of the week," Morrison said. "And having been through the process, we'll be able to approach things the way we have in the past."

Top starter Carrie Higdon was dominant in leading Waldorf American to a district title this season, and the middle-of-the-order trio of Higdon, Megan Alford and Christine Shipyan is expected to provide considerable run production.

The state tournament final is scheduled for Monday, followed by the regional tournament and then the Big League World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich., Aug. 15-20. The Maryland District 7 team has won five of the past seven Big League World Series, a fact that isn't lost on its players.

"Seeing that District 7 has done so well in the past years in Michigan by winning it, you have a lot [of pressure] on you," said second baseman Maggie Donaldson, a recent Thomas Stone graduate. "Everyone expects a lot out of you."

Higdon Ready to Throw

An injury to starter Carrie Reeves presents the Maryland District 7 team with some rotational question marks as the state and regional playoffs approach.

Reeves strained a tendon in her right arm and is unlikely to return until the World Series, Morrison said. Higdon will be limited by inning restrictions and mandatory off-days. St. Mary's Diamondback hurler Amanda Hanson will probably take Reeves's spot in the rotation.

In Higdon, Morrison is confident that he has the type of starter who could anchor the team deep into the playoffs. The Maryland-bound La Plata graduate allowed only four earned runs for Waldorf American this summer and only one during a 32-inning stretch.

With this being Higdon's third year on the all-star team, there's little doubt that she's game for the task ahead.

"She was outstanding, and as the season went on she threw much better," Morrison said. "I think she's pitching the ball much better than she even did during the high school season."

A Promising Future

The second-place regular season finish of Hughesville, a team made up primarily of 16-and-under players, bodes well for the success of District 7 in the coming years.

All but two players on the Senior League all-star team, which won the state title Monday, played for Hughesville this season. Hughesville Coach Joe Therres said it was important for his team to bypass the Senior League level during the regular season and play against a more experienced field.

"At some of the other levels you'll see 12-0 games. You don't see that at the Big League level," said Therres, who also coaches the all-stars. "I wanted to get them used to playing in 1-0 and 2-0 games . . . Southern Maryland has done so well [in the World Series], and it's hard to keep repeating. Hopefully these girls will be the future."

The Maryland District 7 team will be led by the pitching of La Plata graduate Carrie Higdon.