The Washington Post

Softball: O’Connell ace Tori Finucane is feeling it early; Sherwood reloads with youth

If O’Connell senior pitcher Tori Finucane’s statistics look impressive now, imagine what the two-time All-Met might do this season when her pitching hand isn’t numb.

On mostly freezing afternoons so far against biting wind, the all-American Missouri recruit has compiled almost-comically dominant numbers. In six starts, she’s allowed one run on seven hits in 35 innings pitched for a 0.20 ERA, striking out 79 and walking only nine.

“Everything’s been working pretty well,” Finucane said. “Sometimes [a pitch] goes off course because I start to lose feeling in my fingers, but so far everything has been pretty reliable.”

The No. 2 Knights are 6-0, and led by Finucane and three-time All-Met and 2012 all-American catcher Jillian Ferraro, feature a roster that could rival any in the team’s storied history.

O’Connell has won nine straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament championships, including 16 in the last 19 years, and 17 of the past 19 Virginia Independent Schools state titles.

This year, they have No. 1 Northern and No. 3 Stone Bridge on their non-conference schedule, and are out to prove they have the best team in the area.

“I think I have the best [pitcher and catcher duo] in the country,” O’Connell Coach Tommy Orndorff said. “We have to feel pretty good about where we are at and where we can go because of that.”

Ferraro, hitting third, and Finucane, hitting fourth, anchor a batting order that has produced more than 11 runs per game so far, offering plenty of support for Finucane in the circle — in case she ever needs it.

Ferraro, a North Carolina recruit, is hitting .450 with three home runs and 16 RBI, and junior second baseman Amanda Ehlers is hitting .579 out of the No. 5 spot. But Finucane has been the offensive star so far as well, hitting .684 with three home runs and 16 RBI.

“I’ve been working in practice and also doing a lot of extra hitting on weekends, but it’s also a confidence thing,” Finucane said. “I was never a big hitter before but I’m getting more comfortable in the box and approaching it mentally like I do when I’m pitching.”

As the weather starts getting warmer, the rest of the area has been put on notice.

“We have a fear of failure and complacency that motivates us to work harder. There’s always something we can do to improve,” Finucane said. “We went 27-1 last season. Our goal this year is to go undefeated.”

Youth is served at Sherwood

Coach Pat Flanagan purposely penciled unknowns into No. 4 Sherwood’s opening day lineup.

Sending a message to her team that an issue from last season would not carry over to this year, Flanagan opted to start ninth graders at second base, third base, pitcher and catcher. The defending Maryland 4A champions still beat Quince Orchard, 13-2.

“There was just a bit of a carryover from something that happened last year that’s over and done with,” Flanagan said. “We just wanted to make sure that everybody was on the same page for this season, and we’re moving forward.”

The move could not have worked better for the 2012 All-Met coach of the year.

Flanagan humbled her successful returners while setting up a talented ninth grade class to add depth to a squad that lost seniors at third base, shortstop, second base and right field.

The coach said her team “didn’t skip a beat” when the veterans returned the following day against Good Counsel, whom the Warriors shut out, 10-0.

While the Warriors (2-0) are loaded at some positions, Flanagan is still working out the kinks to establish continuity.

A potent duo of starting pitchers helps the developing defense. Last year, second-team All-Met Meggie Dejter went 12-0 with 88 strikeouts and a 0.09 ERA, while Kailyn Cohen was 9-0 with 47 strikeouts and a 0.77 ERA.

As a freshman in 2012, centerfielder Nicole Stockinger tied for the team lead with 28 RBI . Flanagan moved the sophomore to shortstop, and senior leftfielder Amelia Naik has switched to center.

“Nicole is just a very gifted athlete,” Flanagan said. “Technically, there isn’t anything that you can criticize about her. She’s probably the best outfielder in Montgomery County.”

In right, freshman Kelly Bouma forms a platoon with Rachel Ames, who got called up from junior varsity. Bouma is a pitcher and infielder transitioning to the outfield instead of sitting behind senior first baseman Megan McDonough.

Junior Addie Armbruster completes the outfield as a utility asset Flanagan said she’s “lucky to have.”

At third base, Mckenzie Bina is another freshman expected to contribute. Flanagan said Bina would start on any other team in the county, but she will sit behind senior Kelsey Lineberger.

The lineup is not yet as solidified as Flanagan would like, but so far she is happy with a roster ready to make another run at a state championship.

“You wonder a little bit, but we had a fabulous turnout this year and we have some very talented kids,” Flanagan said.

The Post Top 10

Through its first five games, top-ranked Northern beat its opponents by a combined score of 40-0....O’Connell won its first six games by a combined score of 69-1. The Knights will face Stone Bridge, which beat then-No. 10 Madison on Tuesday, next Wednesday....South County was scheduled to play Lake Braddock in a Virginia AAA Patriot District game on Wednesday.

1. Northern (5-0) LW: 1

2. O’Connell (6-0) LW: 2

3. Stone Bridge (6-0) LW: 3

4. Sherwood (2-0) LW: 4

5. South County (5-0) LW:5

6. Glenelg (7-0) LW: 9

7. Loudoun County (5-0) LW: 8

8. Woodgrove (3-1) LW: NR

9. Lake Braddock (4-0) LW: NR

10. Mount Hebron (3-0) LW: NR

Dropped out: No. 6 Chesapeake, No. 7 Huntingtown, No. 10 Madison

Bubble: Madison (5-1) , Chesapeake (2-2), McLean (7-1)

Records through Tuesday



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