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Westfield Softball: Quality Pitching and Leadership

Bulldogs set to take on home team Centreville on Friday.

Generally speaking, high school teams must receive quality production and good leadership from their seniors to have banner seasons.

At Westfield High, the girls' softball team has gotten just that kind of production and influence from three of its best players — 12th graders Jessie McNamara, Frankie Martinez, and Jackie Martinez.

The trio has helped Westfield, annually one of the top softball programs in the Northern Region, put together another solid season thus far. The Bulldogs, following a 7-3 Concorde District home win over Oakton this past Tuesday evening, April 26, were 6-2 on the season and carried a 2-1 district mark.

McNamara, the team's shortstop and a fourth year starter, leads the team in home runs and base hits from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. In the field, she is outstanding with the leather.

"She plays an incredible shortstop," said Westfield head coach Dean Ferington, whose Bulldogs captured the district tournament title last year and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Northern Region tournament where they lost to eventual state champion McLean, 5-4. "She gets a great first step on the ball."

Ferington recalled a play by McNamara, in his team's 3-1 loss at Robinson on April 11, in which the shortstop backhanded a groundball deep in the hole before, from her knees, throwing out the runner at first.

"I hadn't seen anything like that in 22 years [of coaching]," he said.

McNamara will be a preferred walk-on player at Virginia Tech next school year.

Another four-year starter, Jackie Martinez, has played an outstanding centerfield for the Bulldogs. Throughout her high school career, Martinez has proven to be one of the most versatile players in the district. At different times as a Westfield ball player she has played at first, second, or third base, as well as outfield. She has even pitched. Last year, Martinez was an All-Concorde District Third baseman. This season, for the better of the team, Ferington elected to move her to center field.

Martinez, two years ago as a sophomore, was set to play in the outfield. But an early season finger injury that spring, in a practice game versus Madison, ended her season prematurely.

She did a wonderful job in her return year in 2010 at the hot corner infield position. But now Martinez is in center field, a position Ferington said is natural for her.

"I always thought she'd be a great outfielder and she has more than lived up to my expectations," said the coach. "She reads the ball well off the bat, runs like the wind, and has a hose for an arm."

At the plate, Martinez hits leadoff for Westfield and often sparks the team with her solid hitting and good on-base average.

"She does a very good job for us up there," said Ferington. "She knows the strike zone."

Martinez will continue her softball career next year at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

The third Westfield third year varsity starter is Frankie Martinez, who caught full time last year but is seeing time this season at both the backstop position as well as third base.

"I can put her anywhere," said Ferington, of Frankie. "She loves catching but understands that sometimes we need her at third base to make us better."

Frankie Martinez, the Bulldogs' clean-up batter who has two home runs this season, hits the ball effectively either pulling the ball or going the opposite way. Also, she is a terror on the base paths.

"She can hit for power and is probably one of the most instinctive base runners I've had — she's lightning fast," said Ferington. "She can do what she wants at the plate. She understands hitting. If you say to her, `You need to make that adjustment,' she understands and will do it."

Frankie is set to play collegiate ball at Radford in 2012.

<b>ON THE MOUND</b> this season Westfield has, once again, received steady outings from its pitching duo of seniors Jen Goodman and Alex Tenney. Both players shared Westfield's pitching duties last year and were instrumental in the team going 16-8. The two have gotten most of the mound work again this season, with Tenney generally starting before giving way to Goodman later in the game.

"Both are four-year pitchers and have been very solid for us," said Ferington. "Jen started a lot her sophomore and junior years but doesn't care [whether she starts or relieves]. Alex is more comfortable as a starter."

Ferington had in mind to work sophomore Keona Gaines into the rotation this season but shoulder problems early on this spring prevented that.

Another sophomore, Meaghan Heineicke, has gotten a chance to pitch and done well. She started in Westfield's 3-2 win over McLean in a game at the Madison High Spring Break Tournament on April 18. Goodman closed out that game on the hill. And Heineicke also had a good starting showing in Westfield's 5-1 district home win over Chantilly on April 14. Most recently, she was the winning pitcher in the Bulldogs' win over Oakton on Tuesday.

Ferington, who said Heineicke could get a few more starts over the remainder of the season, said he generally will use his pitchers depending on whom he believes will do the best job and who has been practicing particularly well.

"Whoever is showing me the most in practice," he said. "It's pretty much a gut feeling too."

The bottom line is that Westfield has a strong core of pitchers and good fielding position players behind them who can also hit the ball. That could spell trouble for future opponents of a Westfield team hungry to go further at this year's region playoffs than last year's team went.

Westfield was scheduled to play district road games this week at Herndon on Wednesday, April 27, and at Centreville on Friday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m. And on Saturday, the Bulldogs will play a pair of makeup games at the Madison Spring Break Tournament, taking on West Potomac at 10 a.m. and the host Warhawks at noon.