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Strout, Harris keeping busy

Gilford’s Sydney Strout tosses a pitch during Saturday action in the Nor’Easter Tournament at Opechee Park in Laconia. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
August 08, 2011
LACONIA – Sydney Strout was setting down batters from her comfortable spot in the circle and reaching base from the leadoff spot in the batting order. Abby Harris was flashing leather at first base, including a sprawling catch in foul territory to end the second inning. While it may sound like spring all over again, the two Gilford High School softball players were contributing to their summer team, the Strike Zone Shock of Massachusetts last weekend, as the duo competed in the 16U division of the 2011 Nor'Easter Classic at Opechee Park.

The Plainville, Mass. based team features players from Mass. and Rhode Island, with the two Golden Eagles comprising the only Granite Staters on the roster.

"We would go down to practice pretty much twice a week all summer so there was a lot of travel involved," said Strout, who pitched two of the team's three games in pool play. "I didn't know any of the girls until I started playing but once you start traveling together and staying overnight at tournaments, you start to become pretty close."

It also helped having each other on the roster this summer, as carpools were a common sight from Gilford to Plainville.

"It was definitely good to get to play with Sydney again," said Harris. "We've played a lot of softball since the beginning of the spring season, that's for sure."

After opening the first day of action on Saturday with wins over the Frozen Ropes Thunder (Maine) and Dover Xtreme , Strout took the circle in game three against the Boston Bat Busters (Mass.), hoping to close out a perfect day of pool play action.

"I've been kind of injured so I wasn't even sure I was going to pitch here," said Strout, who picked up the win in game one before playing center field in the second tilt.

Strout helped herself at the plate before she even threw a pitch in the top of the first, as the lefty led off with a slap single over the drawn in shortstop. The soon-to-be junior at GHS would come around to score the game's first run, scoring on an RBI groundout for the early 1-0 Shock lead.

With her changeup proving effective, Strout kept the Bat Busters off the scoreboard through the first three innings before the team from Boston scored a pair of runs in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead.

But her team came through at the plate in the following two innings, as the Shock got a three-run home run from Kendra Plant to regain the lead and tacked on four more in the sixth to pull away for the 8-2 win.

At the plate, Strout finished the day 2-for-5 while allowing six hits and just the two earned runs from the fourth inning. Harris, playing first base, recorded a successful sacrifice bunt in the second inning and finished the afternoon 0-for-3. She did make a pair of nice plays defensively, as she continues to gain confidence playing on a travel team.

"It's a little nerve-wracking playing on a team like this," Harris admitted. "I haven't really been hitting as well as I would like to be this summer but it's definitely been a positive experience playing with these girls."

The Shock are coached by Babson College assistant/pitching coach Paul Elliott, who has served as Strout's pitching coach for the past three years. Strout came on board in October when the team was formed, with Harris joining at the beginning of the summer.

"Sydney's been a pitching student for three years and she's just an outstanding ball player," said Elliott. "She's the whole package and she keeps getting better and better every day. And Abby has helped us defensively and she's a good kid who has been positive all summer for us."

The Shock will now shut down for about four weeks before regrouping and competing in a couple of fall tournaments. Next summer will see the squad as a college showcase team, with tournaments in places like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut likely on tap.

"It'll be a big year for this team with colleges looking at them," explained Elliott of the upcoming stretch.

Strout and Harris are looking forward to the downtime, as the long season has taken its toll on the two incoming juniors. Both say they're looking forward to the change of sports with soccer season slated to start on Monday.

"Yeah, I'm ready for a little break I think," admitted Strout. "It'll be nice to switch sports for a bit and be able to play something different but this summer has been nice and it's obviously a good experience to get some college coaching."

The Shock won their quarterfinal game on Sunday before falling to eventual runner-up Northeast Hurricanes, 6-1, in the semifinals. The Boston Bat Busters would go on to claim the 16U title.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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