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Railroaders coming into their own with softball winning streak

BRUNSWICK — Despite being a junior, Emy Minnick is one of the Brunswick softball team’s elder statesmen.

The Railroaders have no seniors, plus they start a slew of freshmen, including several who were practically unknown entities to veterans like Minnick heading into the season.

“I played Little League with some of them,” she said. “But other than that, they’re coming in strangers. So we’ve got to get to know them in school and out of school as well as on the field to see what they’re good at.”

With each passing game, the Railroaders have been gaining more familiarity with the newcomers. And these days, they’re also familiar with what it feels like to string some wins together.

Getting an abbreviated five-hitter from freshman lefty Juliette Bel and production from throughout a lineup that included six ninth-graders, Brunswick rolled to a 15-1 win over visiting Smithsburg on Monday for its third straight victory.

Before this streak, which includes an eye-catching 6-5, extra-inning victory over Middletown sandwiched between convincing victories over the Leopards, Brunswick (6-8) had yet to get back-to-back wins. Nothing surprising there, though, given all the young players who populate the field for the Railroaders.

Aside from freshmen, Brunswick’s starting lineup on Monday included three juniors — one of them, first baseman Andie Welsh, was the flex player — and a sophomore.

“They’re just now starting to come together,” Brunswick coach Tony Russo said. “We’ve won three in a row. We beat Middletown last week, so this team is starting to come into their own, starting to figure out things they need to do as a team to win these games.”

Granted, Smithsburg was far from a veteran-laden team itself, starting a pair of freshmen and several sophomores.

“Going against the older girls, we’re still learning that,” Russo said. “But when we’re in the same general mix of players, we’re pretty tough.”

Minnick also offered perspective. With plenty of games left to play this season, Brunswick already has three times as many wins as it managed her freshman year, when the Railroaders went 2-18. She credits the influx of newcomers along with a noticeably different outlook from all players.

“I think the positivity is so much better this year,” she said. “And being able to just focus on the team and actual game at hand is so important, and all these freshmen came in ... and now, they’re achieving everything that we wanted them to.”

One of those freshmen is Bel. On Monday, she shut down the Leopards after freshman Rileigh Romberger led off the game with a double and scored.

“She threw a great game,” Russo said. “Most of the pitches we called, she hit that.”

Bel, whose battery mate Aeriana Carter is also a ninth-grader, struck out six, including one for the game-ending out in the fifth. But the left-hander was quick to share credit, and not just for the eight-run rally her offense provided in the bottom of the first.

“My teammates really helped a lot in the field,” said Bel, who is one of five pitchers on Brunswick’s roster. “It’s really nice knowing they can make the plays behind me. It really helps when I’m pitching.”

While Brunswick’s defense wasn’t flawless, it cut down on errors that proved costly in losses earlier this season. Minnick caught all three flies hit her way and gunned down a runner at home in the fourth inning.

Freshman shortstop Sienna Russo made some nice plays, and freshman right fielder Ava Higgins nearly robbed Adianna Dudley of a double on a ball that glanced off the running outfielder’s outstretched glove in right-center.

Offensively, the Railroaders took advantage of walks and usually found a way to plate runners.

Minnick and leadoff hitter Brooke Munday each had two hits with a double. Carter had two hits, including a two-run single in the first. Bel had two hits. Higgins had a two-run single in the second.

Asked about going up against vastly more seasoned teams like Walkersville, Bel said, “They’re more experienced. So next year we grow, and even this year as we grew throughout the season, it’s just so much better than the beginning, with the positivity and everything else.”