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Clarification: An earlier version of this story omitted junior Michaela Yealy as a returning starter.
Littlestown softball coach Ken Shafer wasn't sure what he had in Chelsey Walls, but the sophomore quickly showed Shafer that she was capable of anchoring the team's lineup.
"I knew from watching her hit in practice that she could hit the ball hard," Shafer said. "The question was whether or not she could hit live pitching in games. She quickly proved that she could."
That development caused Shafer to shift her to the cleanup spot almost immediately, and Walls hasn't disappointed.
Through Friday's loss to Delone Catholic, Walls is batting a lofty .545 with six doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs as she tries to fill the huge void in the order created by the graduation of four-year starter and clean up hitter Kaitlin Yealy, who is playing her freshman season at McDaniel College.
"Kaitlin was an amazing player here for a long time," said Walls, who missed her freshman season to knee surgery. "It's surprising to bat clean-up as a first-year player and I wasn't expecting to hit there right away."
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"My knee kept getting dislocated and I had to have a surgery to keep it in place," Walls said. "Unfortunately, it didn't heal in time for me to play last year."
The Thunderbolts are a much different team this season and not just because Shafer is in his first year as the head coach. He worked as an assistant at Littlestown last year after leading New Oxford for the previous 15 years.
They return just three starters from a year ago. Amanda Dyson has moved from catcher to right field, while Jill Gauthier is now the shortstop after playing right field a year ago. Junior Michaela Yealy starts at center field and bats leadoff for the Bolts.
Dyson, who homered in Friday's loss to Delone Catholic, is hitting .538 with eight RBIs.
"We're pretty much a new team this season," Walls said. "We graduated so many players, so there are a lot of new starters and we have a new coach. We've had some ups and downs, but we're coming together well as a team."