Player of the Year: Rachel Herrick, Northeast
The fact that Herrick entered the 2001 season as ace for the third-ranked Eagles wasn't a shocker. After all, she had assumed that role last season, when she compiled an 11-5 record with a 0.89 ERA. But the senior right-hander fortified her role as the team's best pitcher by finishing this season with a 9-1 mark and a 0.41 ERA.
Herrick, who developed a deceiving screwball to accompany her riser and fastball, faced 255 batters and gave up just 33 hits. Opponents tagged her for just four earned runs, and she struck out 60 in 68 innings of work.
Herrick guided Northeast to the Class 3A state championship game, where the Eagles (22-4) fell to Northern of Calvert County. Only after that game did Herrick, who earned Anne Arundel County Player of the Year honors, reveal her emotions. "Rachel has such composure when she is on the mound," said Northeast coach Marianne Shultz. "She doesn't get flustered. She's very focused, very comfortable up there."
Herrick, who played first base when she wasn't pitching, excelled at the plate, batting .469, scoring 22 runs and driving in 18. She could also play second base and shortstop - credits that inspired Shultz to play her every day rather than limit her to a designated-hitter role. Herrick, a two-time All-Metro selection and four-year varsity player, has signed to play softball at Salisbury State next spring.
Coach of the Year: Mickey Deegan, McDonogh
Talk about saving the best forlast. For the past13 years, Deeganlabored to build asoftball programat the OwingsMills privateschool that couldcompete with theArchbishop Spalding and Mount de Sales teams ofthe Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.
Known for fielding competitivesquads that could challenge theupper-echelon teams, Deegan andthe No. 2 Eagles shattered the ceiling this season by registering a16-6 season and defeating powerhouse Archbishop Spalding in theIAAM championship final at Towson University on May 12.
Blessed with a rising star inpitcher Mia Zappacosta and a cohesive unit behind her, McDonoghimproved its .220 batting averagefrom last season by 70 points thisspring and became one of only twoteams this year to shut out theCavaliers.
Deegan, who knew in April thatshe would retire after the May 12game to concentrate on her dutiesas the school's athletic director,decided not to tell her team untilafter the championship.
"If I had told them, it mighthave been one of those win-one-for-the-Gipper deals, and thatmight have backfired," saidDeegan, who retired with a 131-119mark. "They won that for themselves, and I couldn't have scriptedit any better."
Deegan leaves an experiencedsquad to 1990 graduate BridgetCollins. The Eagles lose just onestarter to graduation.
Cynthia Clark, Mount de Sales
If the No. 10 Sailors needed aspark, Clark wasthe match. As theteam's left-handed leadoffbatter, the juniorposted a .355 batting average andcrossed the plate19 times. In fact,she scored the decisive run in a 1-0victory that helped Mount de Sales(12-9) snap Archbishop Spalding's36-game winning streak on March27.
A versatile hitter who coulddrag-bunt, slap or hit for power,Clark also drove in 11 runs andrapped five doubles. She also couldplay outfield, but was a solid firstbaseman who earned a .993 fielding percentage.
A three-year varsity starter andtwo-year team captain, Clark wasvoted to the IAAM A ConferenceAll-Star squad for the second season in a row.
Sarah Costa, Atholton
A three-timeHoward Countyfirst-team pick,Costa put together a seasonto remember.The only seniorfor the No. 6Raiders (22-3),she batted .347,drove in 29 runsand scored 23 times. Her on-basepercentage was a healthy .440 andher slugging percentage was a robust .625.
Of the 25 hits she collected,three were home runs, four weretriples, and three were doubles.
Costa, who rarely threw outbase runners because few tried totest her right arm, played an integral role in Atholton's claim tothree straight county titles andtwo consecutive appearances inthe Class 2A state finals.
A three-sport athlete and second-team All-Metro choice as asophomore, Costa has committedto playing softball at Shippensburg next spring.,
Meg Cowen, Archbishop Spalding
Cowen's emergence as one ofthe dominantplayers in theIAAM shouldn'thave been a surprise, considering she wasnamed to the All-Metro secondteam last season.
This year, the junior pushedthe envelope even further, batting.494 as the squad's leadoff hitter. Aheady base runner who registeredseven doubles, Cowen also rang up26 runs and 17 RBIs for the top-ranked Cavaliers (24-3).
Her fielding skills helpedCowen assume the starting third-base position, but she also blossomed as the No. 2 pitcher forArchbishop Spalding.
Racking an 8-3 mark with a 0.44ERA, Cowen posted 114 strikeoutsin 78 innings. Cowen was chosen asGatorade's Circle of ChampionsMaryland Softball Player of theYear last week.
Terra Goswick, South River
The Seahawksenjoyed theirbest season todate, and Goswick stood at thecenter of a win-loss improvement that liftedthem to a 12-9record and aberth in the Class3A East region championshipgame against Northeast.
The senior shortstop committed just one error and did most ofher damage at the plate. Goswickbatted .468, drove in 31 runs andstole 15 bases. She broke theschool record for RBIs in a career(131) with 132 and rewrote therecord for hits in a career (113)with 118. Eighteen of her 28 hitsthis season went for extra bases.
A four-year varsity player, Goswick is undecided about where shewill play next spring, but canchoose from among the seven Division I scholarships offered to her.
Erin Gray, Northeast
Batters who canproduce generally aren't located near thebottom of the order, but Graywas the exception. A solid contact hitter, Grayaccepted a movefrom the No.[TH]3spot to the No.[TH]8 position and powered a good portion of the Eagles'offense from there.
The senior hit .300, drove in 20runs and scored 16 times. A patient batter who had a knack forworking the count, Gray led Northeast in walks with 15 and also recorded three home runs, three triples and three doubles. She playedcenter field and was credited withthree assists at home.
Gray played all four years onthe varsity squad, but might concentrate on soccer at Anne Arundel Community College this fall.
Erin Hart, Northeast
Hart representedone-half of theEagles' one-twopunch in the outfield. The seniorpatrolled leftfield and committed just one errorin four years as avarsity player.
At the plate,where she enjoyed a daily role asthe team's leadoff hitter, Hart wasjust as proficient, batting a strong.506, scoring 27 runs and driving in16 RBIs. The left-handed batter hittwo home runs, four triples andtwo doubles and was a consistentthreat on the base paths. In fact,Hart led Northeast -- whichboasted a 17-game winning streak-- in steals with nine.
A team captain, Hart was honored by the coaching staff as thesquad's Most Valuable Player thisseason. Hart plans to continue hersoftball career at Salisbury Statewith her teammate, Rachel Herrick.
Keri Lounge, Archbishop Spalding
Few players havebeen as prolificas Lounge hasbeen in just twoseasons of varsityplay. A sophomore who hasbeen selected tothe All-Metroteam for the second consecutiveyear, Lounge bettered last season's batting-average mark of .372by hitting .417 this spring.
As the team's cleanup batter,Lounge also drove in 33 runs andblasted five home runs, two triplesand three doubles. Coach LindaTaylor credits a renewed sense ofpatience and a resurgence ofpower at the plate as the source forLounge's statistics. Her range andfearless attitude about diving forgrounders and line drivesstrengthened the Cavaliers' infield-- a hallmark of the program's 51-3record over the past two years.
Nichol Moeller, Westminster
The Owls' meteoric rise to aClass 4A statecrown wasmatched byMoeller's improvement as acommandingpitcher. The junior right-handerpaced No. 4Westminster (16-7) by compiling a17-5 record with a 0.65 ERA.
She struck out 99 opponents,while issuing just 10 walks in 151innings. A workhorse who offers atrademark grunt with every pitch,Moeller threw 19 complete gamesand pitched the Owls through fiveone-run victories over traditionalpowers such as Chesapeake-AAand Glen Burnie en route to theschool's first state softball title.
She also helped herself by batting nearly .300, driving in 11 runsand hitting five doubles. For her efforts, Moeller was selected as theCarroll County Player of the Year.
Lauren Pollock, Severna Park
Pollock continued to demonstrate why she isa model for consistency. The senior earned herthird consecutiveAll-Metro first-team selectioncourtesy of herperformance atthe plate and in the outfield.
As a center fielder for the11th-ranked Falcons (15-6), Pollock didn't commit an error. But itwas her bat that powered SevernaPark to a spot in the Anne ArundelCounty championship game. Pollock finished the season with a .561batting average, knocked in herteammates 20 times and scored 18runs. She hit two home runs, threetriples and seven doubles.
A patient batter, Pollock alsodrew 11 walks and was roundly recognized as the most feared bat inthe Severna Park lineup. Pollockwill take her talent to Marylandthis fall.
Jessica Saunders, Archbishop Spalding
The numbersweren't as gaudy,but there's nodoubting the impact that Saunders can have onthe mound. Lastyear's All-MetroPlayer of theYear batted only.194, but did register 14 runs and 12 RBIs.
Saunders, however, did most of,her damage on the mound -- posting a 14-0 record, compiling a 0.32ERA and striking out 131 battersin 87 innings. Blessed with a fastball that simply overpowers opponents, the junior right-handerstruck out 10 to lead the Cavaliersto their fourth straight Marylandprivate schools championship lastweek.
In the past two seasons, Saunders has gone 31-0 and hasn't lostsince dropping a game in a Pennsylvania tournament during herfreshman year.
Laura Siler, C. Milton Wright
Selected to theAll-Metro secondteam last year,Siler steppedinto the spotlightand proved herworth thisspring. The senior went 13-5with a 1.04 ERAfor the No. 12Mustangs (15-6) and paced themto a share of their fifth consecutiveHarford County championship.
Siler dominated nearly everypitching category [em dash] striking out115 in 107 1/3 innings, limiting opposing batters to a .170 battingaverage and allowing just seven extra-base hits (none was a homerun). Among the seven shutoutsshe recorded, Siler turned in twono-hitters. She rewrote the schoolrecord in career ERA with a 0.63ERA.
A team captain, Siler also batted.371, slugged .400 and drew 16walks. She finished with sevenruns, four RBIs, four stolen basesand struck out just six times.
Kelley Tiesi, Catholic
If not for Saunders, Tiesi wouldreign as theIAAM's mostoverpoweringpitcher. Sidelined by a musclestrain in her rightforearm that cutshort a promising sophomorecampaign, Tiesi returned with aflourish this spring.
Armed with a vicious fastballand riser, the junior right-handerstruck out an overwhelming 209opponents in 136 innings of work.Tiesi registered a 12-8 record witha 0.56 ERA for the No. 15 Cubs(12-8-1), who advanced to theIAAM Tournament semifinals.
Among her seven shutouts, Tiesiposted a no-hitter and three one-hitters. At the plate, she batted.407, scored 10 times and drove innine runs. Tiesi, a second-team All-Metro pick last year, also producedseven doubles and two triples.
Mia Zappacosta, McDonogh
Perhaps no onemade a biggersplash during thesoftball seasonthan Zappacosta. The sophomore batted.328 with 12 RBIsand eight doubles.
On the mound,the right-hander compiled a 14-5record with a 1.01 ERA. In 172 innings of work, she struck out 176opposing batters, threw just twowild pitches and committed a solitary error in the field.
But the Baltimore City/CountyPlayer of the Year made her presence known in the IAAM Tournament. Blessed with a changeupthat seemed to change directionon a whim, Zappacosta, who wasselected to the IAAM All-Starteam this year, struck out sevenbatters and kept the mighty Archbishop Spalding lineup off thescoreboard to win the IAAMcrown. The Eagles became the firstteam other than the Cavaliers tocapture the title since Mount deSales did it in 1998.
Katie Zitnay, Atholton
It's hard to believe that a simple act of idiocydisruptedZitnay's season.The HowardCounty Player ofthe Year wouldhave pitched inthe Raiders' finalgame againstNorth Caroline in the Class 2Astate championship final if shehadn't been hit in the eye by a water bottle tossed at a rock concertin Washington, D.C.
But even that blemish could nothide the year that Zitnay had. Shewas 22-2 with an ERA of 0.34 and 12shutouts and threw four one-hitters. Zitnay struck out 117 batters,allowed seven earned runs andwalked 15 batters in 146 innings.
With the bat, she led the Raidersin at least five categories [em dash] battingaverage (.494), hits (42), RBIs (43),home runs (five) and doubles (13).Zitnay, a repeat first-team All-Metro choice, also recorded a .533on-base percentage and an .847slugging percentage.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun