The Maryland Black Ice 18-U softball team travels to five different states, and as far away as Florida. All the better for getting the players noticed and landing them college scholarships, according to coach Keith Calta.
The Black Ice, which practices at Warren Fields in Cockeysville, features Calta's daughter Sarah (St. Paul's School for Girls), Anna Jensen (Dulaney High), Hannah Thomas (Hereford), Caprice Roche (Hereford) and Courtney McCoy (Loch Raven).
The Black Ice also boasts Auburn Stephenson (Bryn Mawr), a mid-season promotion from the U-16 team.
"It's a team that has gone more toward going to play in college showcase (tournaments) so the girls can be shown in front of college (coaches)," coach Calta said. "In past seasons, we would go to regional tournaments where you go to win a trophy. Now, we are in front of college coaches, and the girls are getting a whole lot of interest."
The Maryland Black Ice organization, which has three other younger teams, hosted a July 11 clinic run by University of Maryland players Nikki Maier, Kathy McLaughlin and Amanda McCann, to show off dozens of highly skilled players.
The Terrapins ran the clinic like a practice.
"We had four college coaches watching," Calta said. "That in itself is very unusual when you have college coaches coming to your practices."
Of the 14 players on Calta's roster, two have already committed to colleges, including his daughter, who verbally committed to the University of Maryland about a month ago.
As a dominating pitcher, the rising senior led St. Paul's to back-to-back Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference championships.
That said, Calta will play the outfield for the Terrapins.
She also received a scholarship offer from the University of Pittsburgh and George Washington University after batting .605 for St. Paul's last spring.
"This year, we made the decision that she wouldn't pitch and she would focus more on hitting leadoff and her outfield play," coach Calta said. "That's what she will do in college."
Thomas, a third baseman, will play next season at the Community College of Baltimore County-Dundalk.
Lynchburg and Randolph-Macon colleges also aggressively recruited her.
"She wants to play for a year or two, improve her skills and go to a higher-rated school," Calta said of a player who was a first-team All-County shortstop for Hereford this season.
Jensen, a three-year starter at Dulaney who batted .530 this season and plays first base for the Black Ice, has attracted interest from Swarthmore College and Marshall University, among others schools.
"Anna is a very reliable first baseman," Calta said. "The biggest thing for us is that her play on the field and work ethic has rubbed off on the other girls. She does a lot of things off the field. She has a conditioning coach, takes karate and swims."
Second baseman Roche, a rising sophomore, is the Black Ice's youngest player.
"Her main strength is her consistency at second," said Calta, noting Roche is drawing interest from Division I and Division III colleges. "She is really willing to learn and listen."
Like Roche, McCoy is getting looks from both divisions while impressing her coach with her fielding and hitting.
"She leads by example on the field," Calta said.
McCoy said experience of playing for the Black Ice has been, above all else, an enjoyable experience.
"We have gotten a lot more attention from colleges than previous years," she explained. "We have gone from playing to win to focusing on individual abilities, because we want to get seen by colleges."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun