Hereford and Black Ice standout

Hereford High's Erin Collins has been strong offensively and defensively for the 18-under Maryland Black Ice Softball Club this spring. She leads the team in batting with a .500 average. (Scott Serio / Patuxent Homestead / May 6, 2014)

When Maryland Black Ice Softball Club coaches Bob Stephenson and Tony Canami recruit players for their Cockeysville-based 18-under team, they say they're looking for “young stars.”

Stephenson and Canami appear to have found two in shortstop Erin Collins, a Hereford High freshman, and second baseman Sydney Stephenson, an eighth-grader at Bryn Mawr School.

They’re part of a team whose roster includes players from the Baltimore metro area and as far away as Pennsylvania.

The Black Ice plays in tournaments in the fall and summer throughout the Mid-Atlantic area and practices at Warren Place in Cockeysville.

Collins and Stephenson are making a team loaded with high school seniors and juniors go early in the summer season.

“We are looking for young players that can have an impact and they are doing that,” said Stephenson, who is Sydney’s father. “We are trying to build a program around these girls. They are the young nucleus of the program. We will have them for three more years. They are probably the best double-play combination around.”

Collins and Stephenson can hit, too.

Stephenson, in her fifth year with the Black Ice program, leads the team in doubles (6), and triples (2) and ranks second in batting average (.462).

Collins (.500) has the best batting average on the team and is coming off a strong season with Hereford. She hit six home runs and had 35 RBIs for the Bulls.

“We are batting them one, two in the lineup,” said Stephenson, whose team is 9-6. “They are our two best hitters. From a very young age, they have both played a high level of softball and have taken a lot of lessons from hitting coaches. They are both very athletic girls. They are not one-sport athletes.”    

Collins and Stephenson are the youngest players on a team that has five seniors committed to play college softball next season, including first baseman-pitcher Sammy Cadigan (Salisbury University), third baseman/pitcher Julia D’Arrigo, (Lancaster Bible College), catcher Sara Driggers (West Chester University), catcher Emily Lewis (Bowie State University) and pitcher Allison Short (Frostburg State University).

“They have really fit in well with the older girls,” Stephenson said. “The seniors treat them as teammates. Not young girls. That’s unique. You usually don’t see that.”

Stephenson’s sister, Auburn, a recent Bryn Mawr graduate who plays the infield and outfield, is also eager to contribute.

Auburn missed the team’s first two tournaments because of exams and graduation, but she’ll be in the lineup when the Black Ice travel to Fairland Regional Park for the ASA State championship tournament June 8-9.

“She is a great clutch hitter,” Collins said of a player who batted .534 for the Black Ice last year with 18 RBIs in 30 games and hit .657 in her Bryn Mawr career. “She will get a hit whenever you need it. And she can play pretty much anywhere.” 

The Black Ice lost in the championship game of the Memorial Day ROCK Festival Tournament in Newtown, Pa., and went 3-2 in the Inferno Kickoff tournament the following weekend in Bridgewater, N.J.

"We have been playing very well, but we are only going to get better," Canami said.