The Cockeysville-based Black Ice Softball Club proudly displays college commitments from its 18-and-under players on its website.
With two recent high school graduates, St. Paul's School for Girls' Sarah Calta (University of Maryland) and Dulaney's Anna Jensen (Swarthmore College), already on their way, four Hereford High rising juniors — infielder/outfielders Courtney Fuller, Vanessa Hogan, Lauren Duquette and second baseman Caprice Roche — hope to follow in their footsteps.
Roche plays for the 18U team and the three others, who are products of the Hereford rec travel softball program, suit up for the 16U squad.
"The goal of the girls is play college softball," Black Ice 16U coach Tony Canami said. "That's why they come to us. We propel them to go on to the next level."
The approach is working.
Hogan, a two-year starter at Hereford at second base, said the progress she has made has been significant, especially on defense.
"I have made dramatic improvement with my fielding," said Hogan, who also plays left field. "I used to be clumsy with my feet and I would make bad throws. I am really good with my fielding mechanics now.
"I want to play Division I and I am looking at a lot of colleges that are Division I," she said. "This level of play really shows you what it would be like. I go to a lot of college camps and the stuff they teach you are what we are learning with the Black Ice."
Hogan has had the biggest impact in her second season with the Black Ice, which competes in tournaments in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. They cap the season with a trip to Salisbury for the Amateur Softball Association Nationals in early August in LaPlata.
Hogan leads the team in triples (3) and RBIs (15) and ranks third in slugging percentage (.549) from the fifth spot in the lineup.
She displayed her power in the 2013 Firecracker College Showcase in Hagerstown in late June, hitting a grand slam in an 8-7 loss to the West End Wave, of Virginia, and clubbing a triple in a 7-3 loss to the Pennsylvania Alleycats.
"She is my power hitter and she really has come up with some timely hits," Canami said. Canami loves Hogan's glove, too, especially in the outfield.
"I moved her out of necessity because she is one of my better athletes," Canami said. "It was an easy transition. She has the strongest arm of any of my outfielders."
Both Fuller and Duquette, who is the niece of former Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley and daughter of former Baltimore Orioles vice president Jim Duquette, are first-year Black Ice Players
Fuller is batting .314 while playing mostly in right field.
"If I am starting a brand new team, they are the kind of girls I want," Canami said. "Both of them were looking for the opportunity to expand their softball. They knew they had to come to the club level to do that and both of them have adjusted well."
Roche is eligible to play at the U16 level, but for the second straight year she's playing with an older age group.
She and Jensen are batting over .300 for a team that ended its regular season July 14 with the Delaware Invitational.
Like her Hereford teammates, Roche wants to play the sport in college.
"When I first got to this team the other girls were looking at colleges and emailing coaches," she said. "Now I have done that, too."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun