If the Cockeysville Black Ice 16-and-under softball team's year could be summed up in a word, it would be steady.
The Black Ice — featuring pitcher Sarah Calta, St. Paul's School for Girls; second baseman Kerri Albert, Hereford High; first baseman Anna Jensen, Dulaney; and third baseman Hannah Thomas, Dulaney — won almost 50 games over four months thanks to clutch hitting, sure-handed defense and solid pitching.
The proof of their success came in three tournament championships: the Emily Burke Memorial Tournament, in Eldersburg; the Black Eyed Susan, in Emmitsburg; and the Winter Slide, in Wikes Barre, Pa.
"We were more consistent," said Black Ice coach Keith Calta, whose team went 48-18. "That's the biggest thing this year. This is the second year of the club, and we just took another step up."
coach Calta had the luxury of handing the ball to one of three standout pitchers without having to worry much: his daughter, Sarah; Allison Short, North Carroll High; and Alicia Cook, North County.
"We were suspect of our pitching coming into the year, but they performed very well and threw a lot of strikes," coach Calta said. "They didn't have a lot of walks. Other teams had to hit the ball, and it allowed our defense — which is our strength — to make plays."
Sarah Calta was able to build off the tremendous season she turned in in the spring for St. Paul's, when she went 15-1 and amassed 189 strikeouts in leading the Crusaders to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference championship.
Instead of starting every game as she did for the Gators, Calta often found herself in the closer's role.
It turned out to be a strong suit.
"She had a couple of tournaments where she came in and helped close out the championship game," Calta said. "That was very critical. She loved coming in under pressure. I put her in a lot of situations where we had the bases loaded with no outs or two outs, and she just shut the door."
Whether it was Sarah Calta, Short or Cook standing in the circle, the pitchers received plenty of run support from a squad that batted a robust .347.
Calta certainly helped her own cause, leading the team with a .569 average. Jensen ranked second with a .545 average and finished with a team-leading 48 RBIs.
Thomas, batting .393, and Albert, batting .356, also produced offensively.
Jensen, the team's No. 3 batter, especially impressed coach Calta.
"She was our most valuable player in clutch situations and one of our best sluggers," he said.
Thomas and Albert also shined defensively.
"They made some outstanding plays, but they made the plays they were supposed," coach Calta said. "And that's what wins you ball games."
Calta and his players welcomed the addition of volunteer assistants and University of Maryland players Nikki Maier and Kathy McLaughlin.
"I thought they were very helpful," Jensen said. "If the bench got down, they brought us back up. They made the games and practices more intense. They had an intensity you only get when you play the game for so long."