Player of the Year: Lauren Gibson, Chesapeake-AA
The sophomore standout combined poise and determination with a consistently high level of play to carry the No. 1 Cougars through the challenging Class 4A East region and on to the state championship.
While her no-hitter in a 2-0 win over Damascus in the title game was the highlight, some of her work leading up to that point played big in the Cougars' getting there.
Gibson hit a two-run homer to bring the Cougars back from a 3-0 deficit against North County in a 5-3 win in the regional semifinals. She avenged two losses to Broadneck in earning a 2-1 win that clinched the East region. In making a 3-2 lead against Sherwood stand for a spot in the state championship game, she worked her way out of a sixth-inning jam with a key strikeout and then struck out the side in the seventh to cap the win.
Motivated by last year's state championship runner-up finish, Gibson was not to be denied. "Last year left a bad taste in her mouth. She didn't feel we got it done as a team. This year, she came in and said, 'We're going to do it and nobody is stopping us.' She really put us on her back when needed," Chesapeake coach Don Ellenberger said.
For the season, the repeat first-team All-Metro selection went 18-3 with an 0.51 ERA. Batting third, she hit a team-high .471 with 24 RBIs and 24 runs.
Coach of the Year: Dave Bowyer, Seton Keough
After his Gators fell short to Archbishop Spalding in last year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title game, Bowyer knew he had plenty of experienced talent returning to take the next step this spring.
"It was really getting them to believe in each other and that it could really happen," the second-year coach said.
Playing sound fundamental softball with consistently fine pitching from senior Carly Martin and putting together a big inning here and there, the No. 2 Gators (15-3) came away with the program's second conference title in four years. They defeated John Carroll, 2-0, in the championship game.
Bowyer, who first came to the program as an assistant in 2001, said the biggest hurdle was getting past a Spalding team that proved to be a nemesis in recent years. The Gators did just that with two decisive 3-0 wins during the regular season as part of a 13-game winning streak.
Brittany Falls, Dulaney
In her second season as a starter, Falls made a major impact at the plate and at first base to help the No. 14 Lions win the Baltimore County championship.
Batting fifth in the lineup, Falls hit .411 with 23 RBIs, 19 runs and six doubles. The senior had four hits in early-season wins against Hereford and Catonsville, and went 2-for-2 with four RBIs in a win against Perry Hall.
Falls, who was given the team's Unsung Hero Award, committed only one error at first base and her long stretch and knack for digging throws out of the dirt saved runs.
Mary Beth Herrick, Archbishop Spalding
Resourceful at the plate and sure-handed at second base, Herrick had a fine all-around senior season to help the No. 4 Cavaliers to a 15-5 mark.
Herrick batted a team-high .426 with seven RBIs and nine runs. She had a flawless season defensively, finishing with 32 putouts and 25 assists without an error.
A four-year starter for the Cavaliers, Herrick will play at Towson University next year.
Nicole Lowenstein, John Carroll
In a season loaded with talented catchers throughout the area, Lowenstein brought a complete package to top the list. The junior teamed with pitcher Angela DiBeneditto to make up one of the best batteries, leading the Patriots to their first Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title game.
The three-year starter hit .432 with 14 RBIs and seven runs. She also walked 11 times with six intentional passes.
Behind the plate, Lowenstein was in total control, enabling DiBeneditto to throw any of her array of pitches at any time in the count.
Carly Martin, Seton Keough
The repeat Baltimore City Player of the Year made the most of her senior year, leading the No. 2 Gators (15-3) to the IAAM A Conference championship.
Crafty and precise with her pitch selection and location, Martin was 14-2 with a 1.16 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 106 innings. Her poise in the Gators' 2-0 win over John Carroll in the championship game proved to be the difference, as she allowed five hits and struck out 14.
Martin also was a key contributor in the Gators' lineup, hitting .296 with 13 RBIs and 11 runs. She drove in the game-winning run in the title game on a first-inning sacrifice fly.
Jill Mullan, Northeast
The senior center fielder set a single-season state record with 51 hits, and then used her speed to wreak havoc on the bases. The three-year starter and team captain stole 18 bases and scored 26 runs to help lead the No. 8 Eagles to the Class 3A state championship game.
Mullan, who had 17 RBIs, had a number of multiple-hit games, highlighted by a 5-for-5 performance in a win against Arundel. She also had three-hit games against Class 4A state champion Chesapeake-AA and Anne Arundel County champion Broadneck.
Set to play at Shippensburg (Pa.) University on a softball scholarship, Mullan also used her speed in center to track down everything that came her way - finishing with just one error this season.
Brooke Owen, Chesapeake-AA
A four-year starter and repeat first-team All-Metro selection, Owen had another fine season that was capped by a clutch postseason performance to help the Cougars win the Class 4A state crown.
Owen had the game-winning hit in the Cougars' 2-1 win over Broadneck in the 4A East regional title game, a sharp single past third base in the bottom of the seventh inning that broke a 1-1 tie. In a 3-2 win over Sherwood in the state semifinals, she hit a two-run single to help the Cougars build an early 3-0 lead.
Owen hit .395 with 24 runs and 13 RBIs batting leadoff, and played near-flawless defense in right and left field for the Cougars.
Kourtney Salvarola, Broadneck
The freshman pitcher proved she belonged and then some in tough Anne Arundel County play, leading the No. 3 Bruins to their first county crown.
Salvarola's statistics were staggering, both at the plate and on the mound: She hit .698 with 41 RBIs, 38 runs and a state-record 12 homers, and went 13-3 with a 1.37 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 107-plus innings.
She twice beat Class 4A state champion Chesapeake-AA by 2-1 scores, first in the regular season and then in the county championship game, before the Cougars avenged those losses with a 2-1 win for the East regional crown. In that game, the Cougars pitched around Salvarola, who walked all four times she stepped up to the plate.
Stephanie Speierman, Hammond
No player in the metro area had a bigger impact on her county than Speierman, who led the No. 5 Golden Bears to their first Howard County title and then took them two steps farther with their first regional and state titles.
Speierman threw a perfect game - striking out 19 of 21 batters - in the Golden Bears' 4-0 win over North East from Cecil County in the Class 2A state championship game. She also provided the game's decisive hit with a two-run triple to start the scoring.
She set two state records along the way - finishing the season with 426 strikeouts and drawing 37 walks. She finished the season 23-1 with an 0.20 ERA and batted .649 with 30 runs and 18 RBIs.
Desirae Sullivan, Severna Park
The Falcons' third baseman and cleanup batter was never shy about getting in her cuts, constantly putting pressure on defenses by hitting the ball hard. The senior finished the season batting .487, with 13 of her 31 hits going for extra bases - including eight homers.
With those numbers came 28 runs and 26 RBIs - both of which led the team.
After coming off the bench as a sophomore reserve to get the game-winning hit in the Anne Arundel County title game, Sullivan became a fixture at third base and the All-Metro team the past two seasons. In those two years, she combined to hit 16 homers, score 51 runs and drive in 71, while also providing a good glove at third base. She will play softball at CCBC-Catonsville next year.
Sloane Van Meter, Archbishop Spalding
An All-Metro selection in each of her four years - three times on the first team - Van Meter closed out her fine career in typical fashion as the catalyst and steadying influence of the Cavaliers.
Batting leadoff, the senior hit .385 with 11 RBIs and 15 runs, collecting 25 hits and walking 14 times. Playing in the outfield, Van Meter made just one error in 137 innings. Van Meter is headed to UMBC on a softball scholarship.
Angela Yannone, Chesapeake-AA
The talented junior shortstop batted cleanup in the area's most potent lineup, hitting .391 with 21 RBIs and 17 runs. Nine of Yannone's 27 hits went for extra bases this spring, including a team-high six triples, as she showed a knack for hitting the ball hard in big games.
In the Cougars' 4-0 season-opening win against No. 2 Seton Keough, she had a double, triple, RBI and scored a run. At Spalding's Cavalier Classic, she went 3-for-3 and drove in the game's only run to help lead the Cougars past the host team, 1-0, on their way to the tournament title.
Yannone was steady at shortstop with a strong and accurate arm.
Name, School, Class, Position
Colleen Matthes IND Senior Pitcher
Stephanie Weigman Arch. Spalding Senior Pitcher
Sam Dulski Chesapeake-AA Senior Catcher
Jessica Sewell Glen Burnie Senior First base
Jessica Grimshaw Centennial Junior Secondbase
Meghan Kovaks Seton Keough Senior Third base
Lindsey Gray Northeast Senior Shortstop
Allison Kuchar C. Milton Wright Junior Shortstop
Kathy McLaughlin Seton Keough Senior Shortstop
Jen Hilchey Centennial Senior Outfield
Erika Stasch Chesapeake-AA Junior Outfield
Note //Teams selected by Glenn Graham after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.
Final Poll No., School, Record
1. Chesapeake-AA 23-3
2. Seton Keough 15-3
3. Broadneck 19-3
4. Archbishop Spalding 15-5
5. Hammond 23-1
6. Institute of Notre Dame 17-6
7. John Carroll 10-7
8. Northeast 18-7
9. Glen Burnie 14-6
10. Centennial 18-3
11. C. Milton Wright 16-5
12. Severna Park 16-5
13. North County 14-8
14. Dulaney 16-4
15. Hereford 13-8
Other teams considered // Century (15-8), Eastern Tech (14-6), Fallston (12-7), Francis Scott Key (14-6), North Carroll (13-8), Western Tech (13-4).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun