On the first day of spring the temperature reached the 70s with 80s scheduled for Friday.
For several of the Baltimore County spring sports teams, opening day of the regular season would be tomorrow, Friday, the 20th.
But, practices and regular-season games were halted on Friday the 13th, one day after Gov. Larry Hogan announced the closure all of all Maryland schools from March 16 through March 27.
Turf fields are now empty, except for a few youngsters eager to hone their lacrosse skills with dedicated parents and baseball and softball diamonds are collecting dust.
Coaches for the Catonsville baseball, softball and girls lacrosse teams had finalized their rosters and were ready for regular-season action when the coronavirus necessitated the abrupt halt to the season.
Whether schools resume and sports return remains a mystery, but at least there is hope and the dream of what could have been even if they never play a game in 2020.
Catonsville girls lacrosse returned dominant midfield
Catonsville’s highly-touted girls lacrosse team got to play one scrimmage, on Thursday, March 12, before the coronavirus forced schools to close for two weeks and pulled the plug on its pre-season — and head coach Cantey Bailey didn’t get to see it.
“I teach at Archbishop Spalding, so we had a community member be tested on Wednesday, so we were off Thursday and Friday, so because of that, I kind of excluded myself from the team just as a precaution,” said Bailey, whose squad was 12-4 last season.
The Comets found out schools would be closed between the JV and varsity scrimmages.
“We were able to scrimmage and that was the last time they were able to be together as a team, but unfortunately, I wasn’t there,” Bailey said. “From what I’m told, it was pretty positive, there were things to work on, but it was our first scrimmage and our first kind of get together as a team, so the coaches were pretty positive about it.”
The vibe was positive before pre-season workouts because the Comets returned senior midfield standouts Lindsey Marshall, Sophi Wrisk and Kolby Weedon.
Wrisk (University of Maryland) and Marshall (Towson University) will play in state next year and Weedon (St. Joseph’s) will play further north.
“They know that they will play again," Bailey said. We have a couple who this will be their last year, but for a good amount they know they are going to play again, but if you can’t play again this year with friends since you were five and that’s where they are struggling right now so, we are trying to be positive.”
Bailey has been in contact with the captains since the schools closed.
“I’ve been texting them just to check in and make sure they are okay and to remind them that nothing has happened yet and to stay positive,” Bailey said.
The coach was confident in her goalies, with the return of junior Naomi Lauderbaugh and addition of sophomore Anna Johnston.
Lauderbaugh was between the pipes on varsity last season.
“Anna is a sophomore that came up from JV and is pretty promising,” Bailey said.
The one concern was defense.
“We did lose pretty much our entire starting defense last year,” Bailey said.
That prompted a move of junior Addy Parrott from midfield to defense, where she joined classmate Ava Waddell and seniors Brogan Hurd and Libby Ruppel.
Sophomores Stephanie Aponte and Kathleen Stubbs and freshman Leah Vacin were also slated to be in the defensive mix.
“She (Vacin) is really good,” Bailey said. “I was really impressed with her.”
Joining the triple threat of Weedon, Wrisk and Marshall in the midfield are sophomores Milena Stevens, Marisa Massimini and Kassidy Boehle.
Bailey has an experienced attack that includes four-year varsity senior co-captain Bella Dunigan.
Senior Anna Kearney played varsity at Glenelg High for two years before joining the Comets last year.
Seniors Hayden Kesner and Brooke Nelson also bring experience to the attack.
Junior Maddy Michael and sophomore Adele Jones are slated for attack duty.
The Comets were originally schedule to start the season against Sparrows Point on March 24.
They were also scheduled to play county powers Towson, Hereford and Dulaney, so fans would have known early whether the Comets would make a repeat appearance in the Baltimore County championship game, after falling to Hereford last year.
Catonsville softball coach McCleary liked competitive schedule
Coming off a 12-5 season and with several All-County players returning, Catonsville softball coach Steve McCleary was excited well before spring practice began.
“We were set up to not only have a good year, but it was going to be a fun year, we put together a pretty tough schedule and it was going to be interesting,” McCleary said.
That included a pre-season playday with Manchester Valley, Glen Burnie and North County scheduled for Saturday, March 14. They never got there.
The Comet coach asked his players if they had heard anything about schools being closed the day before the announcement and they had not.
He told them, “Girls, we are going to keep going forward, like everything is going to be right, but I got a feeling, but I got a feeling some things are going to have to happen, just don’t watch the news,” McCleary said.
His feeling was accurate and he had some advice for his team.
“I can’t be involved by rules, but if you can get up on the field and throw, this team had an opportunity to do some special things this year, don’t miss an opportunity to stay active,” he said.
Two of the captains are seniors Don’ya Truesdale and Deanna Delaney. Truesdale was an All-County first team outfielder the past two seasons.
The third captain is junior pitcher Sammi Sisolak, who was second team All-County.
Sisolak is the top pitcher, but the Comets have depth with sophomores Ally Lemerise and Maggie Kreis, senior Felicity Voss and freshman Samantha Rickwalder.
“Lemerise probably throws harder than any of them, but Sammi is probably the most polished pitcher we have,” McCleary said. “I know she has worked extremely hard in the offseason to get ready this year.”
Another pitching candidate was a freshman, but with the depth on the mound her chances to toss were slim.
“We actually kept one freshman, Abigail Mitchell, who is a pitcher as well, but we told her in fairness she probably wouldn’t pitch a lot this year if at all,” McCleary said. “She is the fastest kid in the program, very athletic and we felt like it was to her advantage to stay on varsity.”
Lemerise was a second team All-county selection at third base last year.
“I think Lemerise has a very high ceiling,” McCleary said. “She probably can go as far as she wants.”
McCleary is also high on freshmen Rickwalder and Abigail Mitchell.
“Mitchell and Rickwalder both, we felt like they were going to have some impact, they were going to see some time and they upgraded us in an area where we needed an upgrade, which was team speed and they are very fast,” McCleary said.
Junior shortstop Amber McDevitt returns on varsity, along with seniors Kristina Dayhoff and Felicity Voss, who is back after a one-year hiatus.
Delaney split time at catcher with junior Devin Tracy last year.
Junior Maddie Sampson had a solid season last year as sophomore on varsity and returns as a utility player.
Senior Justice Clampitt and junior Tara Bowen are infield candidates.
McCleary was looking forward to the scrimmages to see his team’s versatility.
“We really wanted to see a lot of kids at a lot of positions,” McCleary said. “We wanted to improve the outfield and we wanted to sure up the infield.”
Whether he get to see that to fruition is up in the air.
“Rich Hambor [Athletic Director] said, ‘Just stay on top of where this whole thing is as far as will the county schools open again,’ I really don’t know at this point,” McCleary said. “Because of the amount of tryout and practice days we had, when we go back, we really can’t even play a game until April 6, if we go back after two weeks.”
The Comets first game was scheduled to be Friday, March 20, against local private school rival Mount de Sales.
They were also scheduled to face Archbishop Spalding for the first time in over 20 years.
They are schedule to play in a tournament on April 11 with Bel Air and C. Milton Wright and have an aggressive county schedule.
“They took the top eight teams in the county and we play each other two times apiece,” McCleary said. “We really don’t have an easy schedule at all, we want to play the best teams we can play.”
Top hitters returned for Catonsville baseball squad
Catonsville was 14-5 last season and returned some of his top hitters, but head coach Eric Warm was concerned about how his pitchers developed in the pre-season.
That development was put on hold when they held their last practice on March 12.
“At the end of practice, we all discussed it and I just told the kids what was happening,” Warm said. “I said to stay sharp, stay in shape, keep moving and I also said listen to your parents and if your parents don’t want you going outside or going over somebody’s house to play catch, I said don’t argue with the parents and do what they tell you to do because they are looking out for your own good.”
"At that point all the players wanted was another chance to get on the diamond as a team,” Warm said. “They wanted to practice, they wanted to be there and they were more upset that everything. They were unhappy about it.”
Despite losing most of the pitchers who led the team in innings pitched, including 2019 Catonsville Times Athlete of the Year Ben Hall, Warm was ready to test the arms.
“Most of our big hitters are back, so I was really interested to see how the pitchers developed,” he said. “I know we were looking forward to seeing Mark Brady pitching as a senior, Kevin Alberg pitching as a senior and Nick Eiswert was finally going to get some innings as a junior.”
He also likes junior Max Johnson.
“We have this kid Max Johnson, who has pitched well in both scrimmages so far, he played as a freshman, but not as a sophomore,” Warm said. “Between those four guys, we were going to see who was going to rise above.”
Warm doesn’t like to extend his pitchers and that’s what made Hall a clutch player on the mound last year.
“Ben Hall was first team All-County and he didn’t pitch more than three innings in any game all season, but he pitched in almost every game,” Warm said.
Hall was 3-1 with two saves and had a 1.15 earned run average.
The Comets strength last year was offense and outfielder Eiswert and shortstop Brady were both All-County first team selections.
Leadoff hitter Josh Tingler returns after establishing himself at the top of the lineup as a sophomore.
“My hitters are back, it was just a matter of who were going to be the guys pitching to get us through the games, but I felt confident in my batters,” Warm said.
Warm did get to see scrimmages against Oakland Mills and Archbishop Curley with mixed results.
“After our Oakland Mills scrimmage I was not feeling good about anything, but we had a really good practice after the Oakland Mills scrimmage and we played much better and I felt a lot better after our Curley game,” Warm said.
Warm was also impressed with sophomore middle infielder Caleb Hess and senior third baseman Rian Durkin.
“He (Durkin) was called up for the playoffs as a sophomore, but didn’t play last season after foot surgery forced him to miss his whole junior season,” Warm said.
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The Comets roster also includes seniors Austin Baker and Ethan Boyce, juniors Ryan Bruno, Kevin Buck, Matthew Lauer, Aidan Callinan, Matthew Wilson and Ashton Hulling and sophomore Daniel Capka.