High school sports may be in purgatory after Gov. Larry Hogan closed all Maryland schools on March 12, but coaches from three teams at Towson High won’t forget the memories from the pre-season practices and scrimmages that gave them hope before the pandemic coronavirus put all sports on the bench.
Here’s a preview of the Towson boys and girls lacrosse teams and Towson’s defending Baltimore County championship softball team as they wait to hear if classes will resume and sports resume.
Brocato comes out of retirement for Towson boys lacrosse
At Towson High, new boys lacrosse coach Rick Brocato came out of retirement to coach at the school he graduated from in 1981.
Brocato stepped down from coaching lacrosse at St. Paul’s in 2017 after 17 seasons, leaving as the program’s all-time wins leader with 241.
His team’s first scrimmage was Thursday, March 12, the same day Hogan announced mandatory closing of schools and suspension of athletics.
“We had our first scrimmage against Manchester Valley on Thursday and going into the locker room there wasn’t going to be a Friday,” Brocato said. “At least we got a scrimmage in and we got 10 practices in.”
The team was almost completely set and Brocato only wanted to see how some injured players performed. That may never happen.
“It’s disappointing, really disappointing, I love my coaching staff, four of the five of us are Towson alums,” said Brocato, noting the other coach is a Calvert Hall alum he has coached against. “We hadn’t even handed out uniforms or anything like that.”
Brocato had two stints at St. Paul’s (1995-1999, 2006-2017) and won a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title in 2010.
He felt this year’s Towson squad could have had a solid postseason.
“We have a good group of kids, but we are nowhere near as talented as Towson has been the last couple of years,” he said. “We graduated 19 seniors this past year and the year before they graduated a strong senior class as well, but I think it’s a group that could definitely improve and make some waves.”
He cited Hereford, Dulaney and Catonsville as teams that could challenge for county titles.
“That Catonsville team is going to be good for several years I think,” said Brocato, who replaced Shawn Burke after his three years at the helm.
Last year, Towson finished 13-4 and won a regional crown before losing to Northern in the state semifinals.
The 2020 pre-season roster includes senior captains Jaydyn Castillo and Jack Carter.
Castillo is a three-year varsity midfielder who will play at State University of New York at Cortland next year. Carter is another three-year varsity veteran who will play attack at Randolph Macon University in 2021. Longstick middie Ryan Tyler is also a three-year player.
“Those are our three solid seniors who would have really played a lot,” Brocato said.
Two other captains are junior attackers Evan Brown and Colin Hughes.
“He (Brown) is probably our best offensive player,” said Brocato, noting Hughes played on varsity as a sophomore.
Junior Mason Cloyd played attack last year and was expected to be back from illness on April 3.
“We were even thinking about splitting time between the two of them,” Brocato said. “They are both very good goalies.”
When schools closed, several players inquired about holding practices and they were denied.
“I think all the team’s wanted to have what they call captain’s practices, to get the kids together, but the MPSSAA has told us please do not do that, so all the athletic directors and coaches have really had to lay the law down with the kids that they can’t do that if we are going to get this thing to flatline and at one point have any chance to play,” Brocato said.
Junior veteran Kyle Ketterman only hopes to get that chance to start another game — he was scheduled to be the team’s top faceoff specialist.
Towson softball coach seeks county championship repeat in second season
The first season coaching varsity softball for Towson coach Jon Salvino included a Baltimore County championship, trip to the regional finals and 16-3 overall record.
Jessie Leatherwood and Emma Kelly were two seniors on the team that won the school’s first county title in softball since 1993.
Leatherwood pitched a 4-hit shutout in the win over Catonsville and Kelly drove in two runs and had this to say after the game.
“Me and Jessie have been playing together since middle school, so we’ve had a long time coming together and its so cool to watch, especially with both of us being seniors this year, it was really awesome and she had such a good game and she’s had such a good season this year, so it’s really fun to watch,” said Kelly, who got her clutch two-run single in the bottom of the third inning with two outs.”
Bonds are formed in every spring sport and getting to share that final prep season together is an emotional honor for all seniors and their families.
This year’s Towson softball team has only two seniors and head coach Jon Salvino would love to see them play in more than the three scrimmages they played consecutively, before schools were closed for two weeks.
“Will we get to play this season?,” he asked. “It breaks my heart if we don’t because I know how much it means to the team, but also those seniors who have just done so much for the program in their four years.”
The seniors are Taylor Brumagin and Sydney Martin.
“The one senior, Taylor Brumagin has been on top of everything from the get-go, she has just been awesome, same with Sydney Martin,” Salvino said. “Anything I’ve asked them to do they just hop right to it.”
Martin is slated to be the team’s number one hurler, and she has company behind her.
“She leads a very unique pitching staff,” Salvino said. “I don’t think you will see too many softball teams that use four pitchers.”
Junior Olivia Ingrao, who is also a standout first baseman, sophomore Lexi Predmore and freshman Julianna Leatherwood, Jessie’s sister, also made the staff.
“Sydney is definitely the most experienced, she has come into this season and she has just looked sharp in her command in the scrimmages that we played,” Salvino said. “She is not someone who is going to overpower people, but she moves the balls and she hits her spots and keeps the ball in play.”
With a roster of only 11, that also includes juniors Julia Kallaur, Nicole Poling, Allie Arguello and Macie Hakim and freshman Eve Bartkowiak and Lexi Bradford, Salvino knows his players need to be versatile.
“This group is just young and enthusiastic and hungry to learn and they were really putting in the work and I think that was a trait that was going to carry us this year,” Salvino said. “Everyone understood that we are all in and everyone is going to be expected to play multiple positions and everyone is going to have a big role to play.”
Wins in all three scrimmages, against Francis Scott Key, Winters Mill and Manchester Valley, gave the coach confidence.
“If this season ever gets underway and we get a chance to play, it’s going to be a big learning curve, but I think the team is just going to get better as the weeks and days go on,” Salvino said.
The coach admitted spring is his favorite season but this one, which begins March 19th, is empty.
“Every day that goes by I’m thinking about the seniors and hoping they get a chance to play this year, because I would be devastated for those seniors if they don’t get to play out their senior year,” said Salvino, who hopes they could still play even if classes are postponed until May 1. “If we are going back to school, why not just be able to play. Sport is a way for people to escape, it’s a way for them to unite and achieve things together through hardships and rougher times.”
Towson girls lacrosse coach wants to see young players grow
One day after the Towson girls lacrosse team played a scrimmage on March 11, the team heard the news that schools would be closed for two weeks starting March 16.
A day off for icy conditions, or three days off because of a heavy snowstorm, can make a high school student celebrate, but, not the news that was necessitated because of the pandemic coronavirus.
“The kids had scrimmaged North Harford the day before and the kids were obviously very upset because they wanted to go to school because they wanted to go to practice,” Towson coach Jamie Giffuni said. “They were not very pleased to hear that they would be out of school.”
She felt for the seniors who have played all their lives to celebrate their final prep season together.
“Spring is the last hurrah, we have a lot of multi-sport kids to, who spring would have been there last chance to play together, so it is definitely sad for them,” Giffuni said.
Rallying around a captain was not an option.
“We hadn’t even got that far yet, we hadn’t even got to the voting process, it wasn’t long enough for the kids coming back from basketball to get a good sense of all these upperclassmen leaders, so we weren’t going to vote until that weekend,” Giffuni said.
Captain’s practices are not allowed.
“We are not allowed to condone captain’s practices, that’s been a standard MPSSA policy,” Giffuni said. “The locker room was emptied out of equipment, so what they do when they are not around me, I have no clue, because I’m not a teacher either. My contact with them was only at practice.”
Giffuni had a hunch that schools would be closed.
“I work at a hospital, so I pretty much had seen this coming for a while and once the colleges started canceling I knew it was only a matter of time,” Giffuni said. “Hopefully, if they do go back to school, no matter if it’s a week and a half or they extend it another two weeks, they do their best to condense the season for them, so I’m hopeful that they will get to play something and that it is not outright cancelled, but I sort of walked out on Wednesday (scrimmage) and knew that was going to be the only time that they got to play.”
There was no tempering the coach’s excitement before the abrupt halt.
“We were so excited to see how it was going to shake out,” Guffuni said. “We have been watching Anna Corona develop over the last four years and I think she was poised for a great senior year.”
Corona plays midfield along junior Natalie Sann.
“Natalie Sann, coming back from a concussion last year, she is healthy, we were so excited to get a full season with her,” said the coach.
The future also looks bright.
“We had some really, really talented freshmen that we were really excited to see how they would acclimate to playing with the older and bigger kids,” Giffuni said. “We lost a lot, but we retained a good core, so we were all excited to see how they were all going to mesh together.”
In addition to Corona, the other Towson seniors are attackers Sofie Sorteberg and Sofia Grose and defenders Julia Buttarazzi and Caelinn Saterfield.