If he was so inclined, Glen Warholic would have a lot to brag about when it comes to the accomplishments of his Maryland STARS 16-under tournament softball team. It has won enough hardware to stock a trophy outlet even though it's only been around for two seasons.
True, the STARS hit the bull's-eye only once this season when it came tournament championships. But they peppered the living daylights out of the adjoining ring.
The STARS finished second in seven tournaments.
While Warholic is proud of those accomplishments, he is most proud of a third-place finish. That came in mid-July's PONY national tournament.
The girls on his team come from all over, and nine of the 14 are from Carroll County. Practice begins in August, and then come fall tournaments.
"I wanted to stress them. I knew we'd be doing 16-under and 18-under by May," Warholic said.
Pushing them up against older competition stems from his coaching philosophy that stresses player improvement over trophies.
That coaching philosophy also explains some of the second-place finishes. Warholic acknowledged his goal is to use all of his players and give them experience in pressure games. This means he may not always use his best pitcher or his strongest lineup in championship contests.
Even with that philosophy, the girls have still won, and won a lot. While they lost 35 of their 50 games in 2014-15, they went 51-26-2 this season which began last August and ended July 31.
"This team has a little bit of all of the good things you need," Warholic said. "There are a couple of power hitters and a couple of fast kids. We're deep in pitching with three really good pitchers. And we have three good catchers. There is a lot of versatility. Most girls play two or three positions."
Another strength is hitting. Warholic says he has an "efficient" hitting team as opposed to a great hitting one. He says that the players may not be a prolific scoring bunch. But when they get runners on, they get them around because they bunt well, are good base runners, and they get timely hits.
All of that has added up to a lot of winning, even if they don't bring home a lot of gold.
An example of that was USSSA's 16-under Wins for Warriors tournament of late May. The STARS won nine games in a row before losing to the Richmond-based East End Sliders in the final. That was the fourth game of the day, and Warholic felt that the team had simply run out of gas.
But a 9-1 record wasn't bad, either. Then they went 2-0-1 in a college showcase tournament.
The following weekend, the STARS swept all six games to win USSSA's 16-under Queen of Diamonds tournament. In pool play, two of the three wins were no-hitters. And the STARS would sweep all three games in the championship round even though they trailed in all three at one time or another.
And by the time the season was over, the STARS had gone 21-7 against under-16 teams even though those girls were a year or two older than the STARS' players.
The PONY National Tournament featured teams from all over the eastern United States and represented some of the best under-16 competition around.
By mid-July when the event began, the STARS had improved in many categories of play.
Warholic says that assistant coaches Gary Maring, Cary Windsor, and Chris Carmack played a big part in that improvement.
The team still needed help in base running though, but help was on the way.
After her college softball season was over, UMBC freshman Shayna Rider joined the STARS' coaching cast. The former STARS player taught what one might call, "small ball." She worked with the girls on bunting, slap hitting and base running.
"She was one of the best base runners I've ever seen. The girls learned a whole lot from her. We went from being a poor base running team to a great base running team," Warholic said.
The added dimension came at an opportune time. From July 16-20, they were in Loudoun, Va., for the PONY Nationals. The STARS had qualified for that event with another second-place finish in a June qualifying tournament in Leesburg, Va.
They opened by going 2-2 in pool play to advance.
Over the next two rounds, the STARS had a fabulous run in which they won five games to make it to the semi-finals. But then, they ran afoul of eventual national champion Warrington (Pa.) Blue Thunder. Warrington won 9-1.
Warholic though, notes that in their 19-year history, no STARS team had previously finished as high as third in the PONY Nationals. Only one, a 10-under team, had ever finished second.
Warholic expects there will be other mountains for his team to climb. But he also warns that those mountains will be made steep in order to prepare the players for high school and perhaps, college.
"We hope they play together another three years to get them through high school. We will enter them in more college showcase tournaments and travel more next year," he said. "We'll push the girls against top competition. We've already told them they'll play tough teams. I want them to play 18-under teams on bigger stages than just local 18-under. We'll play the best teams east of the Mississippi.