With six sophomores among the regulars, the future looks promising for the UMBC baseball team, but coach John Jancuska has some serious concerns about the Retrievers' pitching.
Kevin Alarie, a junior from Annapolis who went 5-4 last year, underwent arthroscopic surgery in December to clean debris from his right elbow, and he still can't extend the arm. Most likely he'll redshirt this year.
Steve Koennel, a junior from DeMatha, was warming up for a start at Maryland last week when he felt a pain in his shoulder. Yesterday, he pitched for the first time since then, but was rocked in relief by George Washington, a 16-10 winner over the Retrievers in a game called after seven innings because of darkness.
Newcomers have saved the pitching staff. Trevor Buckley, a sophomore from North Carroll who went to St. Mary's last year, and Craig Grasser, a junior from Archbishop Curley by way of Catonsville Community College, have emerged as solid starters. Another plus has been reliever Chris Kojack, a junior who went to Lutheran High and Dundalk CC.
Catcher Bob Mumma, from Rising Sun, already has four home runs, one reason the Retrievers are 7-4. He led UMBC in nearly every offensive category last year, when he was named to the Freshman All-America team selected by Collegiate Baseball magazine.
The sophomore class also includes rightfielder Greg Elliott, a Calvert Hall grad who's hitting .415; John Burns, a shortstop from Owings Mills who's at .395; and Brian Loewe, the leftfielder from Perry Hall who carries a .343 average. The averages are through 10 games.
UMBC is in its first year in the East Coast Conference, which for this season, at least, has an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Retrievers open their ECC schedule Saturday (noon) with a doubleheader against Hofstra at Joe Cannon Stadium, the new Anne Arundel County facility located in Harmans.
"We've done well against the teams in this league [6-2 last year]," Jancuska said. "This whole game can come down to who's on the mound, and we've got to find some extra pitching."
* The Navy women are looking for a big outdoor track and field season from senior Marty Shue.
Shue, whose first two years at the academy were marked by a series of injuries, won the 1,500 meters in 4 minutes, 37.41 seconds at the NCAA Division II championships. Less than two hours later, she placed seventh in the 3,000 in 10:06.49. That's more than 16 seconds off of her school record in the event.
In other track news, Morgan State coach Leonard Braxton will be the Honorary College Women's Referee for the 97th annual Penn Relay Carnival. The relays go April 23-27 at Penn's Franklin Field.
* Rob Newman, a sophomore from New Canaan, Conn., will be Western Maryland's first participant in the NCAA Division III swimming championships in eight years this weekend in Atlanta. The Outstanding Swimmer at the Middle Atlantic Conference meet the last two years, Newman has qualified in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyles.
Stacia Johnson, a junior from Gainesville, Fla., became the first Navy woman to win an NCAA swimming and diving title by taking the 3-meter dive at the Division II championships. Johnson and four other Navy women were named All-Americas; Jennifer Rowe, a senior from Farmington Hills, Mich., was honored for the fourth straight year.
* Besides the five players it received commitments from during last fall's early signing period, the Morgan State basketball team can also expect help from three prospects who sat out this season.
The Golden Bears lose two of their top three guards, but the perimeter could be strengthened by Brandon Parker, who starred at Randallstown High, and Phil Downs, an Oxon Hill grad who proved himself in the tough Prince George's County 4A league. Also inactive this winter was Terry Butler, a 6-5 Philadelphian.
* Many of the region's track and field teams will be at Minnegan Stadium Sunday (9:30 a.m.) for the Towson State Invitational.