Amid 88-loss nightmare, a dream of winning Annapolis softball keeps sense of humor


May 7, 1986.

The Baltimore Orioles lost to the Minnesota Twins, 5-2, while pitchers Dennis Martinez and Mike Boddicker talked about coming off the disabled list. The Cleveland Indians won their 10th straight game. Coppin State welcomed a new basketball coach named Ron Mitchell. Oh, and tucked away among the high school results was a softball score: Annapolis 1, Severna Park 0.

It has become a memorable victory for Annapolis. The Panthers have not won a game since, losing 88 straight, which is believed to be an area record.

Through it all, the Panthers have tried to keep the losses iperspective. They have learned to live and laugh with the streak.

In 1988, for example, pitcher Melissa Masgay nearly beat Broadneck -- until, she said, "they got lucky with that grand slam."

Coach Gloria Day added some laughs to this year's team photo session by requesting a black-and-white print "for Playoff Magazine." She also assigned a "What if. . . ." paper in English composition class, and sophomore first baseman Allison Dacey chose the topic "What if the Panthers' softball team won a game?"

There has been plenty of laughter, but not because the players don't care. Under second-year coach Day, the Panthers (0-14) are no longer best known for sitting down in the outfield and on the bases during pitching changes.

"We think about how wonderful it would be to win, but Coach reminds us we haven't lost 88 games," said junior third baseman Leeta White. "We're a new team."

The preferred topic is what will happen when, not if, victory comes. White said she sees "some kind of grand celebration, maybe a parade through downtown Annapolis."

Dacey said she thinks victory will bring "a party for sure. The whole school supports us and hopes for a win. That's what we think about on the field, and I see it happening soon."

Such optimism stems from Day.

"From coaching vs. Annapolis, I knew they lacked confidence in themselves," said Day, formerly of Southern of Anne Arundel. "Still, they were playing because they like softball. That's why I'm here. I consider myself a teacher and an adviser, so this is the ideal place for me."

Her task is daunting. Softball takes a back seat to lacrosse, the glamour sport at Annapolis, and must compete with Anne Arundel County 4A powers that have won the past five state titles.

And, unlike the top 10 teams clustered around Glen Burnie, Annapolis has no appreciable feeder system, no camps, no summer ball and no pitching clinics.

"My girls see the ball zooming at them 60 mph and it shocks them," Day said. "They say, 'What am I supposed to do?' I tell them, 'You have to be competitive because you're in a tough league. This is not fun and games. Think softball at all times and respect the sport by knowing the skills and by stressing fundamentals.' "

That has impressed even the most long-suffering. Third-year shortstop Jodi Smith, one of two seniors on the team, said she considered not returning this season "because it was one big mess, but rumors said that a lot more people [32] were going out. We've worked hard, and we've worked together. We've talked. The pressure is on because everybody cares so much."

Meade no-hit Annapolis in its opener, but the final score was 6-3. Arundel needed Panthers errors in two innings to get by Jennifer Mauck, 10-4. Thursday, Southern-AA scored in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-1 decision. Annapolis plays at North County today in a makeup of a game rained out yesterday, meets Southern tomorrow at home and plays its season finale at Glen Burnie on Friday.

There have also been scores of 37-0, 32-2, 17-0 and 26-0 during the streak. The Panthers also have been no-hit eight times.

Severna Park started its second string in 18-0 and 22-4 victories over the Panthers this year.

"They tried, they hustled and they never gave up," said Old Milcoach Debbie Shacklock, whose team beat Annapolis, 14-6. "They laughed off the mistakes they made, and they played harder the next inning."

The Panthers still are much longer on desire than on talent, but, "it's changing," Mauck said. "When we scored [taking leads of 2-1 and 4-3 against Arundel], the entire bench started screaming. The baseball guys all looked around. It's going to be one massive, massive party throughout this school [when the streak ends]. They'll have to declare party day in Annapolis."

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