This may be just the beginning for the Aberdeen and Havre de Grace softball teams.

Even though both teams lost their bids for regionalplayoff championships last weekend, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace willreturn most of their squads next spring. And both teams hope to takeanother step forward -- into the state final four -- next season.

"They should be determined," Coach Tom Trafton said of his Havre de Grace squad. "I don't think they were happy with their season. They really wanted to win the region."

Havre de Grace dropped its Class 1A, Region III title game, 6-2, to Francis Scott Key High in Carroll County last Saturday. At the same time, Aberdeen fell to Stephen Decatur High of Worcester County, 5-1, in the Class 2A, Region IV championship.

For the Warriors and the Eagles, though, next year lookspromising. Both teams return six starters, including their top pitchers.

Aberdeen hurler Rachel Cassady pitched a strong game against top-seeded Decatur. But the third-seeded Eagles (14-5) didn't back her up with the same kind of defensive strength that helped them beat Parkside in the semifinals.

"We made three errors, and it cost us,"said Aberdeen coach Janie Anderson-Robinson. "It wasn't like they were clobbering the ball. They weren't."

Cassady, a junior, gave up only four hits and walked four. She struck out eight. The Eagles didn't show much punch at the plate themselves. Carla Giles got the only Aberdeen RBI, and it came on a walk.

Kelly Eakin led off the inning with a walk before Jackie Elliott beat out a bunt to put two runners on. Cindy McCorkle loaded the bases with a single. Giles drew the walk to put the Eagles ahead, 1-0, in the top of the second inning.

Decatur didn't waste any time coming back. The Seahawks (17-2) scored two runs in the second inning and three in the fourth.

The Eagles never got their offense going. "We had trouble hitting into the wind," said Anderson-Robinson. "We were on the bay side in Ocean City, and the wind was gusting 20 or 30 miles per hour, mostly coming in."

Despite their loss, the Eagles had accomplished their preseason goal of qualifying for the regional playoffs. With three juniors, two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup, Aberdeen started off slowly but quickly built a strong defense and strengthened its offense.

Behind Cassady's fast windmill pitching, the Eagles improved quickly enough to finish second in the county behind John Carroll. (ThePatriots do not compete in regional and state playoffs.)

"We had a good season for a young team," said Anderson-Rob

inson, whose team last won a state title in 1979. "They set a goal at the beginning of the season -- they were bound and determined to make regionals. And they did. Next year, they want to go one step further. I think theycan."


The Warriors (8-11), however, had set their sites on winning their regional title this year. But top-seeded Key allowed theWarriors only two hits. That wasn't nearly enough to stop Key, whichsmacked 12 hits off Havre de Grace's Rebecca Hawkins.

The second-seeded Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. They had a chance to take a big lead with bases loaded and nobody out. Instead, the Warriors scored their only run of the inning on two Key errors.

Eva Aselage singled and moved to second on a fielder's choice. Tina Bentley followed with a walk. Hawkins attempted a sacrifice bunt, but everybody was safe when Key's first baseman dropped the ball. Aselage headed for home on the error and scored when the first baseman overthrew the catcher.

Key took a 4-1 lead before the Warriors got their other run. Lisa Scarborough walked and later scored on Colleen Grady's single.

"I thought it was a game we could have won if we got anyhits at all," said Trafton. "Their pitcher wasn't overpowering at all, but they got the hits, and we didn't. They had a lot of little bloopers that dropped in. Most of them probably could have been caught."

Like the Eagles, the Warriors will lose only three starters, so Trafton expects them to be much better next year. Almost everyone on the team will play much of the summer and attend camps. Sophomore hurler Hawkins plans to work all year to add more speed to her already controlled pitching.

Trafton also hopes to get a lot more hitting next year. "We could have won maybe five more ball games if we had hit," he said.

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