The Anne Arundel County Sun's 1991 All-County Softball Team has comeof age. It's a 12-player team, featuring eight seniors, six of whom made last year's first team.
Player of the Year Amy Jakubowski of state 4A champion Chesapeake heads the list of first-team repeaters. The outstanding pitcher/hitter made the team for the first time as a pitcher after two straight years as the designated hitter.
Jakubowski is joined on the first team once again by pitchers Kristy Zulka of Northeast and Kim Sheridan of Archbishop Spalding, catcher Stacey Grokas of Chesapeake, second baseman Michelle Ackerman of Glen Burnie and shortstop Shani Cannon of Severna Park.
In leading Chesapeake to its second straight state title and an overall 20-3 record, Jakubowski went 10-2 with an ERA of 0.33 and 135 strikeouts and only six walks in 95 innings. With the bat, Jakubowski blistered opposing pitching at a .507 clip with four home runs and 26 RBI.
Last year, as a junior, Jakubowski made first-team DH with a .481 batting average. Amazinglyenough, she hit .480 her sophomore year as first-team designated hitter. Jakubowski has accepted a full scholarship to Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
Zulka and Sheridan are back as first-team pitchers after leading their teams to championships thisspring. Zulka led Northeast to its fourth straight state 2A title, while Sheridan was the main reason Spalding repeated as Baltimore Catholic League champion.
After a 17-0 junior year with an ERA of 0.22that earned her Player of the Year honors, Zulka battled knee injuries this past season and was 11-2, including a 1-0 decision over previously unbeaten Damascus and its ace Marci Whitehead in the state championship game.
Zulka, who was a third-team catcher as a sophomore while Jennifer Grinath was stealing the headlines as the Eagles' ace,is one of four special players in Northeast history.
Along with her teammates from this year's team, Jennifer Kisiner and Nicole Meister, and former Eagle star Monica Everett (a 1990 grad), Zulka has never lost in a state championship game on the high school or summer levels.
All four players were on the 1989-1990 Northeast state champion, Zulka and Everett on the 1988 Northeast state champion, and Zulka, Kisiner and Meister on this year's team.
In addition, Zulka and the other three played on the 1987-1989 Amateur Softball Association state champion Riviera Beach Spirit teams and the '90 Jade Garden state championship team.
Sheridan was 14-1 for the 18-1 Spalding Cavaliers, with an ERA of 0.15, 180 strikeouts and just seven walks in 96innings. The Cavs' ace only gave up 34 hits and is 29-4 over the last two seasons.
Grokas returns as catcher after batting .486 with 19 RBI for the state champion Cougars.
Second base was taken once
again by the Gophers' Ackerman, who has accepted a scholarship to the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
After hitting .388 as a junior, Ackerman stepped it up to .458 with 24 RBI in her final year.
Her absence during the Region IV playoffs cost Coach Bob Broccolino's Gophers (16-4) a chance at dethroning Chesapeake.
The slick-fielding Cannon is the sixth and final repeater, and she will take her abilities to the University of South Carolina this fall. A second-team shortstop her first two years of high school, Cannon is a first-teamer her last two.
After hitting .350 as a junior, Cannon batted.400 with 25 RBI and had only five errors this spring for the Falcons (14-5) of Severna Park. She is as good a fielding shortstop as has ever come out of this county.
Other members of this year's first team selected by our staff include Chesapeake first baseman Stacey Matcuk; North County third baseman Tina Armstrong; outfielders Erin Sutton (Glen Burnie), Tammy Kuebel and Ericka Shade of Northeast; and DH SarahStorrs of Old Mill.
Matcuk, a second-team pitcher last season, moves up to first team on the strength of her .333 average and 14 RBI plus a great glove around the bag.
Armstrong, one of four juniors, led the county in batting with a torrid .520 batting average.
In the outfield, the first-team trio -- Sutton (.440), Kuebel (.372) and Shade (.300) -- all hit well, as did DH Storrs (.481).
Sutton stole 19 bases for the Gophers and was outstanding defensively with her great speed.
The second-team pitching staff is no slouch, with Glen Burnie senior Mandy Albrecht (10 wins), Junior Karen Hay of North County (12 wins) and Severna Park freshman Jen Spampinato (14-5).
This county has been blessed with a wealth of windmill pitching talent, thanks to the efforts of local guru Jack Crandell of the Tangerine Machine 18-and-under softball team. Crandell and staff have been running out-of-season pitching clinics for nearly a decade, and the result has been Anne Arundel County's becoming the high school softballcapital of the state.
You only have to look at the final Top 10 released by The Sun yesterday to see that. Chesapeake is No. 1 in the final metro poll, followed by Northeast (second), Spalding and Glen Burnie (tied for third), Severna Park (sixth), North County and Old Mill (tied for seventh).
That's seven Anne Arundel teams in the Top 10.
What makes county teams so good are the dominant pitching and that the top teams almost always have an outstanding shortstop. WhileSeverna Park's Cannon took first-team shortstop honors, the two second-teamers -- Stephanie Lazor of Northeast (.339) and Nicole Dunleavyof Spalding (.450) -- could very easily have been No. 1 as well.
In addition to great pitching, this county also has become a haven for great shortstops, and the players also are blessed with great coaching.
Coach of the Year Broccolino takes the award for the second time in three years. The Glen Burnie coach, a great communicator and teacher of the game, last won in 1989, his 20-1 state championship year.
It's safe to say that being named All-County here is like beingnamed All-State, because no other Maryland locale plays softball better than Anne Arundel.