Coming off a two-win season, Annapolis coach Gloria Day isn't looking for miracles from her team.
Instead, she's looking for the Panthers to play competitively and maintain a positive attitude during what should be another lean spring.
L "It's going to be a learning experience for them," she said.
The only seniors on the team are first baseman Allison Dacey and outfielder Jennifer Dzagan. Dacey was on the varsity last year, and Dzagan is a newcomer.
Two players whom Day hopes to build around are junior shortstop Uyen Do and sophomore third baseman Emily Nugent. Do batted a team-leading .350 last year, and Nugent hovered around the .275 mark and was steady with the glove.
"My biggest asset is that I have all of my infielders returning," said Day, who also welcomes back junior second baseman Jenee Smith.
Day will send out a new pitcher, sophomore Chaminaka Hill, a member of the junior varsity last year who is working to increase her velocity. Her catcher most likely will be sophomore Amy Disilvestre, who played at Southern last year.
"Her pitching is very slow," Day said of Hill, "but she has a lot of potential."
Freshman Ginny Dauses will back up Hill.
Two outfielders return in juniors Shannon Henderson and Janelle Queen. Sophomore newcomers April Brown and Artina Trader could see time in the outfield, with Trader also able to play at
Sophomore Gloria Nicholson (first base) and freshmen Hunter Hammond (shortstop) and Tema Watsky (second base) also join the varsity this year.
"I'm not looking to win a whole lot of games, but I expect to be
some type of contender to the other teams," Day said. "It's a matter of their willingness to learn and stick with the game. It's going to be kind of frustrating for them at times."
Let the post-Sheridan era begin.
Archbishop Spalding's pursuit of a fourth-straight Catholic League championship won't include last year's Baltimore Sun Player of the Year, pitcher Kim Sheridan, the blazing windmiller who won 58 games and threw 14 no-hitters (six perfect games) in four seasons. The Cavaliers will miss her arm, and her bat (.421 last year, four home runs, 23 RBI).
"You don't replace a Kim Sheridan," said coach Jim Nemeth.
Interestingly, Nemeth sounds more concerned about trying to replace Jen McKeldin, a second-team All-County catcher.
"I feel we have some pitchers who are just as capable of filling that role, but our greatest loss was Jen McKeldin. We'll have a new pitcher-catcher combination, and they'll need to get used to each other," he said.
With Sheridan on scholarship at South Carolina, the Cavaliers will turn to junior Rachel Synowski, who was 2-0, including a no-hitter, and didn't surrender an earned run. Also a shortstop, Synowski batted .352 with 11 RBI.
Also available to pitch are junior Carrie Parsons and senior Kelley Newbert. "We're fortunate to have a glut of pitching at Spalding," Nemeth said.
The Cavaliers still pack a powerful offensive punch, with the return of seniors Carrie Lycett (.485, 19 RBI, 26 runs scored) -- a first-team All-County and second-team All-Metro first baseman -- and Kelly Mabe (.455, 14 RBI, 29 runs scored), who will play at shortstop and third base. Junior Kathleen Legg (.419, 19 RBI, 16 runs scored) will play at third base and the outfield.
Sophomore Nicole Trumpler should get most of the starts behind the plate. Last year, she hit .474 in 19 at-bats.
Also back from last season are senior outfielders Amy Povloski, Lisa Laumann and Kelly Fickes.
The batch of newcomers includes freshman Crystal Henderson, who can play virtually anywhere, but most likely will wind up at second base. Junior Dana Fidazzo gives Nemeth another option at catcher.
"The key for us is to take the 14 individuals who make up the varsity program, use whatever talents they have and what they can offer the team, and mold it together," Nemeth said. "We're a new-look team, no doubt about it. We'll just try to get everybody focused on the same thing, in a fluid motion. That's the biggest challenge."
Arundel coach Don Banks doesn't know which is more impressive, the returning nucleus of veteran players, or the splendid crop of freshmen. Either way, it adds up to another promising season for the Wildcats, who ended a long exile from the playoffs last season.
Senior pitcher Traci Koenig, who won 11 games and batted .426, with 19 runs scored and 17 RBI, leads a balanced Arundel team that Banks believes can take "the next step" and advance beyond the first round of the region playoffs. Last season, the Wildcats (11-8) and Chesapeake were locked in a scoreless tie through 5 1/2 innings before the Cougars prevailed, 6-0, in the Class 4A, Region IV semifinals.
"Traci will be even better this year," Banks said. "Her fastball is even faster and she learned some other things."
The Wildcats lost second-team All-County first baseman Michelle Harrison, shortstop Tara Beauchemin, third baseman Pam Phipps and utility player Tina Deal to graduation, and outfielder Amanda Hall moved to Alabama after her freshman year.
But with the likes of Koenig, senior catcher Heather Daffin (.362, 10 RBI) and senior shortstop Virginia Gonski returning, along with juniors Kim Humelstine (outfield), Heidi Motzer (second base), Christine Plumb (outfield) and Michelle Fowler (outfield), Banks thinks there is ample experience.
Seniors Shannon New (utility) and Teri Payton (infield) and junior Melanie Thomas (infield) have joined the varsity, but Banks is even more impressed with the five freshmen who he said will "make an impact."
Kara Kitchen will back up Koenig and start at first base, and Shannon Noon will man the other corner. Marcia Lavin and Kim Gonski provide depth in the infield, and Ruth Wilson does likewise in the outfield.
"The whole key is how the freshmen blend with the nucleus that we have back," Banks said. "They're meshing right now, so I don't see any reason why we won't be back [in the playoffs] this year. I expect a lot of good things. There's a lot of talent here.
"We've got the pitching, we've got the catching, we're strong up the middle, and the freshmen at the corners will only get better. The defense will be there. If we just score some runs. . . .
"We lost a lot of games by one run. It's a matter of getting over the hump and beating some of the teams we haven't beaten in the past."
Jerry Stallard is back as an assistant coach, joining newcomer Barry Kitchen, who worked with the five freshmen in the Gambrills-Odenton Recreation Council.
It doesn't take long for Broadneck coach Bruce Springer to go through the roll call of returning players this season.
It's as easy as one, two, three.
That's the total number of Bruins who have come back from last year's 2-18 team. Two are seniors -- second baseman Dana Etzel and outfielder Chanon Gouch -- but only Etzel was a starter.
The third player, junior pitcher Kristin Butner, failed to win a game. But Springer says, "She's improved so much."
Will the second-year coach be saying the same thing about his team this year? In a sense, he already has.
"Last year's group was girls who had been through three coaches in 2 1/2 years. It was difficult for me because they didn't know what to expect from me, and obviously, I didn't know what to expect from them," he said.
"I'm really optimistic about this group. They work hard in practice and they're real enthusiastic. They want to learn and they want to play. They're very receptive to learning.
"Last year's group, because there were a lot of seniors, they felt like, 'We want to play. We don't need to learn anything.' And that made it very difficult for me because I wanted to try to teach them something."
Springer has 11 new faces on the varsity, though he recognizes most of them from last year's JV team. And sophomore shortstop Joy Banaras has made a lasting impression.
"She just really impressed me at practice with her ability," Springer said.
Another sophomore, Stacy Cronin, is the leading candidate to start at third base, and she also can work behind the plate. Other sophomores include Jessica Marshall (first base/outfield), Michelle Trudeau (catcher) and Lisa Farren (pitcher). Freshmen Rachel Taylor (outfield/infield) and Angie Shuttleworth (pitcher) also have made the team.
Junior newcomers include Jennifer Huffines, who probably will start in the outfield, Rachel Lenzi (first base), Meredith Pochet (third base) and Jamie Sylvestri (outfield).
"The thing these girls are going to get out of this year is a lot of experience, and playing against probably the best competition in the state in Anne Arundel County. Down the road, that's going to make these girls awfully good," Springer said.
Anyone hoping for Chesapeake to begin showing signs of decline had better wait at least another year.
The losses of first-team All-Metro second baseman Becky Thiele (.547 average) and second-team All-County utility player Kristin Spak weren't enough to drag down the Cougars, winners of the last three state Class 4A championships, and four of the last five.
"I can't down-grade myself; I can't cry poor," said coach Dennis Thiele, whose team went 20-1 and finished the year ranked No. 1 in the metro area.
Two first-team All-Metro selections return in senior pitcher Lori 00 Congdon and senior outfielder Tracy Starke.
Congdon emerged not only as the team's No. 1 pitcher, but one of the state's best after going 13-0 with 185 strikeouts and 10 walks. She allowed just two earned runs, threw two no-hitters and combined on a third.
"She's probably in a league all her own," Thiele said. "I really don't think there's another pitcher in the county who is up to her caliber."
Starke again will be in the leadoff spot, where she batted .451 with a team-leading 27 runs scored and 16 steals.
"I'm expecting her to put some big numbers on the board this year," Thiele said.
Starke is one of four players, along with outfielder Stacey Necessary, catcher Natalie Black and third baseman Nancy Yeager, eyeing an unprecedented fourth consecutive state 4A championship.
"They said, 'Look, we have a 19-game winning streak going, and we can be the only freshman class to go through our whole four years winning state championships.' They want the fourth one. They want it bad," Thiele said.
First baseman Michelle Arch and outfielder/first baseman Laurie Mike also return, giving Thiele seven seniors in the starting lineup -- "the most I've ever had," he said.
When Congdon isn't on the mound, junior Jaime Long will handle the pitching duties. And each time Long gets a start, so will junior catcher Kim Woody.
Two other returning players are junior Michelle Manner, who started in left field last year and also will be used at second base and shortstop this spring, and sophomore outfielder Melissa Wagner. Wagner was used mainly as a courtesy runner last year because of her tremendous speed.
Among the newcomers are sophomores Michelle Singer (outfield/catcher), Kim Watson (first base) and Cary Ervin (third base) -- all up from the junior varsity -- and Old Mill junior transfer Jenny Lewis (second base).
"This will be the largest team I've ever carried," Thiele said. "Along with what everyone else lost to graduation and what I have coming back, I think I have the most experienced team in the county right now."
Coach Bob Broccolino says he would like to forget about last season, and who can blame him?
The Gophers were a competitive team, as usual, but they missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
On top of that, his three leading hitters -- first-team All-County selections Heather Smith (shortstop) and Stacey Jordan (designated hitter) and second-teamer Erin Sutton (outfield) -- have graduated. Getting back to the big dance will be complicated.
Also, Broccolino must depend on a nucleus of sophomores to lead the Gophers back into the post-season. Susan Krodel (outfield), Samantha Miller (pitcher), Dennis Warren (pitcher/outfield/shortstop), Coral Brandenburg (second base) and Jen Stapler (catcher/third base) all started last year, and Broccolino calls them his "Fab Five."
As a freshman, Miller posted a 7-2 record with a 1.84 ERA and batted .313 with 12 RBI. Warren also had 12 RBI while batting .303 with two triples.
"I'm hoping the sophomores who played on the varsity last year can lead us, even though they're younger, by using their experience," Broccolino said.
A possible savior arrived in catching gear. Senior Lori Lynch transferred from Old Mill and will start behind the plate, bringing another, unexpected dimension to the team.
"That was one key addition," Broccolino said, in what may be the understatement of the 1993 season.
Senior Becky Lanham and junior Crystal Ford split time at first base last year, and will do the same this season. Miller and Warren could end up alternating on the mound, unless someone emerges, or falters, in a hurry.
Five juniors and a freshman comprise the list of newcomers to the varsity. Sherri Ord (outfield), Sherri Witt (shortstop), Jen King (third base), Laurie Kuczinski (outfield) and Allison Meyerer (second base) came up from the junior varsity, and Stacey Ellenberger (outfield) is new to the program.
"We look good defensively, though I haven't decided on a shortstop. I have four or five playing there now," Broccolino said. "Offensively, it's hard to tell. It helps that every one of the girls who is back from last year, and some of the new girls, play more than one position. Lynch, if she doesn't catch, can play the outfield. Stapler can play second or third, Warren is a great infielder but also a very good pitcher and outfielder. In the long run, that could get us in the playoffs. We can withstand some injuries. But we're very young."
Meade won four games last year, and coach Sam Pandullo says the Mustangs lost all their talent to graduation and military transfers.
It doesn't sound promising, but playoff hopes never burn brightly at Meade, anyway.
"Every year, I say it's a rebuilding year, but that's the way it is here," said Pandullo, whose daughter, Heather, graduated after making the All-County second team as a designated hitter.
"We're just trying to look forward to the future. Maybe down the road, we'll be all right, but right now, we're just too young to be considered for anything."
Meade has 10 sophomores and one freshman. There are two seniors and two juniors, but three of those players are new to the varsity.
"We'll be competitive," Pandullo said. "If they jell, it might be a good year. If they don't, we'll be fighting to stay out of the cellar. In this county, if you're down, you get blown away."
Sophomore Lisa Becker returns to the mound, where she won two games last year. "She's been going to pitching clinics and I'm hoping for better things from her," Pandullo said.
Senior center fielder Christine Agueda has started the last three years. "She's a pretty solid ballplayer," Pandullo said.
Sophomores Joceyln Frobish (third base) and Jen Everett (left field) are back, joining a group of newcomers that includes junior first baseman Holly Stark, a transfer from Texas. Junior Peri Campbell (first base/outfield), sophomores Lisa Boehm (second base), Stephanie Goodman (catcher), Kim Tolbert (outfield) and Donna Reimy (outfield), and freshmen Jennifer Pittman (shortstop) and Giselle Reyes (outfield) also will take their swings.
"We'll make a lot of mistakes, but we'll be around in a couple of years if the girls stay here," Pandullo said. "I keep waiting for that California pitcher to transfer here. I'll have to talk to one of the commanders about that."