Francis Scott Key coach Joe Linthicum sees a lot of similarities with this year's team and the one he had a couple of years ago.
There were no particular standouts on that 1992 team that won eight of its last nine to finish with a 13-5 mark. Everyone needed some time to get to know one another with a lot of new faces in the lineup and it was a scrappy, total team effort that brought good results.
He's looking for the same kind of steady team play this season to overcome losses to graduation, which will enable some new players to show what they can do.
"They're coming along. We have a pretty solid squad and I expect us to be as competitive as we've been in the past," said Linthicum.
"It's not going to be any one player; we're going to need the same kind of team effort we had in '92."
Only three of the six returning seniors started last season. Amber Smith returns to the mound; Karen Brooks, a three-year varsity player, will play short; and Julie LeBrun returns in left.
After that, there's plenty of talented players who have little or no varsity experience.
No team in the county lost more to graduation than the Eagles, who finished with an 8-11 record and qualified for the region playoffs. Three first-team, all-county players -- Erin Murphey, Shelley Smith and Damien Overholser -- are gone, leaving Linthicum with some big shoes to fill.
"It's hard to replace people like that. That's why we're going to need everyone to contribute," he said.
After playing mostly second base last year, Brooks will move to shortstop this season. She will be joined in the infield by senior Mandy Hansborough (first base), and juniors Jessica Sutherland (second base) and Missi Muller (third base).
Senior Melanie Montgomery, slowed by an ankle injury, also could see time at first. Sophomore Christy Feister will do the catching. Joining LeBrun will be junior Brook Sigmon in center and Amanda Keeney in right.
Linthicum expects to be solid defensively. Consistent pitching from Smith will be a big help. In the Eagles' 5-3 loss to Owings Mills in the region semifinals, she was nearly flawless for five-plus innings before running into some control problems and some bad bounces.
"If Amber can pitch the way she did against Owings Mills, we should be just fine because our defense can help behind her," Linthicum said.
The Eagles will have to scratch and claw for most of their runs with no single dominant offensive threat. Keeney and LeBrun are contact hitters who will try to get on base at the top of the lineup and Hansborough showed signs of being able to drive the ball some last season.
"Right now, we're not solid up and down the lineup. We've got some holes in our hitting that we're working on," Linthicum said.
"We're going to bunt, slap -- anything to put the ball in play and get on base. We like to get a few runs on the board early and put the pressure on the other team. Last year, we had a lot of strikeouts so this year we want to be a little more selective."