The first pitch has been thrown in the Howard County Youth Program's 42nd season of Little League baseball, and 40th at Wallas Park in Ellicott City.
9-10 boys -- The Pirates and Giants began their International League seasons in style, each scoring two wins in the opening week.
The Pirates defeated the Angels, 11-8, on opening day, then came back Saturday to top the Tigers, 8-7. Pitcher Brian Carlson was the hero of the opener, striking out eight in three innings while reliever Paul Santucci came in against the Tigers and retired the final two batters with the bases loaded to preserve the victory.
The Giants won their opener against the Twins, 14-1, as Jonathan Gross and Shaughn Nealk each threw two shutout innings, and Michael Kruger and Tim Phelps scored three runs apiece. The team then came back to edge the Rangers, 17-16.
Other opening-week winners included the Red Sox, behind the strong pitching of Chris Maruyama, who struck out three straight hitters in the third; the Phillies, who defeated the Twins thanks in part to Kyle Tranter's four RBIs; the Padres, who won, 14-12, on Matt Hill's tie-breaking hit in the fifth, and the Expos, who got strong pitching from Peter Ressler and Jeff Carr.
* 10-11 boys -- The Yankees, sponsored by Donald and Sandra Garratt, looked especially strong in the opening games of the Minor League season.
After beating the Phillies, 18-3, the Yankees came back on Saturday to upend the Cardinals, 13-2. Pitchers Brian Hedges, Rick Wilson and Scott Grempler got plenty of offensive support from a potent lineup.
The Reymax Columbia Pirates edged the Standard Medical Imaging Angels, 11-10, as Brandon Rice starred in the field, on the mound and at the plate. Rice had a single, triple and two RBIs, made three tough plays at shortstop and pitched two scoreless innings to preserve the victory.
The Cardinals defeated the Rangers, 8-5, as infielder Ryan Swann smacked two doubles; the Indians edged the Reds, 13-10, as Blake Phillips homered; the Royals beat the Padres, 10-9, as Frank Brinkofski doubled in the winning run, and the Empire National Funding Red Sox held off the Bumble Bee Seafood Dodgers, 4-3, behind the strong pitching of Garrett Adler and Alex Becker's three RBIs.
* 11-12 boys -- In the HCYP Major League, the Dr. Muhammad Afzal's White Sox, the Key Press Limited Printing Rangers and the Twins each won their first two games of the season, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 54-20.
The White Sox opened with a 12-2 win over the Padres and improved to 2-0 with an 11-9 victory over the Bradford Federal Savings Bank Reds on Saturday.
First baseman Scott Afzal led the hit parade with two doubles, one coming in a 3-for-3 performance Saturday. Other standouts included pitchers Brian Neidig -- who gave up one hit in three innings against the Reds -- and Matt Lang -- who went three solid innings against the Padres.
Pitching was also key for the White Sox. First, Derok Roach, Steve Sweich, Jesse Bridges and Mike Phipps combined to one-hit the Cardinals in a 3-1 victory, then Sweich and Roach allowed just two hits in a 9-3 win over the Giants.
The story was much the same for the Twins. On opening day, John Krumpotich, Patrick Foley and Steve Schaeffer combined for a one-hit gem against the Giants in a 12-2 win. Shortstop Chase Spence provided some offense with an inside-the-park home run.
Then on Saturday, Schaeffer struck out five in his two innings of work and catcher Andy Cruttenden stole three bases as their team defeated the Phillies, 7-3.
* 13-14 boys -- Starter J.J. Williams gave up two hits in three innings and Ryan Greer hit a game-winning two-run double to lead the White Sox over the Padres, 5-3, in the HCYP Pony League last week.
Mike O'Connel also pitched three strong innings for the White Sox to earn the save.
The Pirates also opened the season with a win, defeating the Angels, 15-4. Pitcher Jim Stepanek hurled three strong innings, and catcher Mike Von Paris and outfielder Ryan Thompson combined for five RBIs for the victors.
Catcher Bryan Warner went 3-for-3 and scored three runs as the Dodgers upended the Red Sox, 13-5, and Aron Selnick drove in four runs and pitched two strong innings as the Grand Slam USA Padres edged the Royals, 17-15.
* Under-15 1/2 girls -- The Columbia Cougars began their season a winning note, defeating Severna Park, 3-1, and the Columbia Lazers, 5-1.
Emily Bielefeld led the offense with three goals in the games, followed by Marissa Catalano (two), Carolyn Flowers and Lee Custer. Sarah Bartholomew, Monica Dodd and Catalano also chipped in with assists.
Defensively, Angie Jefferson and Michelle Osterberger led the way.
* Under-11 girls -- The Columbia Condors had an anti-climatic start to their Washington Area Girls Soccer League spring season on Saturday.
Final score: Columbia 0, Severna Park 0.
Though the Condors generally outplayed the Hotfeet, they failed to put the ball into the net. Sweeper Cathy James anchored a strong defense along with Megan Diehl, Courtney McDonald, Lee McDuff, Shannon Binns and keepers Diane Caporaletti and Shannon Glissan.
Then on Sunday, the Condors picked up their first loss, a 3-1 setback against Herndon. James scored the team's lone goal off an assist by Vanessa Neuworth. Megan Donahue, Rachel Stoutenborough, Binns and McDuff also had strong games.
* 10-11 girls -- The Centennial Blasters kicked off their spring season in the Soccer Association of Columbia with a 5-0 win over the Centennial Hurricanes.
Maggie Via led the victors with a hat trick, and Hope Zellinger added two goals.
Also playing well on offense were Jenny Zonarich, Heather Johnson and Caitlin Curran. Midfielders Shelly Sinclair and Ali Woods, along with fullbacks Kathleen Ryan and Talia Morrison, anchored the defense.
Liz Richman and Maggie Douglas paced the Hurricanes with strong play on defense, and Julie Sajausnas led the offense.
* Under-14 girls -- The Columbia Heracanes had a tough start to their spring season in the Washington Area Girls Soccer League, losing one-goal games to the Potomac Pythons and D.C. Hotspurs.
The loss to Potomac was particularly hard to swallow for the Heracanes, who led, 2-0, before giving up three unanswered goals in the second half and falling, 3-2.
Andrea Donovan and Jessica Shamoo scored Columbia goals, both assisted by Erin Feeney. Also playing well in defeat were goalie Siri Worthington -- who made seven saves -- Emily Brown, Kristin Mutolo, Amanda Wagener, Anne Goldstein and Madeleine Driscoll.
The Heracanes then dropped a 1-0 decision to the D.C. Hotspurs, with the lone goal coming in the first half.
Courtney Graham, Kate Hubschman, Cynthia Maxfield, Jessica Grether, Natalia Policelli, Liana Kaufman and Rachel Sanford playing well.
* Under-10 girls -- The Soccer Association of Columbia Dynamo opened its season in style, scoring two shutouts against Washington Area Girls Soccer League competition over the weekend.
First, the team took the measure of the BRYC Bleu Belles Too, 4-0, then defeated the Fairfax Police Youth Corps, 2-0.
In the opening win, the Columbia team had 13 shots on goal and five corner kicks. Melissa Workman led the offense with two goals, and Ashley Pollock and Allison Levine added one apiece. Also contributing were Becky Ward, Carolyn Schmid, Kimi Mongello and Kara Shapiro.
The Dynamo completed the weekend sweep with a strong performance against Fairfax, as Workman scored both goals. Also strong on offense were Rebecca Valle, Caitlin Jenkins and Kelly Thomas, while Samantha Test, Stacy Capel and Tori Parris led the defense.
Goalie Emily Williams played well in both games, making a number of fine saves.
* Under-12 girls -- The Columbia Eagles opened their spring season with a split, defeating the Vista Comets, 2-0, Saturday before losing to the Parkville Poison, 3-2, Sunday.
Amy Rappaport and Martha Bielefeld scored in the win while Monica Tiburzi, Kellan Hoover, Carla Pistorio, Kai Freeman and goalie Nicole Petro excelled on the defensive end.
Bielefeld and Sara Gibbs scored the Eagles' goals on Sunday.
Columbia-area high schools are well represented on the first year-old Howard County Allstars AAU team.
Team members were selected after nominations by their high school coaches and open tryouts. The team includes five players from Oakland Mills and two each from Hammond, Howard and Atholton.
Coached by former pro player Ross Wilkins, team members are Brian Benden and Dennis Chiles Jr. of Atholton; Irving Conwell III and Timothy Spuill of Hammond; Bernie Dennison Jr. of Centennial; Timothy Ford, Michael Hill, Shawn Hill, Reynolds Peele and Matthew Wichita of Oakland Mills, and Larry Lang Jr. and William Richardson of Howard.
A number of gymnasts from the Top Flight Club in Columbia posted strong results at last weekend's state championship meets.
At the Level 10 competition at Barlow's in Annapolis, Gina Califano took third all-around in the 12-13 division. Califano took third in the floor exercise (9.25), fourth in the uneven bars (9.0) and fifth in the balance beam (8.85) en route to a 36.15 in the all-around.
L Another Top Flight gymnast, Abby Jones, finished with 33.55.
At the Level 9 championships, sponsored by Baltimore County Gymnastics at Chesapeake-Baltimore County High School, three club competitors fared well and qualified for the regionals.
In the 14-15 group, Maura Markowitz took second in the vault (9.0) and qualified with 33.17.
Kierney Hiteshew and Lindsay Boyer (both in the 9-11 division) also qualified. Hiteshew took third in the floor exercise (9.1) and finished with 33.625 in the all-around while Boyer took third in the beam (9.2) en route to a 34.8 -- good enough for fifth place.
At a Level 7 sectional at Baltimore County Gymnastics, Megan Miller turned some heads with a resounding victory in the 8-11 division. She scored victories in the beam (9.35), floor (8.85) and vault (9.45), and took third in the bars (8.4) on her way to a first-place finish in the all-around (36.05).
She advances to the Level 7 states, April 30-May 1 at Williamsport High.
Note: To submit information for the Howard County recreation roundup, call (410) 521-0505.