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Francis Scott Key Eagles

1994 record: 8-9. Coach: Joe Linthicum.

Top players: Missy Muller, Sr., 3B; Brooke Sigmon, Sr., CF; Ericka Rutzebeck, Jr., P; Christy Feister, Jr., C; Amy Brooks, Jr., 2B; Pam Lochner, Jr., SS; Tricia Black, Jr., 1B; Amy Layman, Sr., IF.

Outlook: Linthicum has an interesting combination, which could bring success for the Eagles. There's experience re-turning in All-County performers Muller (.428, 11 RBIs in 1994) and Sigmon (.300, 15 runs, 15 RBIs), along with the battery of Feister and Rutzebeck. Three new faces emerge in the infield in Lochner, Brooks and Black. All three played together at the junior varsity level last season. "Our strength is up the middle and that's nice to have," Linthicum said. "Brooke is very good in center and will anchor the outfield. Ericka looks very good and we'll carry the load on her shoulders. She's our thoroughbred and showed a lot of growth last year as a backup to Amber [Smith]. Christy is solid behind the plate. She's picked up right where [former All-County performer] Shelley Smith left off two years ago." Linthicum said the defense should be solid with the new infielders showing a lot of range and doing a good job of keeping the ball in front of them. The Eagles will have some speed on the bases led by Lochner, who likely will lead off. Muller, Sigmon and Feister will hit in the middle of the lineup. Linthicum said the Eagles will have to manufacture runs without a power hitter to clear the bases, putting some pressure on the pitching and defense. "If we don't beat ourselves, we should be OK. Pitching is the key," he said. Becky Knox and Kristy Hollman will see time in the outfield, and Layman adds experience and depth to the infield.

Liberty Lions

1994 record: 1-17. Coach: Nora Murray.

Top players: Charlene Rice, Jr., P; Pam Owens, Sr., OF; Jackie Reitz, Jr., 1B; Kim Robinson, Jr., C; Brigit Becker, Soph., IF; Ashley Meehan, Soph., IF; Candace

Young, Soph., OF; Ashley Davis, Jr., IF.

Outlook: First-year coach Murray is convinced her young Lions are ready to win. The roster consists of one senior with six juniors and seven sophomores. Three players who figure to play important roles have never played fast-pitch and six others are up from the junior varsity team Murray coached last season. What little experience the Lions have is at the right places. It's most noticeably on the mound, where Rice returns after knee surgery sidelined her for most of last season. She came to Liberty her freshman year after living in Anne Arundel County, a softball hotbed. "She's been playing softball for eight years. She's our team captain and we're counting on her to provide guidance for our younger players," Murray said. "Coming from Anne Arundel, she has experienced a high level of competition. She's always around the plate and throws five or six pitches." Surprisingly, Murray said she hasn't had to teach much of the fundamentals, largely because of the athletes she has. Young, a first-team All-County volleyball player last fall, and Becker, a soccer standout, are two of the players new to the sport who will provide speed and athleticism at the top of the Lions' lineup. "We have a lot of team speed and plan to steal some bases," Murray said. "Hopefully, teams will throw the ball around some and other times we'll turn singles into doubles. We haven't had that luxury here at Liberty for some time." Reitz and Robinson, a three-year varsity player, will hit behind the Lions' speed up top with Owens and Davis adding experience.

North Carroll Panthers

1994 record: 11-7. Coach: Rich Harvey.

Top players: Kandi Lippy, Sr. P; Jill Ballard, Sr., 1B/OF; Teresa Mays, Sr., C; Jen Rongione, Sr., 3B; Christina Crouse, Jr., SS; Becky Bosley, Soph., OF.

Outlook: No team in the county has more returning talent than the defending county champ Panthers. What separated the Panthers from the rest of the field last season was the pitching of Lippy, who earned Player of the Year honors after pitching every inning of every game and finishing with a 1.49 earned-run average. "As far as people coming back, she's the most important," said Harvey, in his second season. "You can always pencil her in and know you will get a consistent effort every time out." Joining Lippy on the All-County first-team last year and also back are Rongione (.396, 17 runs, 10 RBIs) at third and Crouse (.320, 13 runs, 11 RBIs) at short. They provide the nucleus of a solid infield that also has honorable-mentions Ballard and Mays returning. The Panthers lost a Bosley but also gained one. Amber Bosley, the Panthers center fielder and leadoff hitter last season as a junior, didn't return to the team, but Harvey is pleased with the play of Bosley's younger sister, Becky, who will play in the outfield and probably hit third. Rongione, who's smart at the plate and makes good contact, likely will move to leadoff after hitting third last season. "We really don't have a prototype leadoff hitter now, but are solid up and down the lineup. We have eight or nine consistent hitters," Harvey said. "We'll have to play a solid ballgame, stay out of the big inning [defensively] and score one, two three runs at a time."

South Carroll Cavaliers

1994 record: 3-15. Coach: Debbie Eaton.

Top players: Amy Stephenson, Jr., SS; Michele Mitchell, Soph., 3B; Michelle Pickett, Jr., C; Chrissy McKeldin, Sr., OF; Lindsay Treworgy, Soph., OF; Alison Smith, Jr., P; Erica Horst, Soph., P.

Outlook: The Cavaliers once again will have to scratch and claw for every run and win. Eaton is relying on the lefty-righty combination of Smith and Horst on the mound, speed and smarts on the base path and some solid defense to improve on last season's win output. The left side of the infield is the Cavaliers' strength with Stephenson at short and Mitchell on third. The two also will be at the top of the lineup and give opponents the most problems on the bases. Pickett, McKeldin and Treworgy will be in the middle of the lineup and will have to find ways to score Stephenson and Mitchell. "With no consistent power hitters, we'll rely on base hits and running the bases," Eaton said. "I feel we have girls who can get on base with bunts and base hits, but have to have girls who can hit them around." Eaton, in her ninth season, said the Cavaliers have never had a dominant pitcher since she's been there, but this year's duo might give opposing hitters some problems. "Alison is a lefty and that's something hitters aren't used to. She doesn't have a whole lot of speed, but does have decent control," Eaton said. "Erica has some pitching experience and we know she can also

do the job."

Westminster Owls

1994 record: 8-10. Coach: Scott Tobias.

Top players: Laura Braun, Sr., C; Heather Gonzales, Sr. P; Beth Lister, Sr., 3B; Kristy Owings, Sr., 1B; Tara Dorsey, Sr., SS; Melanie Koltko, Jr., OF; Alyson Young, Sr., 2B.

Outcome: First-year coach Tobias is emphasizing the importance of execution and has a veteran team that might be able to give defending county champ North Carroll a good run. "We're going to stress defense and work on cutting down the mental mistakes. The physical mistakes will happen," he said. "I expect our team to come out and play tough defense and if you can limit the runs you allow, you don't have to score as many runs." Strong defense begins with solid pitching and that's where Gonzales comes in. The senior has a year's worth of

varsity experience and Tobias said she is looking much more comfortable and confident. Having Braun, a first-team All-County selection last season, back behind the plate has been a big plus to Gonzales' development. The Owls should be able to score their share of runs with Braun (.358) and Lister, an honorable mention in 1994, providing the most potent one-two punch in the middle of the lineup of any county team. "It certainly looks good on paper," Tobias said. "Beth is just a great all-around athlete and everything comes so natural to her. Laura is healthy and really committed this season." There are other solid bats around them with Koltko leading off and Dorsey, Owings and Young also able to get on base regularly.

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