It didn't take Joy Figueredo long to energize a young softball program at UMBC.
The school added softball in 1991, then hired Figueredo in 1993, when the Retrievers stumbled to a 10-26 record. Two years later, the Retrievers are playing by far the best softball in their short history.
Tuesday's doubleheader sweep of St. Francis (Pa.) gives UMBC a 37-11 record heading into this weekend's Big South tournament as the third seed. And the Retrievers, 16-3 in their past 19 games, are doing it with local talent, beginning with a pitching staff that consists primarily of four Anne Arundel County players.
Junior Stacey Matcuk (Chesapeake), sophomore Karen Jacobson (Old Mill), junior Stacey Reynolds (Northeast) and freshman Rachel Synowski (Spalding) each have winning records, mainly because they have combined to walk only 49 in 300 2/3 innings -- barely one walk per game.
Behind a strong defense, the foursome has produced an ERA of 2.04. Reynolds (1.33 ERA) has won all seven of her decisions, and Matcuk (11-2, 2.48) leads the staff in wins and innings (96).
UMBC has been even more impressive at the plate, featuring six starters hitting over .350. As a team, they are hitting .339 (10th in the NCAA) and averaging 7.0 runs a game (eighth).
Sophomore first baseman Carrie Lycett (Spalding) ranks ninth nationally with 52 RBIs, and senior shortstop Nikki Tinsley (.391, 4 HRs, 37 RBIs, 26 steals), junior third baseman Jen Jewell (.408, 34 RBIs) and sophomore outfielder Amy Wolff (Liberty, .371, 4 HRs, 34 RBIs) have been quite a supporting cast.
Coyle, Fitzkee staying
Temple has hired Kristen Foley, who compiled a 26-56 record in four seasons at Drexel, including a 13-15 mark last year. Foley becomes the 18th coach in Temple's 52-year history, and will try to revive a program that sank to 2-25 last year.
Temple's interest in Coyle and Fitzkee stemmed from their recent success here and their connections to Philadelphia. In three seasons, Coyle has guided the Greyhounds to their only two NCAA tournament berths. After five losing seasons at Towson State, Fitzkee has led the Tigers to a 32-24 record over the last two years and earned Big South Coach of the Year honors last season. Both are Philadelphia natives who maintain family ties there.
Both grew tired of a lengthy, disorganized hiring process. Coyle, who decided last week not to take the job if Temple offered it to her, withdrew her name from consideration on Tuesday. She complained that the school had not contacted her since her interview 11 days earlier. Fitzkee found out yesterday from a reporter that she didn't get the job.
"They ran a first-class interview, but you'd think that since it was down to three people, you would hear something about it from them first," Fitzkee said. "But everything happens for a reason. -- I'm happy where I am. It's nice to go after an opportunity, but I still have plenty to do here at Towson."
Title IX seminar in town today
The NCAA is sponsoring a two-day Title IX seminar at the Omni Hotel in downtown Baltimore, beginning at 9 a.m. today.
More than 200 school administrators and legal counsel are expected to attend. Among the topics examined will be coaches' compensation, student-athlete opportunities and financial aid questions, as related to Title IX rules compliance.
Towson State's Mark Orlando, a Division I-AA All-America wide receiver last fall, could be drafted in the late rounds this weekend by the NFL. Orlando worked out for New England and Seattle last week. . . . Loyola's men's tennis team, 2-16 last year, is 9-3 this spring, thanks partly to senior Bill Wnek, who starred for three seasons for the Greyhounds' soccer team before joining the tennis team this year. Wnek, 10-2 as Loyola's No. 2 singles player, was a high school tennis star.