Howard softball

Atholton Raiders

1997 record: 2-19 overall, 2-16 league

Coach: John Zitko

Top players: Melanie Porter, Sr., 2B; Jessica McDonagh, Soph., SS; Lauren Mickley, Soph., P; Sarah Costa, F., P.

Outlook: "We're starting over and building toward the future," Zitko. "That's are main focus this year." Mickley, up from the JV, and Costa will share the pitching duties. "They both have good control but not a lot of speed," Zitko said. The Raiders "should be decent" at the plate, he said, and play well defensively. With two freshmen and seven sophomores on his 16-player team, Zitko is looking for the Raiders to learn and improve.

Centennial Eagles

1997 record: 15-7 overall, 13-5 league

Coach: Dale Huting

Top players: Angela Strittmatter, Jr. CF; Kim Paulus, Jr., SS; Sara Misorek, Sr. C; Lauren Martin, Sr., 3B; Michelle Kincaid, Sr., RF.

Outlook: For the first time since 1993, Huting is carrying three freshmen. Those three players, plus two sophomores, "are capable of playing a key role for us," Huting said. Two of the freshman -- Amanda Hall and Rebecca Decesare -- will handle most of the pitching. Hall is the sister of Emily Hall, a two-time All-County pitcher now playing her freshman season at Elon (N.C.) College. Laura Angle, another freshman, "has a lot of speed" and will play the outfield. Sophomore Jessica Barrett will see time catching and at second base, and sophomore Jennifer Roberts is a pitcher and utility infielder. "The strength of our team probably is its potential," Huting said. "The young kids bring a lot of potential to the team." Of course, they also bring inexperience, and that's where Huting hopes team captains Paulus, Martin and Kincaid step in with their leadership qualities. Paulus (.410 batting average) and Kincaid (.300) were second-team All-County selections last season. Strittmatter, who caught several games last year, batted .330. The Eagles tied with Glenelg last year for second in the county.

Chapelgate Flames

1997 record: 6-7 overall

Coach: Steve Kunkel

Top players: Jen Norris, Sr., P; Laura Starsoneck, Soph., SS; Laura Calhoun, Sr., C; Meghan Price, Jr., CF.

Outlook: "Defensively, we're going to be fine, and our pitching should be improved," said Kunkel, whose team will play in the AIS A Division this season. "The only question mark now is the offense." Starsoneck, one of four returning starters, led the team in hitting last year as a freshman. Also expected to help are Lena Fanara (Jr., 3B), Jenn Hodge (Jr., 2B) and Tori Marriner (Soph., LF).

Glenelg Gladiators

1997 record: 17-6 overall, 13-5 league

Coach: Dean Sheridan

Top players: Pam Goldberg, Sr., SS; Shana Wyant, Sr., P; Caroline Jones, Sr., CF; Kristin Hooker, Sr., 1B; Nicole Barnoski, Soph., C.

Outlook: Glenelg will start eight seniors and one sophomore. Four players -- Goldberg, Wyant, Jones and Hooker -- were first-team All-County last year, and Barnoski was a second-team selection. Wyant moves from second base to become the team's top starter. Hooker played at River Hill last year but went back to Glenelg for her senior year. Barnoski goes from first base to catcher this year. Other starters include Jamie Alascia (Sr., RF), Marianne Hayden (Sr., LF), Julie Apel (Sr., 3B) and Vicki Bennett (Sr., 2B). "We have the potential to be very good," Sheridan said. His main concern? "Are we going to be mentally consistent every time we go out on the field?" Said Sheridan: "On paper, we should be very good, but we still have to go out there and show we are." Three players that also will be counted on are sophomore Amanda Strandquist, an infielder and the team's second pitcher, junior outfielder Laurie Driver and freshman infielder Lauren Koutrelakos.

Hammond Golden Bears

1997 record: 7-12 overall, 6-12 league

Coach: Karyn Scoville

Top players: Jaymi Kim, Sr., CF; Erica Dietsch, Jr., C; Sarah Murray, F., P; Jen Hansen, Soph., SS.

Outlook: Scoville played at Hammond before graduating in 1989, and after serving as JV coach last season moves up to the varsity position. She has a young team, with only two seniors on the roster. Scoville expects the starting lineup to include four freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and one senior. "We'll be competitive," said Scoville. "The kids are hard-working, dedicated and enthusiastic." Kim, a solid hitter, also will pitch this season. When the left-handed Murray isn't pitching, Scoville said she'll find a place for her on the field. "She's a very versatile player," Scoville said. Kim and Dietsch will serve as captains. "This is definitely a building year," Scoville said. "I think we'll be very good next year and the year after."

Howard Lions

1997 record: 15-4 overall, 15-3 league

Coach: Dave Vezzi

Top players: Stacey Swiney, Jr., C; Kelly O'Neill, Jr., P; Sarah Berg, Jr., SS.

Outlook: "Our starting nine will be as good as anybody's in the county," Vezzi said. "What we don't have is depth." The defending county champions have a solid nucleus in Swiney, Howard County's Player of the Year last season, O'Neill, a first-team All-County selection, and Berg. Swiney led the Lions in runs scored (28), hits (34), doubles (6), triples (3), home runs (4), RBIs (36), average (.531), slugging percentage (.906) and on-base percentage (.552). She is as good behind the plate as she is standing next to it. O'Neill went 8-4 last year with a 2.17 ERA, and Berg, an excellent defensive player, hit .350 with two home runs. Amanda Hubitsky (Sr., 1B) is the fourth returning starter. Sophomore Lindsey Hasiuk is recovering from a chipped bone in her right hand, and when she returns will play second base and pitch. Freshman Shannon Tracey (2B/CF) has shown a great deal of versatility. "We're going to be a pretty strong team," Vezzi said. "Our goal will be to return as county champion and go from there."

Long Reach Lightning

1997 record: 2-19 overall, 2-16 league

Coach: Chuck Struhar

Top players: Kristen Schaper, Soph., P; Tina Rezaiyan, Soph., SS; Kristi Drew, Jr., C; Ashley Naimaster, F., 3B.

Outlook: "We're much better than last year," Struhar said. "We'll be competitive." Struhar said Schaper, who no-hit River Hill last year but lost the game because of walks, "has improved so much. If she's consistent, she can be dynamite, because she certainly throws hard." Rezaiyan is a solid shortstop, and Drew threw out 26 runners trying to steal last year. Senior Cindy Maxfield, playing her first season of softball, is going to use her speed in center field this spring instead of running track. Also expected to contribute will be Rachel Jordan (Soph., 2B), Kristen Lorch (Jr., RF), Corinne Leith (Soph., LF) and Genevieve Schrier (Jr., 1B). Though lacking big hitters, the Lightning will be solid defensively.

Mount Hebron Vikings

1997 record: 12-8 overall, 11-7 league

Coach: Tina Maddox

Top players: Lauren Abicht, Sr., 1B; Julia Kurisch, Jr., SS; Lauren Merkle, Jr., C; Samantha Crehan, Jr., 3B.

Outlook: Maddox coached the JV team last year and before that was the varsity softball coach for six years at High Point in Prince George's County. This year's team has one senior, 12 juniors (11 up from the JV) and three freshmen. Abicht and Kurisch, both second-team All-County selections last year, are the only returning starters. Maddox said the three freshmen -- Lindsey Shipley (OF/P), Amanda Crehan (2B/OF) and Allison Pikounis (3B/OF) -- will play important roles. Maddox said this season "will be a building year" but thinks the team has the potential to equal last year's success. Hitting and defense should be good, but pitching remains a question mark. One of Maddox's goals this season is to get the Vikings to "work as a team."

Oakland Mills Scorpions

1997 record: 5-15 overall, 4-14 league

Coach: Mike Anikis

Top players: Andrea St. Clair, Sr., 1B; Holly St. Clair, Soph., SS; Jamie Sauer, Jr., CF; Erica Schmeckpeper, Jr., C; Jessie Hinson, P/2B.

Outlook: "We're looking to be competitive every game," said Anikis, who returns seven starters. "Defensively, we're going to be solid. The difference in games will be if we can score runs or not." Andrea St. Clair was the team's top hitter and fielder last season. Her sister, Holly, moves from third base to shortstop this season. Amy Browne, up from the JV, and Hinson will do the pitching. Junior Naomi Sanlder, who played JV last year, and senior Annette Jackson, a returning starter, will be in the outfield. Junior Ilyse Reid, up from the JV, will start at third base, and sophomore left-hander Dalton Cramer, a transfer student, is a solid utility player. Outfielder Jill Garofano also is a returning starter. Eleven of the 16 players on the team are juniors.

River Hill Hawks

1997 record: 14-8 overall, 12-6 league

Coach: Dave Vitagliano

Top players: Holly Gick, Sr., P; Marni Rosenbaum, Sr., C; Meghan Goetz, Sr., 2B; Amanda Bile, Soph., SS; Lisa Humphrey, Soph., 1B.

Outlook: With 10 players returning, Vitagliano said "we can compete with the Glenelgs, the Howards and Centennials if we stay healthy." Gick, a first-team All-County pick, and Rosenbaum, a second-team selection, form a strong battery. Gick was 13-7 last year with a 1.75 ERA. She had four shutouts, two against Centennial. Goetz was a first-team All-County selection last year. Bile overcame freshman nervousness at the start of last season and committed only five errors in the last 16 games. Humphrey, who played third base and left field last year, replaces Kristin Hooker at first base. Hooker is back at Glenelg. Vitagliano said that senior Kerry McWhorter, the team's second pitcher and right fielder, has had a good preseason. Vitagliano acknowledged that losing a player like Hooker hurt, but that, "all in all our team is better than last year."

Wilde Lake Wildecats

1997 record: 16-8 overall, 12-6 league

Coach: Sal Milio

Top players: Jen Babish, Jr. P; Lindsey Smardon, Soph., OF; Erin Kaiser, Sr., 2B; Brooke Silverberg, Sr., IF.

Outlook: Milio, an assistant coach the last seven years (six at Mount Hebron and last season at Wilde Lake), has seven freshmen on his 15-player roster. He expects five of them to start. "Our strengths will be pitching and our versatility. All these kids can play two or three positions," Milio said. "Our big weakness will be inexperience." Milio expects the team to be competitive during the season, and very good by the playoffs. "By the end of the year, this team will be better than last year's team [that lost in the Class 2A South region final]," Milio said. "There's much more softball talent on this year's team. Right now, it's just trying to teach them the mental aspects of the game." Babish (15-8 last year, 2.04 ERA) again will be the workhorse, but Milio plans to find time for his other two pitchers -- junior Megan Quinn and freshman Megan Lucks. "The thing I like about this team is that they give everything they have at

practice and they are eager to learn," Milio said.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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