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SOFTBALL

The Baltimore Sun

GAMES TO WATCH

March 26

Westminster at F.S. Key, 4:30 p.m.

March 27

Dulaney at Western Tech (Catonsville MS), 3:45 p.m.

April 13

Archbishop Spalding at IND, 4 p.m.

April 30

Glen Burnie at Chesapeake-AA, 4 p.m.

May 4

Centennial at Hammond, 4 p.m.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Cynthia Foster

C. Milton Wright, outfield

The defending Class 4A state champion Mustangs will count on more clutch hits from their senior standout, who batted .475 with 24 RBIs and 31 runs last spring while also providing errorless play in left field.

Michelle Grap

Centennial, shortstop

Extra bases are the norm for the four-year star, who batted .493 last spring with six doubles, six triples , four home runs, 22 runs and 17 RBIs for the Eagles.

Megan Johnson

Francis Scott Key, pitcher

The hard-throwing senior (13-8, 1,86 ERA, 201 strikeouts last season) will try to lead the Eagles to the top of the pack in Carroll County.

Kelly Leary

Glen Burnie, pitcher-first base

On the mound (11-3, 1.11 ERA last season) or at the plate (.541 average, 16 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs), the four-year standout has always found a way to make a positive impact for the Gophers.

Nicole Lowenstein

John Carroll, catcher

At the plate (.706 slugging percentage, 15 RBIs last season) and behind it defensively, the junior is a solid fixture as the Patriots try to make an impression in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.

Carly Martin

Seton Keough, pitcher

In notching 11 wins with an 0.29 ERA last season, Martin led the Gators to the IAAM A Conference title game with an uncanny ability to throw strikes when she needed them most.

Brooke Owen

Chesapeake-AA, outfield

The senior leadoff hitter (.415, 35 runs, 14 stolen bases last season) provides instant offense for the Cougars with her knack for making contact, excellent speed and smart base running.

Julianne Roper

Western Tech, pitcher

The do-everything senior (15-5 on the mound, .345 at the plate last season) has played a major role in putting the defending Baltimore County champion Wolverines on the softball map.

Desirae Sullivan

Severna Park, third base

Like last season, when she hit .415 with eight homers and 45 RBIs, the Falcons are hoping Sullivan can once again thrive in the clean-up spot this spring.

Stephanie Weigman

Arch. Spalding, pitcher

The hard-throwing senior has been the top pitcher on the best team in the tough IAAM A Conference the past two years, leading the Cavaliers to their second straight title last spring with a 15-3 mark that included an 0.64 ERA and 180 strikeouts.

Other notables -- Michelle Barwick, Dulaney; Katie Blackston, Western Tech; Heather Brown, Northeast; Leah Cossentino, Glenelg; Shanice Crowder, Poly; Angela DiBeneditto, John Carroll; Meagan Elfert, Westminster; Brittany Falls, Dulaney; Chelsea Funk, C. Milton Wright; Michelle Gravdahl, Long Reach; Lindsey Gray, Northeast; Jessica Grimshaw, Centennial; Nikki Hartner, C. Milton Wright; Katie Hobson, Centennial; Michelle January, Eastern Tech; Meghan Kovacs, Seton Keough; Allison Kuchar, C. Milton Wright; Marie Lindberg, Century; Joy Ann Line, Digital Harbor; Kaela Mason, Harford Tech; Colleen Matthes, Institute of Notre Dame; Megan McConnell, Liberty; Kathy McLaughlin, Seton Keough; Jessica Myers, North Carroll; Jessica Oleinik, Centennial; Brooke Owen, Chesapeake-AA; Caroline Peddicord, Long Reach; Lindsey Pyzik, Mount de Sales; Nicole Reeder, Archbishop Spalding; Akeema Richards, Western; Jessica Richards, Glen Burnie; Becky Schmidt, Glenelg; Katie Skojec, Hammond; Stephanie Speierman, Hammond; Anna Struhar, Century; Kristin Urban, Mercy; Sloane Van Meter, Archbishop Spalding; Jessica Vandzwolek, Fallston; Amanda Ward, Institute of Notre Dame; Brandie Wright, Digital Harbor; Angela Yannone; Kelsea Zeglin, Perry Hall.

THE POLL

1. Chesapeake-AA

Last season: 23-3, ranked No. 4

Stocked with returning talent, the Cougars have all the ingredients to take that final step after their Class 4A state runner-up finish last season.

2. Arch. Spalding

Last season: 18-4, No. 1

Former Pallotti coach Paul O'Brien takes over for Nicki Trumpler as the loaded Cavaliers chase after their third straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown.

3. C. Milton Wright

Last season: 24-2, No. 2

There's no quit in the defending Class 4A state champion Mustangs, who proved it with two runs in the seventh to get past Chesapeake-AA, 4-3, in last year's title game.

4. Glen Burnie

Last season: 18-5, No. 5

With a fierce lineup, strong pitching and sound defense, the Gophers can match up with any team in the area.

5. Inst. of Notre Dame

Last season: 18-7, No. 13

Led by senior pitcher Colleen Matthes, the Indians have eight starters back and will try to dethrone Spalding in the IAAM A Conference.

6. Northeast

Last season: 17-5, No. 8

The Eagles always find a way to figure prominently in the competitive Anne Arundel County League

7. Centennial

Last season: 16-4, No. 9

With a senior-laden group returning eight starters, the Eagles are the favorites in Howard County.

8. Severna Park

Last season: 21-5, No. 3

Two-time All-Metro Player of the Year Kaila Jenkins has graduated, but the Class 3A runner-up Falcons still have plenty of talent returning.

9. Seton Keough

Last season: 13-5, No. 7

After reaching the IAAM A Conference title game last season, the Gators have the talent to make another strong run this season.

10. Western Tech

Last season: 15-5, No. 15

The Wolverines found their way to the top of Baltimore County last season and have the necessary talent returning to stay there.

11. Hammond

Last season: 14-6, unranked

The scrappy Bears got a taste of success last season and that success should continue with sophomore pitcher Stephanie Speierman leading the way.

12. Dulaney

Last season: 15-3, No. 11

The Lions will rely on a potent lineup and steady defense while their inexperienced pitching settles in.

13. Broadneck

Last season: 9-12, unranked

The addition of freshman pitcher Kourtney Salvarola to go with a strong cast of returnees makes the Bruins a threat in Anne Arundel County.

14. John Carroll

Last season: 9-9, unranked

The Patriots, who lost six of their eight IAAM A Conference games by one run last season, are primed for a breakout season.

15. Fallston

Last season: 14-9, unranked

The Cougars return standouts at key positions to challenge C. Milton Wright in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.

Others considered -- Eastern Tech (13-7, unranked) Francis Scott Key (13-8, unranked), Harford Tech (14-5, unranked), Long Reach (18-5, No. 6), Westminster (13-5, No. 14).

BY THE NUMBERS

0.00 -- ERA for Archbishop Spalding pitcher Stephanie Weigman in three playoff wins last year to lead the Cavaliers to their second straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title.

3 -- Howard County teams that have reached a state championship game since 1976. Atholton, Centennial and Mount Hebron have each advanced to the title game three times, but the county still seeks its first crown.

9 -- First-inning runs scored by Chesapeake of Anne Arundel County leadoff batter Brooke Owen last season. The first-team All-Metro outfielder hit .415 with 35 runs in her third varsity season.

12 -- Come-from-behind wins by Class 4A state champion C. Milton Wright last season, including its 4-3 victory over Chesapeake-AA in the title game, when the Mustangs scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh.

283 -- Strikeouts recorded by Hammond pitcher Stephanie Speierman in her freshman season last spring - a Howard County record.

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