2008 All-Metro softball teams

Player of the Year
Lauren Gibson, Chesapeake-AA

The junior standout was once again at her best when it counted the most, leading the No. 1 Cougars to their second consecutive Class 4A state championship with a second straight no-hit performance in the title game. In repeating as the All-Metro Player of the Year, Gibson, who has made an oral commitment to Tennessee, enjoyed another stellar season on the mound, at the plate and on the bases.

She went 17-2 with a 1.23 ERA, striking out 165 batters in 120 innings. Gibson batted .500 with 34 runs, 29 RBIs and eight homers. She also put constant pressure on opposing defenses with 16 steals and a knack for taking the extra base when provided.

Gibson was in complete control in the Cougars' 7-0 win over Sherwood in the title game, as only a fifth-inning walk prevented her from throwing a perfect game. Chesapeake coach Don Ellenberger said one of Gibson's biggest attributes is the mental approach she takes to the big games.

"She sees the bigger picture and knows once it comes down to crunch time when we are going into the playoffs ... when it comes down to winning those last five games of the year, she's going to make that happen. It's always: 'Give me the ball,' " he said.

Gibson, a first-team All-Metro selection in each of her three years, takes a 50-7 record into her senior year.

Coach of the Year
Paul O'Brien, Archbishop Spalding

The Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference appeared wide open going into the season, largely because the top four teams from last year had lost their pitchers to graduation. The No. 2 Cavaliers took hold early and never let go, finishing with a 17-1 mark that included a 14-0 league record.

The team's 6-0 win over Institute of Notre Dame in the championship game typified its season-long excellence. The Cavaliers got a one-hit pitching performance from junior Elaine Nescio, played flawless and proved opportunistic on offense.

O'Brien, who took over as coach last year after spending seven seasons at St. Vincent Pallotti, had his team ready to play at a high level every time out with a good understanding of his players' strengths and an emphasis on the fundamentals. He was quick to credit the emergence of Nescio, strong leadership from his seniors and a coaching staff (comprised of Kristin Scharek, Michael Gleason and Neal Herrick) that meshed well. O'Brien has a career mark of 165-63 in his nine seasons at Pallotti and Spalding.

First team

Lisa Bilski, Fallston

An outfielder in her first two seasons on varsity, Bilski moved to shortstop out of necessity in her senior year and looked right at home.

Batting third, Bilski hit .492 with 26 runs and 20 RBIs, compiling 11 extra-base hits --including five homers.

Bilski, who will play at Villa Julie, had a banner week late in the regular season when she went 9-for-16 and cleanly fielded all 16 chances in the field as the Cougars (14-7) went 4-0 in Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference play.

Kelly Hickman, Chesapeake-AA

The junior second baseman came through in a big way during the No. 1 Cougars' playoff run to their second straight Class 4A state championship.

Hickman hit homers in two straight East regional playoff games -- a two-run shot in a 3-0 semifinal win over Arundel and a three-run shot to open the scoring in a 10-6 win over Broadneck in the final.

In her third varsity season, Hickman batted .453 with 28 runs and 20 RBIs in the cleanup position.

She finished with five doubles, four homers and three triples, and was versatile in the field, also playing third base and first base.

Nicole Lowenstein, John Carroll

The senior catcher was in a class by herself behind the plate, closing out a stellar four-year career with All- Metro first-team honors for the second straight year.

Lowenstein, who will play at Seton Hall next year, batted .473 with 20 runs scored. Perhaps her most telling statistic was a .743 on-base percentage; it came with the help of 32 walks, most of which were intentional.

A captain and a fine defensive catcher, Lowenstein was tough to steal on, allowed just three passed balls, and worked well with first-year starting pitcher Katie O'Hara.

Elaine Nescio, Archbishop Spalding

Replacing four-year standout Stephanie Weigman, the junior pitcher proved she was more than up to the task in leading the No. 2 Cavaliers to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship.

Nescio tossed a one-hitter in a 6-0 win over Institute of Notre Dame in the title game, highlighting a 15-1 season that included a 0.70 ERA with 176 strikeouts in 110 innings. Nescio batted .314 with 11 RBIs and committed one error.

Jennifer Rindone, Archbishop Spalding

One of the major concerns going into the season for the Cavaliers was replacing the graduated talent that comprised the middle of their lineup last season. Enter Rindone.

In her first season as a starter, the junior left fielder was inserted into the cleanup spot and thrived.

She finished second on the team in batting with a .489 average and led the team in RBIs with 17, while also scoring 10 runs.

Rindone also was steady in the field, making two errors in 113 innings.

Kourtney Salvarola, Broadneck

A repeat first-team selection, the sophomore pitcher was again one of the most feared hitters in the metro area.

Salvarola batted .556 with 41 runs, 25 RBIs and 17 extra-base hits that included nine home runs.

On the mound, she went 12-3 with a 1.28 ERA and had 130 strikeouts in 93 innings. Salvarola handed Class 4A state champion Chesapeake its only two losses of the season, recording a 2-0 shutout in the regular season and then recording a 4-2 win in the Anne Arundel county championship game that was highlighted by her two-run homer.

Corie Seitler, Broadneck

The Chesapeake-Anne Arundel transfer was a welcome addition to the Bruins' lineup, finding an immediate home at the cleanup spot and playing flawless defense in right field.

The senior batted .435 with 24 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

Seitler , who had six homers, three doubles and two triples, made teams pay when she came up with the bases loaded, as she hit grand slams against Anne Arundel County rivals Northeast, Severna Park and Chesapeake.

She also drove in the game-winning run with a double in the Bruins' 2-0 regular- season win over her former team.

Stephanie Speierman, Hammond

A three-time All-Metro first-team selection, the junior pitcher was once again the most dominant player in Howard County, going 18-4 and batting .418 to lead the Bears to the county championship game.

Speierman, who has made an oral commitment to play at Michigan, was overpowering on the mound. She had an 0.48 ERA and 354 strikeouts in 159 innings.

With opponents often pitching around her, she batted .418 with 23 runs and eight RBIs -- walking 26 times.

Speierman threw nine no-hitters this season, including one perfect game.

Erika Stasch, Chesapeake-AA

The senior center fielder closed out a fine season in remarkable fashion by going 3-for-4 with two triples and five RBIs in the No. 1 Cougars' 7-0 win over Sherwood in the Class 4A state championship game.

She provided the game's biggest hit in the second inning with a bases-loaded triple deep to right field to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead.

An All-Metro second-team selection last season, Stasch finished the season batting .387 with 28 runs scored and 23 RBIs.

She was exceptional covering center field and possessed one of the metro area's strongest arms.

Ashley Thomas, Broadneck

The Bruins' shortstop built on a solid freshman year with a dominating sophomore season that was a big factor in the team's second straight Anne Arundel County championship.

With a good eye, quick bat and power to all fields, Thomas batted .397 with 38 RBIs and 31 runs scored. She hit three doubles, five homers and a state record-tying eight triples.

Thomas also found success on the mound as the Bruins' No. 2 starter, going 8-1 with a 1.32 ERA for the season.

Meghan Van Meter, Archbishop Spalding

She stepped up in her senior year to set a positive tone.

Van Meter collected nine hits in her first 10 plate appearances, proving to be a valuable leader and catalyst in the No. 2 Cavaliers' IAAM A Conference championship run.

The second baseman and team captain batted a team-best .509 with 20 runs and 12 RBIs.

The three-year starter also played solid defense, with just two errors in 128 innings.

Second Team

Name, School, Cl., P

Heather Brown Northeast Jr. P

Jordan Eades Franklin Jr. P

Kayla Martinez Arundel So. P

Chelsea Ponce Atholton So. P

Katie Blackston West.Tech Sr. C

Brianna Jones IND Sr. IF

Jackie Merkel Mt. de Sales Sr. IF

A.J. Ponce Atholton Sr. IF

Anna Struhar Century Sr. IF

Brittany Favazza C.M. Wright Jr. OF

Mary Kate Smith John Carroll Sr. OF

Kelsea Zeglin Perry Hall Sr. OF

Note: Teams selected by Glenn Graham after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.

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