Maybe there’ll be a state championship this year. Maybe there won’t be.
But in Anne Arundel County, state-caliber talent will run abundantly.
Glen Burnie and Chesapeake, Class 4A and 3A state runners-up in 2019, respectively, should be as strong as ever. The Gophers will be anchored on the mound by Wynter Radcliffe, now a seasoned senior, who pitched the “coronary kids” to a deep postseason run. The rest of the roster is also thick with seniors, ready to show the county again why they’re as strong as they were two years ago.
Chesapeake lost Haley Downin to graduation but senior Jerzie Nutile, who played a part in the Cougars’ title run, will fill her shoes in the circle, along with junior Kendall Thomas. Six starters return to the Cougars’ ranks.
Severna Park, Class 4A state champions in 2018 and perennially powerful, is also expected to compete in the top echelon. The Falcons didn’t get the chance to rebuild after the loss of one-of-a-kind talent Campbell Kline to the University of Maryland, but will feature experienced players ready to maintain the Falcons’ status.
Old Mill, too, more than likely will surprise a few folks. Eyes are on the Patriots’ seniors, especially shortstop Sheila Kiernan, to lead the way.
Northeast lost numerous seniors to the lost season and will rely on sophomores to fill in the gaps this season. North County, likewise, is expected to continue to make an impact in the county. The Knights are still veteran-led this spring with a strong pitching crew and will be helped by a crew of talented newcomers.
“Losing our season last year was heartbreaking, especially with four senior starters who have been with the program for four years,” North County coach Kelly Guarnieri said. “This year, we experienced low numbers for tryouts, especially for ninth- and 11th-grade student athletes, which in turn has led to a lot of first-time student athletes joining our program.”
Coronavirus has impacted softball, just as it has every sport, and more deeply than axing the 2020 season. Several teams, such as Glen Burnie and Chesapeake, made plans in the event there would be quarantine issues.
“[COVID-19] caused us to have no real conditioning or player development over the winter. We kept a couple of players down at JV in case we need emergency call-ups,” Cougars coach Don Ellenberger said.
County programs found it much more difficult to stir up new talent this year with students being virtual. Southern especially felt a downtick in numbers, having only 16 student-athletes come out this year compared to the typical 30 the Bulldogs normally attract, meaning there will be no junior varsity team this year.
Meade will not field a softball team this year due to low numbers.
For Arundel and Broadneck, the diminished turnouts may sting, but the Wildcats and Bruins still intend to play well.
The AACPS season begins Friday and each team is scheduled to play 12 or 13 games with contests scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Thursdays or Fridays through June 4. No MPSSAA playoff plans have been announced and AACPS might have a playoff event if that does not materialize.
Here’s what to expect from each of the 12 public school programs:
2019 record: N/A
Coach: Emily Farness
Top players: N/A
Leading off: N/A
2019 record: 11-9 overall
Coach: Lisa Mills, eighth season
Top players: Seniors Sam Cinotti (C) and Gretchen Yanss (P/OF); juniors Sierra Williams (1B), Kathryn Wisor (1B), Savannah Brooks (3B) and Sasha Anderson (UTIL).
Leading off: “[We] learned with COVID not to have any [expectations]. [Our] plan is to take advantage of every chance we get to play and enjoy every single moment of it.” — coach Lisa Mills
2019 record: 8-10
Coach: Christina Yeatman, second season
Top players: Seniors Cailyn Dove (3B) and Cori Bereznay (C/3B).
Leading off: “This season is going to be a very different season. While COVID and the season being pushed back has had a drastic effect on our numbers, we are going to have a great season. We are focusing on staying safe and having fun all while continuing to work on the basics and getting better.” — coach Christina Yeatman
2019 record: 14-2, Class 3A state runner-up
Coach: Don Ellenberger, 20th season
Top players: Senior Jerzie Nutile (P/SS); juniors Sophia Bianco (SS), Norah Hart (2B/3B), Allison Pollack (3B/OF), Kendall Thomas (P/1B), Kaitlyn Young (OF) and Devan Wenger (C/INF).
Leading off: “Our returners will keep us competitive while the newcomers compete for positions and playing time. Offensively, we look to our returning starters to allow Nutile and Thomas to carry the pitching load. After not playing last season, Jerzie is ready to finish strong as our only senior.” — coach Don Ellenberger
2019 record: 19-3, Class 4A state runner-up
Coach: Dave Sauble, 12th season
Top players: Seniors Wynter Radcliffe (P), Rosemarie Weidenhof (1B), Lillian Cook (OF), Holly Soto (2B) and Chelsea Coleman (C).
Leading off: “We would love to be the top team in the county this year, and if there is a state tournament, to get there and win it.” — coach Dave Sauble
2019 record: 15-5
Coach: Kelly Guarnieri, seventh season
Top players: Seniors Linsey Voorhese (SS), Courtney Leisner (2B) and Breanna Clayton (P).
Leading off: “With the loss of four starters from last year, North County enters this year with a balance of a few veteran players and a lot of new talent. North County is looking to bring a lot of passion, excitement, and competitiveness into the 2021 season. With returning players, the addition of varsity and junior varsity student athletes, North County is determined to compete with any team we face. Our team is composed of an amazing group of student athletes who love playing this game, and are dedicated to becoming a better team each and every day. " — coach Kelly Guarnieri
2019 record: 9-7
Coach: Joe Hart, 11th season
Top players: Seniors Heather Barlage (C), Tori Bache (1B), Madison Schelfe (SS) and Kiersten Tomshack (2B); juniors Ruthie Williams (3B) and Madison Bonnett (OF); sophomore Caitlyn Cornwell (OF).
Leading off: “With hard work throughout the season, the Eagles should be able to have a solid season. " — coach Joe Hart
2019 record: 9-9
Coach: Steve Montagnino, ninth season
Top players: Seniors Carrigan Bidinger (LF), Olivia Byrd (2B), Ally Carter (OF), Madalynn Cooper (P), Kyla Holmes (RF), Sheila Kiernan (SS), Kaitlyn Matheny (CF) and Miquela Moore (2B/3B).
Leading off: “As always, this league is very competitive. However, Old Mill plans to get on a few radars and raise a few eyebrows.” — coach Steve Montagnino
2019 record: 16-5
Coach: Meredith McAlister, 15th season
Top players: Seniors Peyton Sullivan (OF) and Mackenzie Rice (OF); juniors Livi Driver (3B) and Viktoria Dorn (SS).
Leading off: “[I’m] expecting a powerful and fast offensive lineup and solid defense behind a young pitching staff. Should be a fun season to watch unfold.” — coach Meredith McAlister
2019 record: 3-19
Coach: Lionel Makell, 11th season
Top players: Seniors Selena Sanchez (P/OF), Kayla Watts (CF), Cassidy Hruz (3B) and Justice Washburn (SS); sophomore Olivia Valdez (C).
Leading off: “We will finish our normal position in county, do the best we can to compete in a tough regular county schedule.” — coach Lionel Makell
2019 record: 11-10
Coach: Tim Williams, 13th season
Top players: Seniors Kenzie McLellan (IF), Alyssa Smith (OF) and Catherine Shaffer (2B/OF); juniors Brianna Ford (P) and Jaclyn Bredenkamp (3B/OF).
Leading off: “We hope to stay healthy and compete with everyone.” — coach Tim Williams