Tom Smith's easiest chore as first-year softball coach at Anne Arundel Community College is determining a starting lineup for each game.
A nine-player roster doesn't leave much room for tinkering.
So perhaps continuity will become the Pioneers' strength in 1991.Depth certainly isn't in the running.
"I'm working on getting a couple other girls to come out and play," said Smith. "Unfortunately, I haven't been successful so far, but I'll pick up a couple more.
"It's difficult to get girls to commit unless they know they're goingto play a lot. These nine know they're going to play."
Every single game.
"Well, last year we only had 10 people, but it's different coming in the second year because you expect to have more, but it'snot going to be that way," said first baseman Amy Hercha, a Glen Burnie graduate and one of only three players returning from last season.
"We had more talent last year, but this team is having more fun and really wants to win. But we've got to work at it a little bit more than we did last year."
The Pioneers were 12-5 last spring underCoach Sharon Corbett, who resigned in June after an 11-year association with the program. Smith was chosen as her replacement last month while completing his inaugural season as the college's women's basketball coach.
Smith's softball background isn't particularly extensive -- he's worked as a coach and clinic director in the Cape St. Claire youth organization -- but he certainly knows his personnel.
Sixof his nine players were involved with the women's basketball program. The number included Chrissy Finkner, who served as a trainer.
With a large portion of the team getting a late start on the softball season, it's little wonder the Pioneers were beaten, 10-4, in their home debut last Friday against Prince George's Community College.
"With us rolling out of basketball and right into softball, we didn't have much of a chance to practice," Smith noted. "We went right in and played P. G. without scrimmaging, which makes it rough, too."
The conditions especially were rough on freshman pitcher Amanda Bates (Severna Park), who walked 12 and gave up eight hits in absorbing the loss.
"With me coaching basketball and getting a late jump on softball, that probably hurt Amanda more than anyone," Smith said.
"She also had a death in the family a week before the season started, and she didn't get to throw much that week. Plus, it was a cold day, and that bothered her a little bit.
"She just hasn't gotten to pitchthat much."
She will. No one else on the team is challenging her for the job.
"I wasn't planning on playing, actually," said Bates,a three-year member of Severna Park's varsity. "I've only been throwing regularly for about two weeks now, and I'm used to throwing all-year-round. It's hard to get out there after not throwing for so long."
"I think she's going to do well,"Smith said. "I liked what I sawin the first game; she just had a problem putting the ball over the plate. She just needs to get her control down, and that will come in time.
"She had a rough time with the strike zone, but she was throwing hard and she looked good."
Bates has the luxury of working with a top-flight catcher in Sandi Young, an All-County outfielder at Andover who was the battery mate of former Broadneck hurler Kendall Wall last year. Wall since has moved on to the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.
"Sandi's a big strength behind the plate, a real good athlete. I'm looking for her to have a good year," Smith said.
Young expects Bates to do likewise once the freshman's confidence level rises.
"She's not as fast as Kendall and gets a little rattled when she throws a couple balls, but when she calms down, she'll be all right," Young said.
The other returnee from last season is second baseman Michele Tringali (Northeast). She's joined in the infield by shortstop Nikki Beall (Meade) and third baseman Katie Laidley (Severna Park) -- both members of the basketball team.
The outfield, from left to right, consists of Finkner, Stacey Dent (South River)and Rhonda DeShaw (Andover).
Hercha knocked in three runs Friday,and Young -- the team's clean-up hitter -- went 3-for-3 and accounted for the fourth run.
"Last year, I didn't bat too well in the first few games and had a DH hit for me the rest of the season," said Hercha, who injured her left ankle while sliding into second base, but was back at practice yesterday.
"I worked a lot on my hitting thissummer on my (Jade Garden) summer league team, and I'm more confident now that I can do better."
Her next opportunity comes Friday afternoon, when Anne Arundel travels to Harford Community College for the first of three straight road games. The Pioneers don't return home until March 22, when they play a doubleheader against Hagerstown.
"It's rough that we only have one pitcher, and no one backing anyone up, but it's an excellent group," Smith said.
"Barring injuries, we'll be OK. I'm looking forward to a good year from them."