He knew all about the strong left arm and the four-pitch repertoire. He also heard about the questionable attitude and other harsh accusations.
But Severna Park softball coach Paul Yannuzzi reserved judgment on southpaw pitcher Jen Spampinato until he had seen the freshman for himself.
And how he likes what he has seen thus far.
Spampinato, 14, finally suffered her first loss of the season Friday when Old Mill hammered out three hits and the games only runs in the fourth inning in a2-0 Patriots' victory. But her 4-1 record is only partially responsible for Yannuzzi's peace of mind.
"I heard a whole lot of stuff about Jen Spampinato this winter -- attitude problem, not a closer, always injured, doesn't have heart," he said. "This kid is terrific, nota problem with her. Her teammates like her and she's a hard worker. If you tell her to do 50 sit-ups, she does 75. She's a super kid.
"And I'll tell you what, when she's a junior, people are going to forget about a lot of pitchers. She'll be the top pitcher in the county."
Spampinato had retired nine straight before Pam Williams (two hits) led off the fourth with a single to center. After Chris Baer was retired on a bouncer to the mound, junior Jen Schmittle roped a one-hop triple off the left-field fence.
"I said I wanted it high and outside and it got high and inside and Schmittle destroyed it," said Yannuzzi, who calls all the pitches.
"I knew Jen Schmittle could hit," Spampinato said. "She got that hit and I was like, 'Oh, God.' I knew it was coming."
Schmittle apparently didn't realize how far she had driven the ball until informed by her coach, Debbie Shacklock.
"She just hit it and ran. When I said to her, 'You know you just missed that fence out there,' she was like, 'Did I really?' But then the next time up she was trying to do it again," Shacklock said.
"Some of them want to hit the ball a long way every time they come up and it's not going to happen. They just have to make the contact and hope the ball's going to go."
Making contact against either pitcherwas a chore.
Spampinato only allowed five hits -- including a run-scoring single by Denise Zellers in the fourth -- and struck out six. It was only the second time in five outings that she had given up more than four hits.
Half her strikeouts came on a paralyzing change-up that she effectively mixes with a fastball that has been clockedas high as 53 miles an hour.
"She also throws a drop and a riser,but I think she's too young to be throwing four pitches right now," Yannuzzi said.
The Severna Park batters only managed four hits offSchmittle, who picked up her third win of the season. She also struck out 10.
After giving up a bloop single to lead-off batter Shani Cannon in the first inning, Schmittle didn't allow another baserunneruntil two outs in the third, when Cannon tripled to deep left-center.
Yannuzzi, who was coaching third, initially waved the senior home, but stopped her halfway down the line after an outstanding relay from center fielder Cindy Davenport, to Baer at shortstop, to catcher Lori Lynch.
"If Baer had bobbled it even a little bit, Shani was in. But Baer caught the ball and she has a good arm and I knew Shani would be out on the throw and I didn't want to take a chance on it. Itwas a perfect relay," Yannuzzi said.
The rally ended when Jill Natwick struck out on a high fastball.
Schmittle fanned the first two batters in the fourth inning before Alicia Conine slapped an opposite-field double to left. But Wendy Snyder bounced out to Schmittle.
Old Mill twice got a runner to third with one out and failed to score, once in the sixth inning. Schmittle popped up and Jen Dorr was robbed of a RBI hit on a lunging, shoe-string catch by reserve left fielder Tiffany Matthews.
More trouble arrived in the seventh, when an error and an Amy McKenzie single put Old Mill runners on first and second with two outs. But again, Spampinato wriggled off the hook, this time inducing Lynch to fly out to medium center.
Yannuzzi called the game "a learning experience" for a team with just one senior --Cannon -- and a 5-1 record built primarily against weak opponents.
"We had not played well all year long. We just played well enough to win, but never really, really super well. Today we played our best game of the year," he said.
Old Mill has won two in a row and is 5-3 overall, 5-2 vs. 4A League competition.
"I think their confidence has everything to do with it," Shacklock said.
"I knew they could play and do a good job and be equal with everybody else, but they didn't believe in themselves. Now, they're starting to believe. They're feeling comfortable with each other and with the way I coach them."