This, that and the other:
What a difference a week makes.
Nine days ago, Mount Hebron High School's softball team was a mystery. Thanks to the weather, the Vikings went through the last half of March and the first week of April without a game or even a scrimmage.
Hebron then opened the season April 8 with a 17-0 loss to Northeast (Anne Arundel County), the top-ranked team in the Baltimore metropolitan area, a team with a 63-game winning streak that was going tobeat the Vikings regardless of how prepared they were.
The Vikings can't hide anymore. Not after rebounding with a three-game winning streak. Not after knocking off defending county champion Glenelg, 17-12. Not after scoring 48 runs in those three victories, while no-hitting two opponents.
"Most teams, if they start to jell, they do it after about three or four games," said first-year Hebron coach Harry Reese. "I was worried after the Northeast game. But we bounced right back."
Reese, a 20-year coaching veteran from Baltimore's MSA and Catholic League, assesses the Vikings -- 4-15 last year -- this way: "There's genuine college talent here. My job is to put the right people in the right places, and let them play ball. I'm real pleased withthe attitude of the kids here. It's a lot different than what I'm used to."
Good attitudes aside, Hebron has a strong core of talent, beginning with Player of the Year candidate Dawn Thomas. The big senior has moved from the outfield to the pitcher's mound with great early success, and hasn't left behind her dangerous bat.
Thomas, who came off a superb season (.629, 40 RBI), shows no signs of letting up.She's hitting .643 with eight RBI and seven runs, and already has a double, a triple and a three-run homer in 14 at-bats.
But her arm has made the biggest difference. Thomas took up fast-pitching in earnest last summer with Wagner's, a prestigious traveling team from AnneArundel County. So far she's given the Vikings 26 terrific innings: 10 hits, 11 walks, 26 strikeouts and a cool 0.54 ERA to go with her two no-hitters (over Atholton and Southern of Anne Arundel County).
Her offensive support has been excellent. Catcher Brandee Eckstrom (.643, eight RBI) is proving a capable replacement for senior Melissa Murdza, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Shortstop AngieKress and third baseman Joann Liberto has been solid defensively, and are flirting with the .500 mark at the plate.
"They (Hebron) hitthe living hell out of the ball. They look good," said a convinced Chuck Struhar, Glenelg's coach, who is worried about the Gladiators once-vaunted defense. Glenelg (5-3), which committed just 17 errors in 22 games last year, chalked up 29 miscues in its first seven games, including 11 against Hebron.
Glenelg's brightest spot has been senior center-fielder Shannon McCartney. She's batting .600 with 11 RBI in 20 at-bats, and has four doubles, a triple, four steals and has scored 13 runs. Her
on-base average is .750.
After leading the county wire-to-wire last spring, the Gladiators are chasing this year's new front-runner.
Hebron is no longer a secret. The Vikings suddenly have emerged as favorites to win a county championship.
IfHebron continues tearing up the diamond, the Vikings could achieve aremarkable hat trick this spring: county championships in softball, boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse.
The boys lacrosse team went 6-1 against a tough, non-league schedule that included victories over Mount St. Joe's (8-5), North Harford (8-5), St. Alban's (9-8) and DeMatha (6-4). And the Vikings open the county schedule this week with two games that could decide the title. They play at Hammond today (3:30) and will travel to Howard Friday (7:30) for a much-anticipated clash with the 6-0 Lions.
Howard hasn't beaten the Vikings in six seasons, and will need big games from attackman Scott Frye (18 goals, 18 assists), defenseman Joe Wilson and midfielder Lamont Anderson (13 goals), their faceoff man.
"I hope we can stay with them," said Howard coach Dan Ross. "I've been disappointed in our offense (62 goals insix games). I don't think I've ever lost to a team six times in a row, and it's going to be a long time before we get better than this. I've got nine of 10 seniors starting."
Faceoffs, always important, could prove the difference Friday
night. Anderson is capable, but Hebron's Jason Vettori is the league's best faceoff man. However, Vettori missed three games with a sprained ankle, causing coach Warren Michael to move him to attack, where he promptly scored three goals against DeMatha on Friday. Vettori will share faceoff duty with defenseman Dan Hagan Friday night.
Meanwhile, Hebron's girls team came down to earth last week with losses to John Carroll (6-5) and Seton Keough (13-8), two of the stronger teams in the metro area. The Vikings (3-2) were without starting goalie Beth Streagle against Keough.
"We're still good, but we're not as good as I thought we were," said coach P. J. Kesmodel.
Despite their youth -- the Vikings started four sophomores and a freshman against Keough -- Hebron remains the pick to win a county title. Their most important games come next week, back-to-back, when the Vikes travel to Centennial Tuesday and visit Glenelg Friday.
Buzz Braman, shooting coach for the Philadelphia 76ers, is returning to the county this summer to conduct another Sure Shot Basketball Camp. Braman, who once made 738 consecutive free throws, 246 of 250 college three-point shots and ran a successful campat Centennial High School last year, will visit Hammond High July 8-12.
For information, call 730-1580 or 730-7757, or write The Sure Shot Office, 5036 Dover Court, Columbia 21044.