This, that and the other:
Ladies and gentlemen, we present the most scrambled high school softball season in recent memory.
As the county schedule winds into the second round, we find no signs of the two-team races that have characterized the league since the mid-1980s.
This spring finds a refreshingly wide-open field of five -- Glenelg, Mount Hebron, Hammond, Howard and Centennial -- vyingfor the county title.
We'll start with defending champion Glenelg. The Gladiators started off on the wrong foot by losing to Mount Hebron, but have rebounded with six straight victories. They looked shaky in a 7-5 win over Howard, but may have turned a corner with a 1-0, extra-inning decision over Centennial nine days ago.
Hebron (5-1 in county) knocked off Glenelg, then won four more games before Howardbrought the Vikings back to earth last week, 6-2.
The Vikings maynot have sole possession of first place anymore, yet they remain thecounty's most improved team and have the league's top player in pitcher/hitter extraordinaire Dawn Thomas. Still, unless JoAnn Liberto returns soon -- she fractured a finger diving into first base two weeksago -- the Vikings may fade.
Then there's Hammond, the next most improved team with Jen "The Other" Thomas. Hammond owes much of its 4-1 county record -- its best start ever --to Thomas, who leads the team in batting average (.429), runs (12), hits (13), RBI (10) and has given the Bears excellent pitching. Her three-hit, one-walk, 14-strikeout performance led Hammond to a 5-1 victory at Centennial last week, Hammond's biggest victory in years.
Speaking of Centennial, the Eagles (3-3 county record) have already dealt with a season's worth of hard luck.
First, they lost star pitcher Jodi Meitl for the season to injuries sustained in a tragic automobile accident. Then they lost a 5-4 heartbreaker to Hebron, thanks to Linda Colder's lunging, game-saving catch in right field with the winning run on second base. Two days later, they lost the 1-0 game to Glenelg. The Eagles may be reeling, but don't count them out. Not the way Lindy Mellendick (2.00ERA in 77 innings) is pitching.
Finally, Howard made its presencefelt with a 6-2 victory over Hebron last week, after the Lions had dropped games to Glenelg and Centennial.
The Lions are 4-2 in the county, thanks largely to four players -- third baseman Krista Fulton (.450, 13 runs, nine RBI), shortstop Holly Stover (.342, seven RBI), right fielder Tarah Principato (.416, seven runs) and pitcher Andrea Nolan, who is averaging eight strikeouts a game to go with a respectable 3.19 ERA.
The next two weeks promise to be interesting. We could see first place pass through the hands of each of these teams.
Bank on this: No one is walking away with the county championship.
Prediction: The title will be decided Monday, May 13, when Glenelg travels to Hebron and beats the Vikings in a low-scoring rematch.
The injury to Centennial girls lacrosse player Megan McGowan isn't as serious as first believed. McGowan went down in the opening minutes of the Eagles' 17-10 loss to Mount Hebron with an ankle injury, and coach Gail Purcell feared the ankle was broken. A medical exam revealed a bad sprain, yet McGowan might not play again this year. She could return this week, but Purcell didn't sound enthused about that prospect.
"There's no point in rushing her. She's got four years (of college lacrosse) ahead of her," Purcell said of McGowan, a senior."I don't want to see her come out too soon and reinjure it."
McGowan leads Centennial (4-3) with 18 goals and five assists in six games.
Some offseason notes:
The National Football League may have passed up Jack Bradford in last week's draft, but that didn't keep the Washington Redskins from calling. Bradford, the former Wilde Lake standout and two-year starter at linebacker for Maryland, signed a free agent contract with the Redskins Tuesday. Bradford, 6-feet-1, 220 pounds, will try out for the Skins this summer.
And speaking of Wilde Lake, coach Doug DuVall's 1990 state championship football team continues to reap financial rewards. Len Cotter, the Wildecats' center who ranks in the top 10 percent of his senior class, is headed to
Johns Hopkins on an academic scholarship. Oba McMillan will accept a full scholarship to either Harvard or Princeton. Both will play football.
Last year's Wildecats produced eight scholarship winners, whose financial packages total nearly $500,000.
What's more, DuVall did some checking and discovered the following. In his 17 years as head coach at Wilde Lake, DuVall says the Wildecats have earned 60 scholarships, worth an estimated $2.5 million.
Finally, we couldn't let the spring go by without mentioning the continuing exploits of Amy Mallon at the University of Richmond.
Mallon, arguably the greatest girls basketball player to come out of Howard County -- she ledMount Hebron to state titles in 1986, 1987 and 1988 -- wound up a great season for the Spiders. Richmond went 26-5, won the Colonial Athletic Association title and the CAA tournament.
Mallon, a 5-10 junior small forward, led the team in rebounding (8.1 average) and assists (3.9) and was second in scoring (13.3). She earned First Team All-CAA honors and was the Player of the Game in the Spiders' 88-70 victory over East Carolina in the CAA tournament championship game.