If Bob Broccolino ever decides to leave his position as softball coach at Glen Burnie, he surely could find work as a juggler.
He's gained valuable on-the-job training the past two years while rotating players through an ever-changing lineup disrupted by various injuries and illnesses.
Meanwhile, one player in the county who was a constant at her position this season was Chesapeake hurler Amy Jakubowski, who won 10 games and batted a team-high .507.
Broccolino led his team to the region finals, while Jakubowski's Cougars took their second consecutive4A state championship. And for their efforts this spring, Broccolinoand Jakubowski were chosen the Anne Arundel County Sun Coach and Player of the Year, respectively.
The shuffling of personnel at Glen Burnie found third baseman Melanie Scharf and outfielder Stacey Jordan sharing time behind the plate, second baseman Michelle Ackerman at third, right fielder Dora Taylor in left -- where she had to contend with a blinding sun on the Gophers' home field -- and Michelle Hammerbacher pressed into emergency duty at second.
And still, Glen Burnie won, going 16-4 and coming within one game of the state tournament.
"The biggest challenge was moving people around and making sure we had the strongest team possible on the field and making them believe in themselves," Broccolino said.
"I think a lot of the ease that came with them switching is we practice at a lot of different positions. They'd ask me why, and I'd tell them because you never know what will happen during the season.
"Before a game, I'd tell them that everybody's got to raise their game another notch. I know you can do it, but nobody else knows you can do it. I'd tell them to go out and have fun and prove it. A lot of softball is confidence."
The Gophers' confidence skyrocketed April 17, when they rallied from three runs down to post a 4-3, 16-inning victory over Northeast that halted the Eagles' 64-game winning streak.
The game is known as "the turning point" at Glen Burnie.
"That's when we started jellingas a team," said Broccolino, whose Gophers beat Severna Park and North Countytwice, and Chesapeake and Old Mill once each during the season.
"I thought we had a good chance to go to the states. The girls improved and began doing what they had to do to win."
What they had to doin the region final May 18 was beat a top-seeded Chesapeake team easily playing the best softball in the county. The game was scoreless through four innings, before the Cougars pushed across two runs to seemingly take control.
But the Gophers fought back for a run in the sixth and had the bases loaded with two outs, before Jakubowski induced Scharf to ground to second en route to a complete-game, 5-1 victory.
"Chesapeake was everybody's No. 1 pick before the season started. We split with them in theregular season and had an excellent game in the playoffs. It was very gratifying," Broccolino said.
"No matter what adversity hit us, they never gave up, they never let down. Ican't think of any instance where they thought they were going to lose."
Jakubowski, 18, was unbeatable by season's end, allowing one hit and no runs in blazing through two state-tournament games.
Shedidn't feel so overpowering early in the season.
"I even told Mr.(Coach Dennis) Thiele I probably wouldn't make All-County," she recalled. "He said, 'Yes you will,' but I said, 'No, I won't. I'm terrible.' "
No one believed her, especially opposing batters. The Pasadena resident, heading to Furman University in South Carolina on a softball scholarship, ended the year 10-2 with 135 strikeouts, six walks and a puny 0.33 ERA. She also tossed three shutouts and two no-hitters, including one perfect game.
Those statistics alone would make the hard-throwing right-hander an invaluable contributor to Thiele's juggernaut. But she's just as dominant at the plate, with four home runs and 26 RBI from the No. 3 spot in the order.
"It's very seldom we have a person of her caliber come through the program -- rich in pitching and also with her offensive contributions," Thiele said of his tri-captain, who throws six different pitches. "And seldom have I had a kid come through who, every time she'd come up to bat, I knew something was going to happen."
"Her leadership on and off the fieldwas valued, as well. The kids looked up to her because of her ability on the field, and she led by example off the field."
A four-yearmember of the varsity, Jakubowski knows the timing of the most recent state title couldn't have been better.
"Being a senior, it was very important for me to win it again," she said. "I wanted it bad."
1991 ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY SUN ALL-COUNTY SOFTBALL TEAM
Name... .. .. .... Position.. ... School.. .. .. Class
Amy Jakubowski.. .. Pitcher.. .. ..Chesap... .. ..Senior
Kim Sheridan.. .. ..Pitcher.. .. ..Spalding.. ....Junior
Kristy Zulka.. .. ..Pitcher.. .. ..Northeast.. ...Senior
Stacey Grokas.. ... Catcher.. .. ..Chesap... .. ..Senior
Stacey Matcuk.. .. 1st base.. .. ..Chesap.. .... Senior