WESTMINSTER — A veritable tidal wave swept in from Howard County and swamped the opposition at last weekend's National Softball Association girls stateslow-pitch championships at the Carroll County Sports Complex.
And when that wave receded Sunday evening, it had carried off all four divisional titles in what may be the first-ever state youth championship tournament in the county.
The four winning Howard teams made their entrance dressed in blueand gold, sporting names like "Terminators," "Hurricanes" and "Hawks."
And they played with the ferocity implied by those names.
Carroll teams fought valiantly to hold back the tide as two of them made it to championship-game showdowns.
But in those two contests theWestminster Rockets lost to the Terminators, 13-2, in the 14-and-under finale, and the Hampstead Heat dropped an 11-8 decision to the Hurricanes in the 12-and-under championships.
The Hampstead Panthers placed third in the 16-and-under division.
The Hampstead Hammers and Westminster Rockets were fourth in the 14-and-under and 12-and-under brackets, respectively.
And the Westminster Rockets and Silver Run Nuggets were fifth in the 10-and-under and 16-and-under brackets,respectively.
While none of these Carroll squads took home a champion's trophy, all earned consolation prizes -- berths in the NSA youth world series, a national tournament scheduled for Charlotte, N.C.,and Rock Hill, S.C., July 24-28.
World series slots were given tothe top five finishers in each age bracket, which means that most ofthe 25 participants in the NSA affair can go if they wish.
Many area coaches, though, won't decide until after this weekend's Amateur Softball Association girls states, which will be played in and aroundWestminster.
NSA state youth director and tournament coordinator Larry McElroy said the primary reason for Howard's tournament successis the fact "there is only one (softball) program for that county, and everybody feeds it."
He also extended due credit to Howard's softball program organizers.
On the other hand, Carroll teams generally are drawn from their respective in-house programs, and these usually have fewer participants than Howard gets.
In fact, Coach KeithHeindel of the Hampstead Panthers 16-and-under team said his 12-player squad was drawn from only 17 or 18 girls in the Hampstead in-houseprogram who qualify.
Nevertheless, county girls teams have won several state championships in recent years, and most coaches look forward to rematches with their Howard tormentors in this weekend's ASA state tourney.
However, one county youngster, Kristy Gracey, was a big winner in last weekend's tourney.
The Hampstead Heat shortstopwas named MVP of the 12-and-under bracket in a poll of coaches.
Courtenay Wunderlich, who played shortstop for the Westminster Rockets12-and-under team, was runner-up MVP in her division, and Hammer left-fielder Laura Watson was second in the 14-and-under division.
The Rockets 14-and-under squad won its Saturday opener, and led the Terminators, 4-0, in the third inning of their first meeting Saturday afternoon.
But the visitors roared back to win, 16-6.
Laura Braun's two-run single keyed the Rockets' 5-1 win over Perry Hall in Sunday's losers' bracket finale, but the Terminators roared to an 8-2 leadover Westminster after two innings in the championship game and never looked back.
Rocket coach John McLain said the 10-run margin of defeat in Saturday's game undercut his players' confidence in the finale.
But he thinks they can rebound this week.
"We need to playtight defense and score a couple of runs," he said.
Hampstead Heat coach Jim McMahon said pretty much the same thing about this weekend's second half of the state championship softball double-header.
"We have to keep working on the fundamentals and hope everything turns out next weekend," he said.
McMahon's team opened Saturday with two lopsided wins before getting blown away by the Hurricanes, 21-3, Saturday afternoon.
Then, after edging Catonsville, 7-6, the Heat was knotted, 3-3, against the Hurricanes after four innings in the finals.
But the Howard team erupted for eight runs in the fifth, anda five-run Heat rally in the sixth was too little, too late.
"I felt we could beat them," McMahon said. "We beat them, 12-2, in the (Westminster Jaycees softball tournament) last weekend.
"We annihilated everybody last week. But that's the way it is with girls this age," he added, trying somehow to explain his team's turnaround.
Westminster's 12-and-under Rocket team won two straight in the losers' bracket after losing its opener.
But the Rockets blew a 7-5 lead in the seventh inning against the Catonsville A team and were eliminated.
"Last weekend, Catonsville beat us 14-5," said Westminster coachJerry Georgiana.
Carroll youngsters making all-tournament teams were Trish Young and Crystal Utz, Westminster 10-and-under; Kristina Crouse, Hampstead Heat 12-and-under; Wunderlick and Brittany Mayfield,Rockets 12-and-under; Laura Braun, Heather Mundy and Shalisse Magruder, Rockets 14-and-under; Stephanie Bollinger from Silver Run; and Francine Hewes, Hampstead Panthers 16-and-under.