California has the defending champion in the Gordon Panthers from La Palma and seven other entries in 70-team field in the Amateur Softball Association girls 18-and-under national fast-pitch double-elimination softball tournament that begins tonight in Columbia.
But Maryland has high hopes and four teams in the running fothe championship.
Three of those teams -- Tangerine Machine, Wagner's and JadGarden -- are from Anne Arundel county and the other -- Lewistown Tigers -- is from the Frederick County town of Lewistown. The Tangerine Machine and the Tigers are the tournament hosts.
Lewistown coach Steve Linger said last night that he believes the Tigers (42-24-2) won't be fazed by the big-name teams from California.
"A lot depends on pitching, and we have two of the best pitchers on the East Coast," said Linger. "And we have strong defense and outstanding hitting throughout the lineup. I can't single out any hitters over the others."
Linger is counting on four-year veteran pitchers Marci Whiteheaand Carol Ewan to carry the Tigers. Whitehead and Ewan are averaging six strikeouts and only one walk this season.
Other top players on the Tigers, according to Linger, arcatchers JoAnne Ferguson and Keli Rousseau, third baseman Joy Kuchen and center fielder Wendy Barrett.
Linger said his Lewistown team is coming off 1-0 victories over Wagner's and Jade Garden last weekend in the Maryland-Canadian tournament in Chalfont, Pa., giving him a lot of reason to be optimistic this week in Columbia.
"Those shutouts were impressive since they came over two teams who are champions," said Linger. "Wagner's is the Maryland state champion, and Jade Garden is the Central Atlantic Regional champs."
ASA National fast-pitch softball
What: 18-and-under girls national double-elimination tournament
When: Opening ceremonies tonight at 6 at Cedar Lane Park through championship game Sunday at 2 p.m.
Where: Seven fields at Cedar Lane Park and Centennial Park in Columbia
Who: 70 teams from 24 states
Local teams: Tangerine Machine, Wagner's and Jade Garden Bandits from Anne Arundel County, and Lewistown Tigers from Frederick County
Defending champion: Gordon Panthers of LaPalma, Calif.