Mixed emotions are on the pitching mounds this season at Archbishop Spalding.
For the Cavaliers' softball team, emotions are running high as windmiller Kim Sheridan returns to the hill for her final campaign.
Sheridan enters the season with 588 career strikeouts and a minuscule earned run average of 0.62. Last season the right-hander struck out 180 batters in 96 innings, leading the Cavaliers to an 18-1 record and sweep of Baltimore Catholic League postseason honors.
"It's a pleasure to watch her do what she does best," said Spalding second-year coach Jim Nemeth. "She's been the bread and butter of the Spalding program for the past three years. When she's on, she's unhittable."
On the bigger diamond, Spalding coach Tom Lind is trying to figure out what he's going to do this season if senior right-hander Pat Calabrese cannot return to the mound. Calabrese is having trouble withhis shoulder and is still questionable.
"If Pat can pitch and be as effective as he was last year, I think we have a decent chance in the (Maryland Scholastic Association) A Conference," said Lind. "Withhim in the lineup,I think we have a chance to be one of the top fourteams in the conference, which gets you in the playoffs, but withouthim, I'm not sure."
If Calabrese can't throw, Lind will be forcedto rely on junior Jeff Paxton to pick up the brunt of the pitching load. Paxton proved last year as a sophomore that he has the right stuff to make it in the league, but with the Cavaliers playing a game every other day in the highly competitive MSA A Conference, he can onlydo so much.
Lind's only other options are seniors Edgar Wright and John Hall. The two outfielders have exhibited solid hitting ability, but lack speed and control on the mound.
"I hope we can win somegames early to give us some confidence, and if we stay healthy, I think we will," said Lind.
"With all the seniors we have, I think wehave a good chance of making it to the playoffs, but without Calabrese, it will be difficult."
Coach Nemeth's optimism stems not only from Sheridan but an infield that includes second baseman Amy Councilman, catcher Jen McKeldin, first baseman Carrie Lycett, third basemanKelly Mabe and shortstop Rachel Synowski.
Councilman and McKeldinboth are four-year starters for the Cavs and both possess excellent defensive skills.
Councilman was perfect in the field last season in 29 tries and was a similarly consistent .309 at the plate.
Lycett, a junior who missed part of last season with a knee injury, led Spalding in hitting her freshman year with a .384 average and was batting .360 last year before her injury.
Sheridan should help her owncause again this year. Last season she batted .320 while driving in 14 runs.
Nemeth believes his team is capable of winning all of itsballgames if it can meet some of his lofty goals.
He also hopes that his squad will be recognized in the polls for its efforts.
"Weset a goal this year to make no mental or physical errors," said Nemeth. "To do that, we need to focus on every pitch, every game. Our infield has to stay on its toes and never take Kim for granted.
"We've been criticized in the past that we don't play anybody, and that'swhy we weren't ranked real high, but this year we're playing all thehigh-caliber teams. If we can win all our games with this schedule, there should be no denying us one of the top spots."