He's only been on the job for a couple of weeks, but Broadneck softball coach Bruce Springer understands at least one important aspect ofthe sport.
When talking about sophomore pitcher Kristen Butner, Springer said, "She's young, and she spent a lot of time in the off-season trying to make herself better, because we all understand that's what you have to do in softball. You've got to have a pitcher if you want your team to be successful."
Easier understood than executed.
The Bruins' baseball team lost one of its starters, Johnny Williams, to graduation, but a couple of other proven arms return. Springer, however, isn't sure what he'll receive from his hurler besides effort.
"We've had a couple scrimmages, and I've been very encouraged by her ability to get the ball over," he said. "She doesn't have great speed, but she can spot the ball and be pretty effective that way. And she's only going to get better."
At least one situation at Broadneck already has improved. Springer, who led the Broadneck girls basketball team to the state championship in 1990, is the Bruins' third coach in two years, but he sounds like someone who plans on staying for the long haul.
"I'm more or less taking the same approach that I do in basketball, and that's teach the basics and the fundamentals, and then the rest hopefully will come. And I guess that will probably take time," he said.
Without third-team All-County pitcher/designated hitter Crystal Adams (.444, 14 RBI), who graduated, it probably will take a while for Broadneck's offense to get untracked. But at least senior shortstop Ava Tasker, who batted .400, is back for her senior season.
Springer also likes senior outfielder Jen Jasick, saying, "She'll hit the ball well for us, and she has a little speed, too."
"The girls have been veryreceptive, and they're trying to make the adjustment to another coach," he said. "The seniors should provide some leadership."
On the baseball team, that duty falls mainly to Jeff Vincent and Matt Weimer, who batted .385 and .353, respectively, last season. They also combined for eight wins while sharing time on the mound.
Senior Tim Collins and junior Chris Sutch also can pitch, though they'll see most of their time in the outfield.
"I think we'll be very solid with our pitching and defense. We've got some experience back in those areas," said eighth-year coach Mark Stover. "The key, and it always is for us, is getting the timely hits. In the past, when we'd lose games to Old Mill and some other big teams, we haven't been able to get the key hits."
The Bruins missed the playoffs by one game last year, losing to eventual 4A state champion Arundel in the regular-season finale. And the problem wasn't just an inability to deliver in the clutch.
Stover knows that in order to avoid a repeat finish, Broadneck must get off to a faster start, even with five of its first seven games on the road.
"The past couple of years, we've started slowly and then gotten into a pretty good streak midway to the end of the year. But we end up having to play an Arundel or someone at the end of the year, with the idea of getting into the playoffs. When you get intoa situation like that, the odds are against you," he said.
Broadneck's schedule includes two games with defending 2A state champion Northeast, but Stover is more concerned about his 4A peers.
"Until we beat the Arundels and Old Mills, we can play very good baseball andbeat the others, but we'll always be compared to how we stack up against those other people," he said. "We're very competitive year in and year out, but we need to try to beat some of those ballclubs to be considered a contender."