Three of the five Glen Burnie starters who graduated from last year's 16-4 softball team sat behind the backstop and watched this year's version in amazement.
Not only did the Gophers rack up 11 hits foryesterday's season-opening 8-0 win over the highly touted Severna Park squad, but freshman hurler Samantha Miller gave up just one hit with no walks and three strikeouts in her first varsity game.
All this against a home-standing Falcon squad that returned its pitching ace, sophomore Jen Spampinato, and graduated just one player from a 14-5 team that lost, 4-0, to the Gophers in the Class 4A Region IV semifinals.
A second-team All-County selection who went 11-5 last season, Spampinato yielded seven hits and two walks, and three strikeouts the last time she faced the Gophers. Yesterday, she walked four batters and struck out five on 122 pitches. But the Gophers, it seemed, had her number.
"She didn't do a good job of getting aheadof the hitters, but she'll get better," said Severna Park's first-year coach Wayne Mook. "We made (two) errors today, but I don't think we hit the ball as well as we could have."
Said Glen Burnie's designated hitter Stacey Jordan, "This was a total surprise because they were veterans compared to us." The senior went 4-for-4 with three RBI and scored three runs.
Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolino said, "I figured we could beat them, but I figured it would be a lot closer, like 2-1, or 3-2. But 8-0, with four ninth-graders and two sophomores on our team? Yeah, I'm surprised."
At first, things looked like they would go well for Spampinato. Her first five heaters were strikes and she retired the first two batters, including a strikeout of first-team All-County outfielder Erin Sutton, who went just 1-for-4 and scored a run.
But the third batter, Heather Smith, singled on Spampinato's fastball, and Jordan hit the next heater for a run-scoring triple to left-center field to make it 1-0. Miller then singled on a changeup to score Jordan.
The score remained, 2-0, until the sixth, when Smith (3-for-4, with an RBI) scored the second of her three runs after catcher Jill Natwick overthrew third base.
It was 4-0 after Jordan singled, stole second, went to third on a fielder's choice and scored on a single by Carrie Lippert.
"I was really surprised at how well we were able to hit," said Jordan, who is coming off of a mild shoulder injury. "She moved the ball around the plate really well, but we just made good contact."
The Falcons botched their two bestchances to score, leaving Alicia Conine and Spampinato stranded on third base in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively.
In the victory, which gives the Gophers an edge over the Falcons in the Friendship Division, the speedballing Miller's performance hardly resembledthat of the finesse-oriented Mandy Albrecht's in the last meeting between the two teams.
Albrecht (10-4, 0.53 ERA), now at Towson State, fanned 13 Falcons -- 10 of them swinging -- relying mostly on guile and change-ups.
"Basically, I used all fastballs and I only usedthe change-up once," said Miller, who took her signals from senior Janine King. "I was very nervous at first, but after the first inning,I started settling down."
King spent the majority of last season on the bench behind second-team All-County catcher Lee Mallonee, who along with first-team selection Michelle Ackerman (second base) and Melanie Scharf (third base) were on hand to witness the game.
"Janine only got to call two games last year, so I thought she did very well today," said Broccolino, last year's Anne Arundel County Sun Coachof the Year.