This, that and the other:
Mount Hebron's baseball team did itselfand the rest of the county -- except Atholton, that is -- a big favor Wednesday. The Vikings proved the Raiders are beatable after all.
For the first three weeks of the season, Atholton looked like theclass of the county by far. But Hebron's 4-1, eight-inning victory in finals of the Atholton Tournament brought the Raiders back to earth.
"We've been looking for a signature game, something we could look at and say, 'Hey, we're as good as we think we are,' " said Hebron coach Dave Appleby. "And we finally didn't give away a game."
Thistime the Raiders, who usually are solid defensively, provided the gifts. They committed three errors in the top of the eighth inning behind relief pitcher Richard Blankenship, allowing three unearned runs. That spoiled a fine effort by starter Bryan Egolf, who hurled seven, no-hit innings for Atholton.
Hebron (3-2, 6-4) southpaw Alan Vandenberge outpitched Egolf by going the distance. Working quickly and changing speeds constantly, Vandenberge allowed three hits, four walks and recorded 10 strikeouts in eight innings.
"We're not playing well. We're certainly not hitting well," said Atholton coach Kevin Kelly.
The loss doesn't come as a shock, since the Raiders have slipped lately. In the tournament semifinals, Atholton could not produce a clutch hit against Hammond. Despite nine hits, Atholton squeaked by with a 2-1 victory. Four days earlier, the Raiders barely defeated Wilde Lake, 6-5.
"We pounded some teams early. Now, we're losing thatmental edge," Kelly said. "Teams we handled can look at us now and think they've got a good shot to beat us."
Still, it will be tough to handle Atholton as the season swings into its final three weeks. The Raiders are batting .329, their five-man pitching staff has workedto a 2.36 ERA, they have speed and should play good defense consistently.
Brian Hannah (.438, 17 runs, 10 steals) has been an excellent catalyst. Billy Mills (.367, 12 RBI), Brian Smith (.323, 10 RBI), Mark Trecannelli (.462, 10 RBI) and Brian Van Deusen (.471, 12 RBI) have knocked in two-thirds of the Raiders' runs.
And the one-two pitching punch of Egolf (4-0, 2.01 ERA, 41 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings)and Brian Gick (3-1, 1.04, 41 strikeouts in 27 innings) remains the best in the county.
While the baseball race shows signs of getting interesting, the softball county title hunt is shaping up into a two-team affair -- Centennial and Glenelg.
Centennial (7-0) is riding the arm and great comeback of senior pitcher Jodi Meitl. After a phenomenal freshman season that saw her win Player of the Year honors, Meitl went through two hard-luck springs. As a sophomore, she missed half the season with an assortment of illnesses. Last year, she missed the entire season while recovering from injuries she received in a serious car accident.
Although her velocity appears to be a bit slower than in the past, Meitl still has been overpowering and has maintained superb control. In a recent, three-victory stretch over Atholton, Hammond and Oakland Mills, she threw two no-hitters, allowed one hit, one earned run, one walk, and struck out 32 in 21 innings.
Glenelg (5-1) is the only team that can beat Centennial, which the Gladiators should have done two weeks ago. Instead, they blew a 5-0 lead against the Eagles before losing, 6-5.
Although senior pitcherLisa Martin is a smart, fierce competitor, she is no Meitl. Glenelg compensates with more speed and better defense.
One fast-emerging Glenelg player is sophomore first baseman Jodi Kielman, who already has 14 RBI. In victories over Hammond, Atholton and Mount Hebron last week, Kielman collected a double, two triples, a home run and 10 RBI,while scoring seven runs and stealing six bases.
The county titleprobably will be decided when these two meet again at Centennial on Wednesday, April 29.
Meanwhile, the girls lacrosse picture looks one-sided. With six games remaining in the regular season, all arrows point to Mount Hebron.
The Vikings are 8-0. They have outscored their opponents, 127-56. They appear to be a lock to win their fourth county championship in the five-year history of girls lacrosse.
Everything is clicking with Hebron. For starters, its multifaceted offense has given opponents matchup nightmares. Five players already have scored in double figures: Megan Drake (30 goals, seven assists),Lori Pasquantonio (24 goals, 10 assists), Cathy Nelson (17, seven), Amy Fine (17, nine) and Andrea Cuzmanes (14, nine). Even freshmen Erin McGinnis (five, nine) and Lynette Chastant (six, three) are gettinginto the act.
Hebron's two-goalie team of Beth Streagle and Ali True has also been impressive, averaging 12 saves a game between them.
The only team that appears capable of beating Hebron is defendingClass 2A champion Loch Raven, which dumped the Vikings in the state semifinals last year.