Better high school softball pitchers may come along in this county, but there may never be a more compelling story than Centennial pitcher Jodi Meitl's.
Meitl's career was marked by a certain symmetry. In her freshman season, she went 17-2, threw five no-hitters, struck out a school-record 214 batters and won Player of the Year honors.
That was followed by two hard-luck seasons. A number of illnesses interrupted her sophomore year, cutting out half her season.
Last spring was a disaster before it started. Meitl lost a close friend in a car accident and suffered serious injuries in the same wreck. She never threw a pitch for Centennial as a junior. She began her comeback 11 months ago.
Meitl wound up her high school career the way she began it -- as the county's dominant pitcher and as the Howard County Sun's Player of the Year.
Subtract Meitl from Centennial's equation, and it is impossible to imagine the Eagles winning their first 19 games, sharing a county championship and winning a regional title.
The old Meitl traits were there all season. Her rising fastball often was unhittable. Her arm never seemed to tire, as she pitched all but three innings of Centennial's season. She overmatched opponents for the most part.
But Meitl's 19-1 record resulted from a different approach to pitching, a smarter approach. Besides being able to throw all of her pitches for strikes, she relied on guile and control more than on the fastball she used repeatedly to blow hitters away three years ago.
In 133 innings, Meitl walked 14 batters and struck out 209. Think about that for a second: For every batter who earned a free pass from Meitl, 15 went down on strikes. Only one batter per 9.5 innings -- nearly a game and a half -- reached base via walk.
On top of that, Meitl surrendered only 46 hits and 14 earned runs. That's an 0.74 ERA. Opponents batted .096 against her.
"She's grown up a lot in the last four years," said Centennial softball coach Dale Huting. "She has shown a lot of strength and character. Some kids who play a sport for four years let up during their senior year. It was the opposite with Jodi. She was more intense than ever this year."
Meitl served early notice that her senior year would be special. She pitched two no-hitters in the same week in April, a feat that earned her a recent "Faces in the Crowd" mention in Sports Illustrated. She went on to throw six one-hitters and 10 shutouts.
And unlike her freshman year, when Huting chose not to let her bat, Meitl excelled on offense as Centennial's cleanup hitter. She hit .467, was second on the team with 20 runs, third with 19 RBI and had an on-base average of .607.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and what she has achieved," Huting said. "She's a very special young lady."
The 1992 Howard County Sun All-County softball team
Player.. .. .. ..Position.. School.. .. .. Year
Kari Chichester..Catcher.. .Centennial.. ..Jr.
Jodi Kielman.. ..Infield.. .Glenelg.. .. ..Soph.
Kelli Butler.. ..Infield.. .Centennial.. ..Jr.
Lory Wineman.. ..Infield.. .Glenelg.. .. ..Jr.
Lisa Oaksmith.. .Infield.. .Oakland Mills..Sr.
Sharon Ford.. .. Outfield.. Howard.. .. .. Jr.
Joy Younce.. .. .Outfield.. Glenelg.. .. ..Jr.
Becky Joeckel.. .Outfield.. Centennial.. ..Sr.
Jodi Meitl.. .. .Pitcher.. .Centennial.. ..Sr.
Lisa Martin.. .. Pitcher.. .Glenelg.. .. ..Sr.
Coach of the Year: Chuck Struhar, Glenelg
Player of the Year: Jodi Meitl, Centennial