When younger softball players step up to challenge older teams, a few things can happen.
The Glen Burnie Outlaws, the Brooklyn Park Blazers and the Harundale Angels are three 16-and-under teams competing also in the county's 18-and-under select league, which has expanded from eight teams last year to 11.
And each of the three teams is achieving a different level of success.
The Angels (5-8 overall, 0-2 against the select league) have entered their first season with a very young team. It boasts just one junior from the county and also has a seventh-grader, Nicole Owe. And because the team got a late start this year, the results have been predictable.
While the Angels are 3-4 in the North County League (16-and-under), the Outlaws have all but clinched the title with an 8-1 record.
In addition, the Outlaws (9-2 overall, 1-1 18-and-under), also in their inaugural season, have managed to hold their own against the more mature players.
Meanwhile the Blazers, with an 18-and-under record of 2-1-1, are way ahead of schedule, having already battled defending Amateur Softball Association state champion Wagner's to a 6-6 tie over 10 innings.
The Blazers also captured a 16-and-under tournament in Clayton (Del.) June 6 that coach Don Brandenburg called "a very big confidence booster." And there was the Blazers' fourth-place finish in the Marylander Tournament, which included a 4-3 loss to defending Pony National Champion Chambersburg (Pa.).
Opting to make room for stiffer tests, Brandenburg said the Blazers did not participate in the North County League.
"We're playing with the very best and we're playing well, but this weekend will be a very big test," said Brandenburg, referring to this weekend's 16-and-under state tournament in Westminster.
The Angels were state runners-up in the 14-and-under tournament a year ago.
"When we first started this team, we were looking at improving over three years," said Brandenburg. "We weren't looking to do this well so soon, but we're way ahead of schedule."
Angles assistant Buddy Dietz said his 16-member team began the season behind schedule. And so far, it is paying the price.
"We didn't start putting the team together until late March and everyone else was already organized by then," said Dietz, the assistant to coach Michael Smith, who is out of town.
Seven players on the Angel roster are non-countians, which Dietz says "has made the [practice and game] scheduling difficult to coordinate."
"We haven't been able to get them playing with each other on a regular basis," said Dietz. "If we can start doing that, I think they can learn to hold their own in tight games. We're not going to beat the Blazers or the Chargers, but we can try our best not to get blown out."
The Angels have suffered one lopsided league loss, 9-0, to the Crownsville Storm. The other league loss came by 7-5 against Linthicum-Ferndale Post 289.
"Basically, we were hoping to surprise a few people, but we have to be realistic," said Dietz. "We're really treating most of our games like scrimmages and building the team for next year."
The Outlaws underwent some growing pains of their own in last weekend's Wagner's tournament, dropping all five of the games they played -- including a 4-3 decision to Riviera Beach, the eventual runner-up to tournament champ Wagner's.
"We showed that we were a good hitting team," said Outlaw coach Ron Nelson.
Nelson said his top hitters are Dawn Faulkner, 13, (Lindale Middle); Cindy Dennsteadt (Old Mill High); and (from Glen Burnie) Denise Warren, Sherri Witt and Kristie Nelson (Ron's daughter).
"We're doing a lot of things very well and we don't have just one player who is a star," said Nelson, whose team next plays host to defending 18-and-under East Regional champion Jade Garden.
"We might have some tough times this season," Nelson added. "But I think next year could be our year."
The Blazers, however, don't want to wait until next year. Not with players like second-team All-County pick Samantha Miller (Glen Burnie) and shortstop T. C. Horney, a starter on North County's Class 4A Region IV runner-up squad.
"This team has shown a lot of class, works hard and never quits," said Brandenburg. "I think we have a very, very bright future."