Larry Alvis says he has two of the "best-kept secrets" in the county playing for his Chesapeake Chargers softball team in pitchers Rachel Synowski and Jaime Long.
But word -- like the opposing batters that each girl faces -- is getting out.
Synowski of Archbishop Spalding High and Long of Chesapeake High are two reasons the Chargers are unbeaten in the county's 18-and-under select league. And why Alvis believes his 16-and-under entry, undaunted by older competition, will make its third straight appearance in the nationals.
"Rachel has pitched, I think, two high school games, and Jaime's pitched maybe one, or half of one. Nobody really knows about them that much," Alvis said.
"They've carried me to the nationals the last two years. With them coming back, that solidifies our pitching."
And it makes the going even rougher on the rest of the league's 11-team field, which includes Lake Shore -- another 16-and-under group that merged with the elder squads -- and Linthicum-Ferndale Post 289.
Looking ahead to this weekend's state tournament in Westminster, Lake Shore coach Jim Parsons said, "Our toughest competition is going to come from the Chesapeake Chargers. They're real tough to beat. They're solid all the way around, with a lot of experience."
Parsons got an early peek at the Chargers in a Memorial Day tournament, where his team lost, 4-1. Chesapeake is 19-2-1 overall, including a first-place finish in the recent Middletown Tournament, and 4-0 in the league.
The Chargers have seven players returning from last year's Central Atlantic Regional championship team, plus six newcomers.
"We have a lot of talent this year. Right now, we're just hoping that talent will blend," Alvis said.
He boasts a nice one-two punch at the top of the order in outfielders Michelle Manner of Chesapeake and Cindy Parulis of Old Mill. Both are right-handed batters whom Alvis has turned around to take better advantage of their speed.
"They slap [at the ball], and their on-base percentage is phenomenal," he said. "And when you've got people like Lori Lynch [Old Mill], Jaime, Rachel, Jennifer Johansen [Northeast], Leanne Jones [North County] and Brandi Conti [Gwynn Park] to knock them in, it just makes it really nice."
So does having infielder Kathleen Legg on the team. She batted more than .400 this spring for Spalding and provides Alvis with another productive hitter in an already explosive lineup.
"We really are blessed this year," Alvis said. "If you bat ninth on this team, you shouldn't be ashamed."
Alvis' main task now is getting some of his players acclimated to different positions. The roster contains five shortstops, and he's trying to make some changes "without anyone feeling like they've been demoted."
"Once we can overcome that, I think we can have a pretty successful season," he said. "I don't think we'll just be happy with going to the nationals. We'd like to win.
"Last year, we beat the Pacific Coast champions, a California team, and that just whet our appetite. We want to go back and do it again, and maybe not just win one game. We want to win as many as we can. If things fall into place, I wouldn't rule us out."
No one is ruling out Lake Shore, either. Parsons' team is 2-2 in the league and went 4-2 in last weekend's hotly contested Wagner's Tournament.
His No. 1 pitcher is his daughter Carrie, who threw for Spalding's junior varsity this spring. She was called up to pitch in one varsity game, during the Palloti Tournament, and fired a one-hitter.
"I have trouble bragging about my daughter, but she's been great," Parsons said. "She can bring it. She can throw the ball as hard as anybody around. I'm talking 16-and-under, 18-and-under, anywhere."
She's backed up by Loren Bailey, who saw limited pitching duty on Northeast's varsity.
"This is really her first year of throwing consistently, and she's coming along very well," the elder Parsons said.
"Our overall strength is in our pitching," he added. "We also have Katie Ochs, who pitched for Chesapeake at the jayvee level -- and they won the jayvee championship -- and Lauren Spears, who was the No. 1 pitcher for the Old Mill jayvee."
On the flip side, Lake Shore is one of the more inexperienced teams in the league, putting it at an obvious disadvantage against a more seasoned opponent like Chesapeake.
"I have four kids that have played at this level before this year. The rest are relatively new," Parsons said. "We're progressing slowly. We haven't peaked yet, I don't believe, and, hopefully, we won't peak for another couple weeks, until we get into our regionals and national qualifiers."
Linthicum-Ferndale coach David Merrick thinks his team is destined for the 18-and-under regionals, even though the program is in its first year. Perhaps a look at his battery brought about the rush of enthusiasm.
Pitcher Traci Koenig of Arundel and catcher Lisa Garrison of North County are proven winners at the high school level. And pitcher/first baseman Jennifer Bush of Southern recently joined the team.