High school softball preview

LOCAL SPORTS: 1993

March 23, 1993

North County

When we last saw North County, the Knights were trying to pick themselves up after two errors in the 11th inning led to an emotional, 3-2 loss to Chesapeake in the Class 4A, Region IV finals.

It won't be as easy to get back to the title game this spring after graduation stripped the Knights of four first-team All-County talents, including third baseman Tina Armstrong, a first-team All-Metro selection after batting .518 with 20 RBI. Pitcher Karen Hay (14-3, .347), catcher Lisa Garrison (.457, 12 RBI) and outfielder Tonya Kolodziejski (.420, 10 RBI) also departed.

"I don't think you can replace them," said coach Sue Fitchett.

That doesn't mean that all hope, and most games, are lost.

"We're very enthusiastic," Fitchett said. "I think there's a lot of talent here."

Seniors Nicki Faulkner and Kristie Rhinehart and sophomore T. C. Horney are the only returning starters, and Horney is being moved from shortstop to catcher. Faulkner (.310, 19 RBI) and Rhinehart fill two outfield spots, and seniors Nadine Slavin, Amy Hennessey and Brandy Wiedner are vying for the third opening.

"We have an overabundance of outfielders," Fitchett said.

The Knights also have a surplus of sophomores, including pitchers Renee Rhinehart and Jamie Yewell -- both up from the junior varsity.

"I'd never compare either of them to Karen Hay," Fitchett said. "Both work very hard, and they'll learn through game experience. They have good temperaments. It's just a matter of getting used to the hitters, and putting their pitches where we want them."

Other sophomores include second baseman Kelly Hartline and third baseman Michelle Clark.

Senior infielder Jeanette Merrick returns, as does junior Leanne Jones, who will play first after serving more of a utility role last season.

Junior Kristin Sauble, a junior-varsity catcher last year, will work behind the plate and in the outfield this spring. If she emerges as a quality backstop, it will free Horney to play shortstop full-time. Otherwise, Fitchett will have to find someone else to man the position, a task that she rather would avoid.

"We're going to have to rely on speed and defense, and try to have our pitchers adjust to the hitters as we go," Fitchett said. "I think they'll be fine. We're going to surprise a lot of people."

Northeast

"First off, you don't replace a Lynn Pitonzo," said new Northeast head coach Ron Price, who has been answering the same question since taking over for Pitonzo, who retired after 14 seasons.

"It's the same with [baseball coach] Harry Lentz; you just try to succeed them, pick up where they left off and do the best you can with what you've got."

What Price, an assistant for seven years, appears to have this spring is less overall talent and experience than most Pitonzo-coached teams of the past -- the ones that garnered seven state and nine region titles. But there also may be less pressure, since the Eagles were eliminated by Damascus in the Region III finals last spring. There are no lengthy winning streaks or consecutive state-championship runs to be continued.

Price will have to replace Northeast's best player from last season, pitcher Stacy Reynolds, who moved on to Anne Arundel Community College. Another second-team All-County choice, outfielder Jen Vickery, also graduated.

When asked how the team looked so far, Price said, "Not real bad at all. They hustle -- I guess every coach says that -- and they have a pretty fair knowledge of the game. What we're going to have to do is get some holes filled that we have left over."

Price has four seniors returning -- catcher Velvet Farrell, outfielders Jen Delsignore and Robin Konrad (.345, seven steals) and infielder/outfielder Dawn Fish (.571 in 14 at-bats). His

starting pitcher will be either junior Loren Bailey (.412) or sophomore Beth Benner, both of whom also play in the infield.

"With Loren and Beth, we'll be competitive. We just have to take it from there," Price said. "They'll split time until I find that one is more dominant than the other."

Price will rely on sophomore shortstop Jen Johansen (13 RBI, three triples) to drive in some runs and provide sound defense, and he hopes that sophomore outfielder Kelly Marshall -- who moved down to the junior varsity late in the season -- can make an impact.

Among the newcomers is senior first baseman/outfielder Chastity Gorden, who played on Northeast's junior varsity for two seasons before moving to Virginia last year. She joins junior infielder/outfielder Shiela Russo, who Price says "looks like a pretty good prospect."

Up from the junior varsity are juniors Kelly Chishlom (infield/outfield) and Janice Hensel (outfield) and sophomore Kellie Frashure (outfield). Freshman Shana McKinney (infield/outfield) also will stay with the varsity.

Old Mill

Old Mill got off to a 13-0 start last year before faltering down the stretch and losing to North County, 3-1, in the Class 4A, Region IV semifinals.

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