Pitching should again make John Carroll the team to beat

March 29, 1993|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

A returning pitcher can make all the difference in high school softball, and John Carroll returns one of the best.

Senior left-hander Bonnie Lawson has been among the county's top pitchers for two years, and now she is in a class by herself. With tremendous speed and control to match, Lawson is expected to lead the Patriots to the county title.

Last year, the Patriots shared the title with Aberdeen, but the Rams lost their ace, Rachel Cassady, to graduation. Junior Jackie Elliott takes over, but she will have to prove herself.

Bel Air's Amy Finlayson also could pitch her team into contention, and C. Milton Wright's Jen Lewis should keep the Mustangs in the hunt.

While the top teams haven't changed much, the county schedule certainly has. Instead of playing a double round-robin county schedule to determine a champion, each team will play just one league game against each opponent.

The Class 1A teams still will play each other twice, and the Class 3A and Class 2A teams will play each other twice.

The change was made to give Class 3A and Class 2A teams a chance to schedule more games against teams in a higher classification, so they can accumulate more points toward a regional playoff berth. Teams receive the most points for a win over a Class 4A team and the fewest for a win over a Class 1A team.

While the coaches of Class 3A teams like the change, coaches of some Class 1A teams are unhappy with it.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Havre de Grace coach Tom Trafton. "It shoots our county schedule to pieces. We should hold the county championship over this regional stuff.

"I enjoyed playing teams twice. Now, we don't get that competition without playing Bel Air, C. Milton Wright, North Harford, Edgewood and Aberdeen twice."

But the team that is probably hurt the most is John Carroll. Because the Patriots don't belong to the state association and can't advance to a regional playoff, they aim only for the county title.

The Patriots are a preseason favorite for the county title, but they can't play their top rivals, Aberdeen, Bel Air and C. Milton Wright, twice.

But coach Neal Drexel, whose team is ranked No. 8 in The Baltimore Sun's preseason top 15 softball poll, has another problem. Since the Patriots are so successful, few public school coaches want to schedule them because the public school teams probably would lose, and even if they won, there wouldn't be many points to be gained.

Instead Drexel had to go to the Catholic League to get teams like No. 2 Archbishop Spalding, Mount de Sales and No. 11 IND to fill out his schedule.

Aberdeen Eagles The Eagles are coming off a 15-5 season and a trip to the state Class 3A semifinals, but they lost to graduation the pitcher who guided them there.

For Janie Robinson's squad, the rebuilding starts on the mound. Hard-throwing ace Cassady is gone, and junior right-hander Elliott takes over.

A converted catcher who did some pitching last season, Elliott could come along quickly after honing her skills at pitching clinics and on three fast-pitch teams last summer. Her control is pretty good and her speed is improving.

"If Jackie pitches within herself, some people will be very surprised," said Robinson, in her 23rd season with the Eagles.

The Eagles, who finished last year ranked No. 10 by The Baltimore Sun, will need to play a little more defense this year. The outfield looks solid with senior veterans Lisa Williamson, Krista Matherly and Michelle Motley.

In the infield, two more senior starters return. Michele Bennett and Melody Doran have the corners covered at first and third base, respectively. Junior Tonia Morehead moved up from JV for the playoffs and will play second and sophomore Billie Jo Sills moves up to take over at short.

Behind the plate, junior Tinisha Moore will handle Elliott while Rochelle Brown works her way back from injury. Junior Ida Hernandez will play a utility role, and sophomore Amanda Agnew might break into the starting lineup somewhere in the infield.

Defensively, the Eagles should be solid in the outfield and on the left side of the infield, but the right side hasn't been tested.

Bel Air Bobcats The Bobcats have the up-and-coming pitcher in junior Finlayson, and that should help them recover more quickly from losing six starters to graduation.

Finlayson has improved her speed and added a couple of pitches. The right-hander turned in some impressive performances but should be more consistentthis year.

Coach Val Cooper is juggling most of her lineup, but her three other returning starters will retain their spots. Junior Danielle Rhode will start at short, and seniors AnneMarie Linnett and Tasha Rice return to the outfield.

Seniors Sara Daniels and Dana Enlow will battle for the third outfield position, and Jamie Kocher could see action there, too.

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