W. Maryland women aim for the top Coach calls team strongest in 5 years WMC softball preview

April 01, 1993|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

George Dix has seen steady improvement in each of his first four seasons as coach of the Western Maryland College softball team.

The Green Terrors' 3-14 record in 1989 -- Dix's first season -- was the only losing one in his tenure. Last year, Western Maryland tTC finished 21-6 and won its first Middle Atlantic Conference-Southwest section title since 1983.

Two extra-inning losses in the MAC double-elimination tournament have left them looking for more this season.

"All they've talked about since last season is not just getting back to the MACs, but winning it all," said Dix. "Our biggest asset is our attitude. They're ready to do whatever it takes -- giving me 100 percent -- and it should carry us a long way."

Dix is convinced this year's team is the strongest he has had with 11 letter winners back -- seven of whom are starters -- and a handful of new faces more than capable of filling in the holes.

What's equally impressive is the fact that he has only one senior on the squad in first baseman and tri-captain Wendy Bollinger.

"I'm really excited and pleased with what we have. Every year we've gotten better and better," Dix said. "With 11 returnees out of 14 and only one senior, we should be hanging around for a long time."

The Green Terrors, ranked seventh in the NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Region preseason poll, appear solid in all phases, particularly on the mound with junior tri-captain Marilyn Naas and sophomore Jennifer Stewart.

Naas was a MAC All-Star in 1992 after going 11-3 with two shutouts and a 1.35 ERA. She completed all of her 14 starts and walked only nine batters. She also led the team in batting at .431.

Naas struggled in the Green Terrors' season-opening loss Saturday against Franklin & Marshall. Rain was the main factor as she walked three batters and hit another in F & M's five-run sixth. The game was stopped in the top of the seventh.

Dix says the Green Terrors don't miss much when they send Stewart to the mound. She had a 10-3 record and a 1.96 ERA in her freshman season, and batted .310.

"Having two quality pitchers is a plus," Dix said. "Naas is a control pitcher who did a great job for us last year. She won 11 and Stewart won 10, so we really aren't losing much. We also have a strong defense behind them."

The Green Terrors' entire infield is back. Bollinger (.990 fielding percentage in 1992) is starting in her fourth season at first; junior Sarah Kephart (.272 batting last season) is in her third year at second and is a tri-captain; sophomore Cindy Anders is at short and North Carroll grad Sandy Johnson, also a sophomore, plays third.

After playing her entire high school career at shortstop, Johnson made a successful transition to third last year and put up some impressive offensive numbers. Batting .406, she led the team in hits (35), RBI (24), doubles (six) and total bases (60). Her eight triples last year led the NCAA Division III.

"Now that's she's had a year to see the caliber of pitchers at the college level, I think she'll improve even more on her stats," Dix said.

"She also did a very good job for us at third and had no problems adjusting. She's more of a natural third baseman with quick reactions and good hands."

Behind the plate and batting cleanup is freshman Jennifer Prowinski, who helped lead Calvert High to a Class 3A state championship last year. Dix is expecting the same kind of impact from Prowinski as he got from Johnson last season.

"She's got a cannon for an arm and can pick [base runners] off of first or third throwing on her knees. She's also a strong hitter who will drive in a lot of runs batting cleanup for us," said Dix.

Sophomore Carolyn Kelsey (.303 in 1992) is the only starting outfielder back. She'll play right and again lead off. Sophomore Tineka Ilyes will start in center and freshman Laura Everhart in left.

"I don't think we'll miss a beat with those guys out there," Dix said. "In fact, we may even be a little stronger."

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