Sophomore starters make Glen Burnie go


April 18, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

When a softball coach finds himself relying primarily on five sophomores to lead his team into the playoffs, he better have a good sense of humor.

And a lot of faith.

Glen Burnie's Bob Broccolino possesses both qualities -- and a squad that is undefeated and ready to climb the metro-area rankings.

Meet the "Fab Five" -- a name Broccolino bestowed upon second-year wonders Samantha Miller, Denise Warren, Susan Kroedel, Coral Brandenburg and Jennifer Stapler. Each girl has played an important role in No. 15 Glen Burnie's 3-0 start during what has been a difficult spring for many athletes because of the rain.

Not many coaches would be comfortable placing so much responsibility on a group of sophomores.

"They're my best players, along with [senior transfer] Lori Lynch. I don't have a choice," said Broccolino, whose team failed to make the playoffs last year for the first time in a decade.

Alternating on the mound, Miller owns two victories and Warren has one. Miller opened the season on April 7 with a five-hit, nine strikeout performance in the Gophers' 21-2 romp over Southern. Warren made her debut in the North County Holiday Tournament last Monday and also allowed just five hits and struck out nine in a 5-3 rain-soaked win over No. 12 North Carroll.

It was Miller's turn Wednesday against No. 7 Northeast, and she scattered six hits and struck out five in a 4-3 victory. Warren's start at South River Friday was postponed because of rain.

Warren has more velocity and a greater array of pitches, but Miller uses good control and changing speeds to get hitters out.

"Last year, Samantha clearly was our No. 1, and Denise didn't pitch that much. Her control wasn't what it should be. But the more they pitched and the more we saw them in batting practice this year, the more it was clear that there wasn't a No. 1 pitcher. They both have such different styles, but they're both equally as effective," Broccolino said.

When Miller isn't pitching, she can shift either to the outfield or shortstop. And Warren has become a valuable utility player who started at shortstop against Northeast, and can move to the outfield.

Offensively, Miller has contributed a home run in the win over Northeast, and Warren tripled and knocked in a run against Southern.

"One day I'll pitch, and then Denise will go and it gives me a break," said Miller, who was 7-2 last year and batted .313 with 12 RBI. "It's easier that way. We don't all compete for the same position. We can rotate in and out."

Starting in center field -- where former All-Metro choices Deanna Winterbottom and Erin Sutton have roamed -- Kroedel reached base three times against Northeast. She walked twice and doubled in Glen Burnie's fourth run.

Brandenburg, a second baseman, singled and later scored on Kroedel's hit. Stapler, the designated hitter, poked a single to left in the sixth inning, but was stranded.

In the game against North Carroll, Glen Burnie squandered a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning. But with the score tied, Brandenburg led off the bottom half of the inning with a pinch-hit single and moved to second

on a wild pitch. Stapler walked, and the pair executed a double steal.

Brandenburg scored on a ground out, and Warren lofted a sacrifice fly to bring home Stapler.

Warren had scored Glen Burnie's first run in the opening inning after drawing a lead-off walk.

"Five sophomores leading a team is kind of unusual, especially at Glen Burnie. I'm just really pleased with how successful we've been and their part in it," Broccolino said.

"All five of them are just super young ladies. Academically, they're tops, and their character is beyond reproach. They're just real good people."

And real close friends, having practically grown up together. They'll even remain teammates during the summer on the Anne Arundel Blazers 16-and-under squad.

"We've played together all our lives," Stapler said. "It's always been kind of like a group thing."

They were eased into varsity competition last year, when the Gophers returned All-County players Sutton, Heather Smith and Stacey Jordan. The team already had talent and leadership, though, it wasn't enough to edge Arundel for the last playoff spot.

Things have changed this season, but not the sophomores' approach to the game.

"There's no pressure," said Warren, who batted .303 with 12 RBI last year. "We just go out and play and not worry about it."

Brandenburg said, "We can relax because we know we can count on the other players around us."

"We like being the Fab Five," Kroedel said, "but we have to count on the whole team, not just us five. We can't play the game ourselves."

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