John Carroll softball on the way up Even in defeat, Patriots show strength

May 02, 1993|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

John Carroll's softball team has lost just one game this season, but that loss may have done more to boost the Patriots' stock than all of their wins combined.

Excellent pitching and solid defense have lifted the Patriots to nine wins in their first 10 games. However, a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Spalding on April 19 proved that the Patriots belong among the area's top teams.

Even after the defeat, the Patriots moved up to No. 3 in The Baltimore Sun poll. That is their highest ranking ever.

"This is the first time we've gotten any recognition from other areas," said John Carroll coach Neal Drexel. "We knew we had a good ballclub out there, but I think people didn't notice us because we can't get into the playoffs."

Last season, the Patriots finished the season unranked at 14-5 and shared the Harford County title with Aberdeen. They started out ranked eighth in preseason and have risen steadily this year.

Drexel beefed up the Patriots' non-league schedule and the team responded with a 1-0 win over North East of Cecil County and a 6-0 win over McDonogh. Rain canceled a holiday tournament in Patterson Park and a game against No. 7 Institute of Notre Dame.

The close call against Spalding also gave the Patriots a dose of confidence. "I think they learned that day that they could play with just about anybody," said Drexel.

After allowing the game's only run in the first inning on two walks,a wild pitch and a fielder's choice, the Patriots settled down and played well.

"We sort of psyched ourselves out before that game," said shortstop Amity Torbit. "We knew their ranking, and in the first inning, we came out kind of lackadaisical. In our minds, we lost that game before we even played it."

Senior left-hander Bonnie Lawson allowed just three hits, but the Patriots managed only three off Spalding ace Rachel Synowski.

After the loss, however, Lawson (7-1) came back with consecutive no-hitters, edging Havre de Grace, 2-1, and beating Fallston, 7-0, on April 23. She took a day off Wednesday, and juniors Laurie Giorno and Molly Boyle filled in admirably, combining for another no-hitter to beat Harford Tech, 15-4.

Lawson, who has pitched five no-hitters in two seasons, always has had speed and pretty good control, but now she has even better control and more confidence.

"Since I've worked with [pitching coach Jack] Crandell, he taught me little mechanical things I could do to improve that I never knew about. Everything is just falling into place," said Lawson.

Lawson has a 0.91 ERA and allowed just seven earned runs in 54 innings. She has struck out 88 while walking 31 and giving up 17 hits.

Thursday, Lawson allowed one hit in a 12-1 win over Havre de Grace that raised the Patriots' league record to 3-0.

"What Bonnie's doing this year a little bit different," said Drexel, "is if she gets behind in the count, she can get the ball in and say, 'Come on and hit it -- I've got the fielders behind me.' "

The Patriots have made only five errors despite having just four veterans in the lineup -- seniors Lawson, Torbit and second baseman Katie Nietubicz and junior catcher Kelly Barnes.

Heather Pyzik at first and Lisa Chrismer in center have nailed down their spots, too, but Drexel still is shuffling players at the other positions. Giorno and Casey Wollenweber share time at third while Janet Breen and Laura Meerholz share left field and Anne Romanelli and Melissa Smith, right.

The biggest problem early in the season was the offense. Until this week, 40 percent of its outs were strikeouts. This week, however, they scored 43 runs in wins over Fallston, Harford Tech and Havre de Grace.

In the first seven games, the Patriots scored 28 runs, but gave up just four.

Through the first 10 games, Nietubicz leads the team with a .536 batting average, 10 runs batted in and 17 runs scored. Leadoff hitter Torbit is batting .500 with seven extra-base hits. Batting cleanup, Lawson has a .346 average with six RBI and four extra-base hits. Barnes hits .320 with nine runs batted in.

Since they cannot advance to postseason play, the Patriots have only the county championship to play for. With the toughest part of their county schedule coming up, the Patriots are wary of an upset.

They haven't forgotten last spring when dropping a game to C. Milton Wright cost them sole possession of the county title.

"We just go into every game like it's our toughest," said Torbit. "We came into the season optimistic, but it's not like we're going to walk away with it."

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