Player of the Year Kielman hit new heights at Glenelg


June 04, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Glenelg softball coach Chuck Struhar jokingly suggested removing the fence that surrounds the Gladiators' outfield next year. Why? He wonders how many home runs junior first baseman Jodi Kielman could hit under those conditions.

"I really think she [Kielman] could hit 10 home runs if I took that fence down. She has really hit some shots off the fence," Struhar said. "She's also the only player who has hit one over that fence. The fence is part of Jodi's legend."

In two seasons, Kielman, The Baltimore Sun's 1993 Softball Player of the Year for Howard County, has established herself as the league's premier hitter.

This year, Kielman, first-team All-County last season, cemented her position as the best hitter to come along during Struhar's six seasons by anchoring Glenelg's lineup and playing superb defense.

Without Kielman, the Gladiators could not have rebounded from a 1-2 start to finish 15-6, take second place in the county and make a regional playoff appearance.

Talk about a pitcher's nightmare. Kielman led the Gladiators in eight offensive categories, including at-bats (70), batting average (.500), on-base average (.574), doubles (11), triples (five), home runs (three), RBI (28) and runs (29).

Nineteen of her 35 hits, or slightly more than half, went for extra bases. She struck out only five times in 87 plate appearances. She did all this after bouncing back from an 0-for-6 start. And, although not blessed with exceptional speed, she used smart base running to steal 14 bases, fourth on the team.

"She got off to a slow start, but she never went into a bad slump," Struhar said. "Had she gotten off to a fast start, she would've had 35 or 36 RBI. She's by far the best hitter I've ever coached. She's the type of hitter that, if you get a runner to second base and she's up, it's an RBI."

Kielman's contribution isn't one-dimensional, either. Her combination of sound footwork and excellent hands has made her the county's top defensive first baseman for two years. This season, she committed one error in 21 games, and many of her 192 putouts were recorded by digging errant throws out of the dirt. The Gladiators' infield averaged less than an error per game, partly because of Kielman.

"I know it sounds crazy, but I've always appreciated what she does with the glove more than what she does with the bat," Struhar said. "I take her bat for granted."

What's left for Kielman at Glenelg? An encore season. The Gladiators return nine starters next year, and they should battle Centennial again for the league title. And Kielman will serve as a team captain, an honor Struhar reserves for few seniors.

"After we lost to North Carroll [in the regional final], I pulled Jodi aside and talked to her in the outfield," Struhar said. "I told her that next year, the team is hers, and she should start preparing right now."

With Kielman leading the way, the Gladiators are in good hands.

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