Coach of the Year Huting kept Centennial at the top


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

Those who looked at Centennial's youthful roster two months ago and wrote off the Eagles as state softball championship contenders should have known better.

After all, the Eagles haven't enjoyed success during the past decade without their share of young players.

This year turned out to be no different. Centennial, with five sopho- mores and two juniors playing key roles, gave coach Dale Huting his fourth county title in seven seasons and came within two innings of winning its first state championship, before losing to defending champion Calvert, 3-2.

"There were a lot of question marks at the beginning of the season, and a lot of them weren't answered until the last few weeks," said Huting, The Baltimore Sun's 1993 Softball Coach of the Year for Howard County.

"People didn't exactly write us off, but a lot of people weren't expecting such good things at the end."

The Eagles picked the right time to struggle. Early on, their defense was erratic, sophomore pitcher Kim May experienced control problems and their offense provided inconsistent support.

While waiting for his talent to gel, Huting also was forced to

juggle his lineup due to an eye injury to outfielder Kelly Garrity. Sophomore Kelly West became the regular right fielder, and Huting called up sophomore Terry Bickerton from the junior varsity and inserted her at designated hitter.

Those moves, combined with the maturing of players such as May, sophomore third baseman Marci Kunkel, junior outfielder Kathy Gallagher and junior second baseman Jeanine Lee and the senior leadership of catcher Kari Chichester and shortstop Kelly Butler, helped turn the Eagles into the top-notch team they are accustomed to fielding.

By the end of the season, the Eagles were playing like seniors -- partly because the majority of their underclassmen play softball in the off-season.

Centennial won 10 of its last 12 games and outscored its last seven opponents 77-3 to finish with a 19-5 record.

The Eagles committed only three errors in the postseason, and watched May run off 26 consecutive scoreless innings before Calvert broke that string in the 3A state final.

Meanwhile, after a slow start at the plate, the Eagles recovered to hit .355 and average nearly nine runs.

Centennial then made its third trip to the state playoffs under Huting, and its first appearance with Huting in the title game.

"It's tough to come so close and not get the brass ring," Huting said. "They really made an emotional investment in each other and the team. They should be proud of their season.

And with nine starters returning next year, no one will be surprised by whatever success the Eagles achieve.

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