Long, Thiele led way in Chesapeake's record run Player, Coach of the Year


June 04, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

As Chesapeake secured a place in the state softball record book with its fourth consecutive Class 4A championship, much of the attention centered on four seniors who had been with the team for each title.

Somehow, a hard-hitting, slick-fielding junior shortstop drifted into the background. And she would have remained there, if not for a .358 batting average, an 8-0 pitching record and numerous other contributions that could not go unnoticed.

"She does a credible job, and she does it quietly," coach Dennis Thiele said of Jaime Long, The Baltimore Sun's 1993 Anne Arundel County Softball Player of the Year.

Long often batted behind three of the heralded seniors -- outfielders Tracy Starke and Stacey Necessary, and catcher Natalie Black. And she teamed with the fourth one -- third baseman Nancy Yeager -- to give Chesapeake an airtight defense on the left side of the infield.

Displaying excellent range, a quick release and a strong throwing arm, Long committed just one error in 22 games.

Who in attendance at Old Mill will forget her diving stop of a bouncer up the middle that prevented a run from scoring in Chesapeake's 3-2 win?

Moments like that would have been enough to satisfy Thiele, The Baltimore Sun's 1993 Anne Arundel County Softball Coach of the Year. But he received much more.

Long added four doubles, two triples, 18 RBI, 25 runs scored and two stolen bases. After struggling early in the season, she was as dangerous as anyone else in the lineup.

"I started out 0-for-12, so I felt like I was in a slump all year. But I must have hit well when it counted," she said.

While Chesapeake's offense sputtered against Northern of Calvert County in the state final, Long reached base twice and had the only extra-base hit -- a triple to left field.

Long became the No. 1 pitcher when senior Lori Congdon was sidelined with tonsillitis early in the season.

Long gave up 31 hits and just one earned run in 48 innings, walked one and struck out 69.

"I was told I'd be playing mostly shortstop, and all of a sudden I had to take on all this responsibility. It wasn't that difficult," she said.

Her first real test came against North County, when Congdon was removed after giving up three runs in the first inning. It was the only time that Chesapeake trailed this season, but the Cougars rallied to win, 9-4.

"Jaime isn't like most of your pitchers. She doesn't need 45 minutes to warm up," Thiele said.

With seven seniors graduating, Thiele said he will have to build next season's team around Long and second baseman Michelle Manner. It's an exciting challenge for the man who coached his way out of numerous difficult situations this season.

Though he ran a team loaded with talent and experience, Thiele couldn't just sit back and watch the proceedings. A rash of injuries and illnesses wouldn't allow it.

"They sort of came in a bunch," he said. "It was a three-game

week where we lost two or three front-line players. And as I was getting one kid back, I'd be losing another one."

The season was young when the Cougars took on a different look.

A junior varsity third baseman, Cary Ervin, had to replace Yeager. Long filled in for Congdon and threw a one-hitter to defeat Patterson, 23-0. Left fielder Laurie Mike was moved to first base, replacing Michelle Arch. Untested sophomore Michele Singer was placed in left field, and she remained the starter throughout the season.

Thiele had to do more shuffling when Long pitched. Manner movedover to shortstop, center fielder Necessary went to second base, right fielder Starke took over in center, Singer shifted to right and reserve Melissa Wagner started in left.

"The resiliency of this team is unbelievable," Thiele said.

The Cougars not only won, they also didn't allow a run in 18 of 22 games and outscored opponents 200-11.

"Even with the injuries, the kids never skipped a beat," Thiele said. "They never panicked. I even had Necessary play third in a game."

Thiele seemed to make all the right moves this season, including the call for Necessary to steal third base in the bottom of the eighth inning of a scoreless state championship game. The throw from Northern catcher Whitney Dunn skipped into left field, and Necessary raced home with the winning run.

"I watched very closely the pre-game warm-up," Thiele said. "The catcher was gunning the ball ankle-high at third base. When I got Ness on second, I didn't give the obvious sign. I just kind of waved my hand behind my back a little bit. I crossed myself with the other hand and said, 'Here it goes.' "

Before the season, Thiele agreed to let a few of his players bat from the opposite side and slap-hit. The technique improved Congdon's average from .051 as a junior to .394. Yeager went from .242 to .472.

"I never had a team slap against me this year," he said. "If they don't use it against me, the way I look at it is, they're not ready to defense it, either."

First team at a glance

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