Juggling act by Thiele kept Cougars on ball Coach of the Year

June 10, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

Everything appeared to be in place for Chesapeake-Ann Arundel's softball team to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Class 4A state championship. What would the coach have to do besides fill out the lineup card, find a comfortable place on the bench and add up the runs?

As it turned out, Dennis Thiele had plenty to do. One by one, his players were sidelined with assorted injuries and illnesses. The remaining individuals were moved about like chess pieces.

The starting pitcher was sick. So was the third baseman.

The first baseman twisted her ankle, and her place was taken by the left fielder. An untested sophomore became the everyday left fielder.

The right fielder played in center, the center fielder moved to second base, the second baseman took over at shortstop, and the shortstop pitched. One time, the center fielder wound up at ** third base.

Still, the Cougars won. Their 41st straight victory, in the 4A state final, put them in the record book and solidified Thiele's reputation as one of the best coaches in the area.

"Even with the injuries, the kids never skipped a beat," said Thiele, The Baltimore Sun's 1993 All-Metro Softball Coach of the Year. "They never panicked."

Neither did the coach, though he had plenty of reasons. Chesapeake, with its seven seniors and wealth of talent, was expected to roll through the regular season and playoffs, and never surrender its No. 1 ranking.

"Everybody thought that, with the hosses we had, it was going to be 20-0 every game," Thiele said. "That's an image that the team has sort of built for itself, like creating its own monster. I wondered what would happen if we didn't win it. Am I going to get canned, or what?"

Chesapeake's greatest challenge came against Northern of Calvert County in the state final, which was e scoreless through seven innings. In the bottom of the eighth, the tide turned. Senior Stacey Necessary led off with an infield hit and stole second. And with one out, Thiele gave her a discreet steal sign from his third-base coaching box.

"I just kind of waved my hand behind my back a little bit," he said. "I crossed myself with the other hand and said, 'Here it goes.'

Necessary swiped third, and when the throw skipped into left field, Thiele motioned her home with the winning run.

"We had to navigate ourselves through the shells a couple of times," Thiele said, "but the heart that these kids put into it -- the soul, the aggressiveness, the eagerness, the downright arrogance -- you could just see it was one kid pulling the other one."

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