Preseason Top 15

March 17, 1994|By Jamison Hensley

1 Chesapeake-AA -- The Cougars won an unprecedented fourth straight Class 4A state championship, then lost seven players to graduation -- including three All-Metro talents. So why isn't coach Dennis Thiele worried? He has two All-Metro selections back, including Player of the Year Jaime Long (.358, 25 runs scored, 8-0), who either will be the No. 1 pitcher or the area's top everyday shortstop. He has four quality pitchers to chose from, plenty of hitting, speed and defense. A fifth title -- and sixth in the last seven years -- is a distinct possibility.

2 Archbishop Spalding -- New coach Linda Taylor says this is "the most talent Spalding has ever put together," which is a bold statement. But it's hard to argue when you look at the roster, which includes All-Metro pitcher Rachel Synowski (12-3, 0.15 ERA), who threw two no-hitters and four one-hitters, and also batted .457. Infielder Crystal Henderson batted .468 as a freshman. The lineup has other heavy hitters, like infielder Kathleen Legg. And like Chesapeake, the Cavaliers are deep in pitching. They also have added incentive of avenging a loss to IND in last year's Catholic League final.

3 Centennial -- Second-team All-Metro pitcher Kim May (16-5, 173 strikeouts) leads an impressive cast of returnees, as the defending Howard County champions hope to return to the state tournament. The biggest hindrance is the loss to graduation of last year's starting catcher, shortstop and center fielder. If the Eagles, who went 19-5 last season, want to compete in another 3A state final, coach Dale Huting will have to fill those voids. At least he can count on second-team All-Metro outfielder Kathy Gallagher (.476, 31 RBI).

4 Severna Park -- The Falcons surprised many coaches in Anne Arundel County last season by winning 15 games and reaching the Class 4A, Region IV final. There are no surprises this year, other than senior Jen Spampinato's decision not to play softball this spring. She was an All-Metro utility player and one of the team's better hitters. But coach Wayne Mook has plenty of talent back, led by sophomore pitcher Christy Huber (7-4), who showed more poise last season than normally found in a freshman, and junior center fielder Melissa Snyder (.400). Big question is

whether offense can overcome the loss of Spampinato and two second-team All-Anne Arundel County infielders.

5 North Carroll -- The Panthers recovered from a 1-3 start to win 13 games and make a fifth consecutive appearance in the state tournament. New coach Rich Harvey has lots to work with. A strong junior class includes pitcher Kandi Lippy and catcher Teresa Mays, who moves from right field. The infield has plenty of depth, giving Harvey numerous options. He has only two seniors, but this is an established contender, even with All-Carroll County outfielder Jenny Baker recovering from a knee injury.

6 Atholton -- The Raiders welcome back first-team All-Metro selection Kim Ruprecht, who led her team with a .380 average, 22 RBI, seven doubles and four triples. She also won 11 games and struck out 145, but needs to improve her control (115 walks). Last year, Atholton went 11-10 and lost to Centennial in the region final, and with so many starters back, it could take the next step and reach the state tournament. Experience is found ** everywhere but behind the plate, where freshman Shannon Eierman gets the nod.

7 Institute of Notre Dame -- The Indians went 14-3 and won the Catholic League championship with an upset of Spalding, but they won't have All-Metro pitcher Christa Engleman this season. Still, coach Sandy Altadonna welcomes back seven starters, including second-team All-Metro shortstop Kristin Ehrman (.457, seven doubles, eight triples, 28 RBI, two errors). In all, nine players return. Much depends on how well new pitcher Lisa Riley fares. If she does well, IND will be a force once again.

8 Glen Burnie -- After narrowly missing the playoffs last year, the Gophers look poised to make another strong run at the post-season. Junior pitchers Samantha Miller (7-2, 1.17 ERA) and Denise Warren (5-3, 1.85) automatically make Glen Burnie a force, and having junior Susan Kroedel (.349) back in center field doesn't hurt either. Other .300-plus hitters are in the lineup, and the defense and team speed are above average.

9 Old Mill -- The Patriots were one of the area's bigger disappointments last year, failing to make the playoffs despite a wealth of talent and experience. Eight players graduated, including pitcher Karen Jacobson, but coach Lori Darnall is excited about the prospects for this season. She has tremendous pitching depth, with returning senior Angie Mihalik and freshmen Jennifer Bernard and Christina Nutile. Senior outfielders Natalie Bell and Lauren Spears are quality hitters. A .. nice mix.

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