It's too soon to count out new-look Chesapeake 1994 COUNTY SOFTBALL PREVIEW

March 17, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

Has the time finally arrived when Chesapeake loosens its hold on the Class 4A state softball championship? Are the Cougars' fingers being pried apart as we speak?

Severna Park coach Wayne Mook, for one, isn't buying it.

"They lost a pitcher," he said, referring to All-Metro windmiller Lori Congdon, "and they gained four more. Until you beat them, they're the team to beat."

The last four seasons have brought the same conclusion. The Cougars enjoy a group hug somewhere in the infield at Randazzo Park, and another state-championship trophy is added the collection.

The list of challengers trying to write a different ending is a lengthy one. Region finalist Severna Park and semifinalist Arundel will have a say in how the season unfolds, and some coaches feel that a maturing Glen Burnie team is ready to crack the tournament field. And Northern-Calvert, which lost to Chesapeake in the state final, and Calvert have been added to the region, meaning only two county teams may qualify for the playoffs despite the wealth of talent.

In the Catholic League, Archbishop Spalding will try to regroup after being upset by Institute of Notre Dame in last year's championship game. The Cavaliers will have to do so without coach Jim Nemeth, who took a one-year sabbatical to Hungary.

B6 The following is a closer look at the 1994 season:

Annapolis Panthers

Her pitcher transferred out of the county, and one of her better hitters elected not to play this year. Coming off a 3-15 season, coach Gloria Day has her share of worries.

Those problems will be compounded if senior Shannon Henderson (outfield/first base) decides not to play. She just completed the basketball season and still hadn't committed to softball at the beginning of the week.

Day can count on the return of senior catcher/outfielder Janelle Queen, senior second baseman Jenee Smith, senior catcher/first baseman Amy Disilvestre, junior outfielder Artina Trader, junior outfielder April Brown, junior third baseman Emily Nugent, sophomore second baseman Hunter Hammond and sophomore pitcher Kristen Penix. Penix was a reliever last year, but gained valuable experience at a pitching camp, and Nugent led the Panthers in hitting with a .371 average.

Joining the team are juniors April Ashley (center field) and Tove O'Steland (pitcher/shortstop), sophomores Bridget Duffy (shortstop), Te'naya Johnson (first base), Kenya Tyler (left field), Allison Gardner (first base) and Danielle Bennett (outfield) and freshmen Megan Girard (outfield) and Danielle Verdugo (second base). O'Steland is an exchange student from Finland.

Day needs a replacement for senior shortstop Uyen Do, whose work schedule didn't allow her to play softball.

"I think we can improve," Day said. "I think we'll be competitive. We're hoping to have at least five wins, if everyone stays healthy. We don't have much of a bench. But they're very dedicated and working hard. With the core of my returning players, I'm looking forward to a pretty good season."

Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers

New coach Linda Taylor, who worked with the junior varsity the last two years, can't complain about a lack of pitching. From senior starter Rachel Synowski to backups Carrie Parsons, Crystal Ray and Kathleen O'Hara, this team is well-armed for the coming season.

Synowski made first-team All-Metro after going 12-3 -- including two no-hitters, one perfect game and four one-hitters -- with 143 strikeouts and a 0.15 ERA. She also batted .457 with nine RBIs, 13 runs scored, 15 walks and nine steals, and she committed just one error in 28 chances.

Ray and O'Hara are freshmen who immediately caught Taylor's eye. She called O'Hara "probably the strongest freshman pitcher I've ever seen."

Whoever stands atop the mound will get plenty of offensive support. The lineup includes sophomore second baseman/shortstop Crystal Henderson, who batted .468 with two home runs, 12 RBIs, 24 runs scored and 26 steals and made second-team All-Metro, senior third baseman Kathleen Legg (second-team All-County), senior catcher Dana Sidazzo, junior first baseman Nicki Trumpler and senior outfielder Kari Thompson.

Together, they should make it easier to accept the loss of first-team All-Metro shortstop Kelly Mabe, who batted .453 with 20 RBIs and received a scholarship to Georgian Court College in Lakewood, N.J.

Newcomers include freshman outfielder Maria Drury, freshmen catcher Tina Cornelius, sophomore outfielder Jacqui King and junior outfielder Amanda Adams.

"This is the most talent Spalding has ever put together," said Taylor, who will be assisted by Carl Henderson and Ray Trumpler. "They are so deeply talented, it's scary. They haven't forgotten about losing to IND in the final, but I think they're mature enough to move on and concentrate on this year. And I really think they're going to do well."

Arundel Wildcats

Arundel has a new coach, a new battery and hopes for another strong season.

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