Western Maryland aims to stay ahead

March 20, 1994|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff Writer

The answering machine on George Dix's telephone says it all: "Proud coach of the 1993 MAC champion Western Maryland College softball team."

In five years, the Green Terrors went from winning just three games in 1989 -- Dix's first -- to going 15-6 with their first-ever Middle Atlantic Conference championships.

This season brings new territory to conquer. The Green Terrors will be competing in the new Centennial Conference and Dix is looking for similar results with just about everyone returning from last year's squad.

"We have a team that went from last to first in five years in the largest [Division III softball] conference in the country. That's quite an accomplishment," Dix said.

"That just goes to show you the kind of ballplayers we've gotten over the past four years."

A lot are still there. In Dix's projected starting lineup, nine of the 10 Green Terrors are returning letterwinners.

Dix's only concern was replacing shortstop Cindy Anders, who still is in school but didn't come back to the team. He has three solid players vying for the spot with freshman Cheri Asbaugh the leading candidate.

"On paper, we have no weaknesses. We lost our starting shortstop, Cindy Anders, from last year, but have three people who can fill the spot. The problem is which one to pick, a nice problem to have," Dix said.

All four of the Green Terrors' MAC All-Stars return, led by three-time pitcher Marilyn Naas. The senior co-captain went 11-2 last year with five shutouts and a 1.00 earned run average. She carried the Green Terrors in the MAC playoffs, coming away with two one-run wins in the championship bracket against Messiah.

Backing her up on the mound is junior Jennifer Stewart, who also will be the Green Terrors' designated hitter. She had a 10-3 season as a freshman, but struggled at times last season.

"Marilyn's been the best pitcher in the [MAC] the last three years," Dix said.

"We're hoping Jennifer can get back to her freshman form. She changed some things with her pitching mechanics, going with a different motion to try to improve, and it threw her pitching back instead. She went back to her old form and is looking good in practice."

Sophomore catcher Jennifer Prowinski and junior third baseman Sandy Johnson (North Carroll) were both conference all-stars last year who provide much of the offense for the Green Terrors. Prowinski, who will hit fourth behind Johnson, hit .361 and drove in a team-high 13 runs. Johnson led the team in eight offensive categories last year, including her .390 batting average.

"They are two of the best hitters I've seen," Dix said.

"Everything [Johnson] hits is hard; even her outs are hard. [Prowinski] is a heavy hitter, very strong and a tremendous athlete."

Behind those two in the lineup is second baseman Sarah Kephart, another 1993 all-star. The senior co-captain hit .317 last and came up with some timely hits for the Green Terrors. Sophomore Kelli Bowen moves to first after spending most of her freshman season at DH.

FTC The entire outfield is back and will be one of the best defensively in the conference. Junior Tineka Ilyes covers a lot of ground in center and is flanked by junior Carolyn Kelsey in right and sophomore Laura Everhart in left. The trio combined to make just four errors.

One of the goals the Green Terrors have set going into the season is getting an NCAA bid. The Green Terrors didn't receive an automatic bid for winning the conference tournament last year and didn't get an at-large bid.

"It's a big thing for the kids and especially for the seniors. We had a great season, won the conference but didn't get a berth last year. It was disappointing," Dix said.

"As we got better, it became something to shoot for. It's also something we have no control over."

Dix said it will be even tougher this season in the new conference, where the champion will be declared based on regular-season play. With no conference tournament, the Green Terrors will have to make the most of their 26-game schedule.

"Twenty wins and the conference title should do it," he said.

SCHEDULE

March 22 Elizabethtown (DH), 2:30

March 26 at Muhlenberg (DH), 1

March 29 at Franklin & Marshall (DH), 2:30

March 31 Lebanon Valley (DH), 2:30

April 6 at Washington College (DH), 3

April 9 Gettysburg (DH), 1

April 12 at Dickinson (DH), 2:30

April 14 York (PA.) College, 4

April 16 Swarthmore (DH), 1

April 19 Mary Washington (DH), 3

April 23 Ursinus (DH), 1

April 25 at Catholic (DH), 3

April 26 at Messiah, 4

April 28 at Gallaudet (DH), 3

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