Coach of the Year
* Chuck Struhar, Glenelg -- The Gladiators surprised a few folks by winning the county championship this season, but they did it with consistent pitching, timely hitting and tight defense. It doesn't take any more than that. Struhar takes a straight-forward, nothing-fancy approach to the game. "They were really good defensively and I think that's what wins championships," said Struhar, whose team made only 17 errors this season. Add the solid pitching of Emily Kessler and the power hitting of Jodi Kielman and the Gladiators posted a 13-1 record in the county, losing only a one-run game to Atholton. Overall, the Gladiators finished 13-3, dropping another one-run game to Atholton in the Class 2A regional opener. But the Gladiators won a lot of close games. "I don't mean this in a bad way, but I don't think this was a great team," said Struhar. "More than any team I've ever had though, every girl knew her role and worked hard at it. The kids who don't get a lot of credit like [third baseman] Diana Rolfs and [outfielder] Susan Geisler were real good role players. They're the kids who make the program. They were a good group to work with. I really enjoyed these kids." In his five years as head coach, Struhar's teams never have finished with more than four losses in the Howard County league and they have made the regional playoffs every season.
THE FIRST TEAM AT A GLANCE
* Terri Bickerton, Centennial, Jr., designated hitter -- The power behind the Eagles' lineup, Bickerton hit .510 with three home runs. Also a utility infielder, she had three doubles and tied for second on the team in RBIs with 17. Her on-base percentage was .660 and she struck out only four times in 72 at-bats.
* Kim Brown, Glenelg, Jr., outfielder -- The Gladiators' leadoff hitter batted .382 and was second on the team with 15 RBIs. A good bunter, she also had two triples, scored 25 runs and stole 29 bases. In center field, Brown was perfect. Fast and able to cover a lot of territory, she made 20 catches and had one assist without an error.
* Karyn Duff, Glenelg, Sr., second baseman -- Coach Struhar calls Duff the smartest ballplayer he has ever coached. The stabilizing force of the Gladiators' defense, she was always in the right place at the right time. In 70 chances, she made only three errors. She batted .263, with an on-base percentage of .349. She also stole 18 bases and scored 24 runs.
* Chrissy Gavin, Atholton, Jr., shortstop -- Gavin already holds the school single-season and career records for steals. She stole 35 bases this season bringing her three-year total to 75. An all-around athlete, Gavin posted a fielding average of .892 with eight errors. She hit the ball more consistently this year, finishing with a .359 average, 15 RBIs and two doubles for the state Class 2A finalists. She also scored 38 runs in 24 games.
* Jenny Joyce, Mount Hebron, Jr., pitcher -- The driving force behind Mount Hebron's run at the state Class 3A title, Joyce posted some impressive numbers -- 1.25 ERA, 126 strikeouts and 23 walks in 144 innings. Consistent with good ball movement, she cut her walks allowed by three quarters over last year. Joyce pitched a no-hitter in the regional championship as the Vikings went all the way to the state final. She also contributed at the plate, hitting .349 (second on the team) and driving in 18 runs.
* Emily Kessler, Glenelg, Sr., pitcher -- Kessler was the county's most improved pitcher and a huge force behind the Gladiators' county title. She posted a 13-3 season, losing only one game in the county league. Against the county's top three teams, she was 5-1. Most impressively, however, she walked only 17 batters in 18 games. She also struck out 95 in 108 innings and finished with a 1.94 ERA. Struhar said she was the hardest-working player he has ever coached.
* Amy Nestor, Hammond, Sr., catcher -- No one ever was safe stepping off a base with Nestor behind the plate. She could throw right on the money from her knees, and her quick throws sometimes caught even the umpires by surprise. She picked off 17 base runners, mostly from third, including four in one game. Few tried to steal on her, and she gunned down six trying. Catching a young pitcher, Nestor also came up with some amazing blocks to hold runners. "If she's not there, people are gonna run rampant on the bases on us," said Hammond coach Dave Guetler. Nestor had a .491 average with six extra-base hits, including a home run. The clean-up hitter led her team in RBIs with 27.
* Kristen Milio, Mount Hebron, Sr., third baseman -- The Vikings' clean-up hitter batted .450 to lead her team. She was second in RBIs with 24 and led the team in walks with 18. Only four times did Milio strike out, and in the last two years, she struck out only three times against Howard County competition. In the field, Milio improved her throws drastically, cutting her errors from nine to three. She finished with a fielding percentage of .932.