Pioneers aim to be a game better

March 08, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

Ten of his 14 players from last season are gone, but Anne Arundel Community College softball coach Jim Hendricks is too busy adding up the promising newcomers and potential victories to worry about them.

A step backward? Forget it. These Pioneers intend to move forward, in search of their third consecutive Maryland JuCo championship and berth in the Region XX final.

Only this time, they want to get beyond that last game. Two years ago, they were beaten by Catonsville. Last season, Prince George's upset them, 1-0.

"Maybe the third time will be the charm," Hendricks said.

If so, the Pioneers will have survived the departure of last year's battery: All-Region XX pitcher Stacy Reynolds (14-4, 0.47 ERA, .368, 18 RBIs) and catcher Holly Hladycz.

Much of the offensive load will be carried by sophomore first baseman Alicia Conine, a preseason All-American who batted .500 with four doubles, four triples, two home runs and 28 runs scored, and set school records for hits (50) and RBIs (42). Named first-team All-Region, the Severna Park graduate also gives Hendricks solid defense and leadership.

Also back are Jeannette Merrick (North County), Kristie Rhinehart (North County) and Kendra Gottlich (Chesapeake). Merrick batted .333 and split time between third base and the outfield, but will play shortstop this year. Rhinehart, an outfielder, hit .372 with 18 RBIs and 23 runs and is a superb defensive player with a strong arm. Gottlich hit .333 in a limited role.

The newcomers include first-team All-Metro selections Amy Perry (South River) and Carrie Parsons (Archbishop Spalding) and second-team All-Metro pick Amanda Kopchinski (Old Mill). Perry will play center field and should help the Pioneers with her speed, power and strong arm. Parsons should emerge as the ace on a staff that includes two other freshmen, Mandy McLaughlin (South River) and Angie Mihalik (Old Mill). And Kopchinski, a third baseman with speed, "can do a lot of things to get on base," Hendricks said.

Mihalik sprained her left shoulder and will be out a week.

Another strong hitter should be second baseman Brandi Pennington (Old Mill), who batted .600 during the fall season. Lisa Biederman (Southern) will play third, but also can fill in at first base and in the outfield. Mary Scanlon (South River) provides more depth at third and has been "the surprise" so far, Hendricks said.

Also on the team are infielder/outfielder Chiara Lee (Southern), catchers Teri Campbell (Meade) and Jen Miller (Old Mill), infielders Kara Donaldson (Granite Baptist) and Angie Sowers (Old Mill) and outfielders Tricia Smith (Bowie) and Sharon Handley. Miller can play the outfield as well. Sowers graduated from high school in 1991. Handley moved here from Alabama.

"Top to bottom, this is the most talented team I've had. It's definitely the deepest," said Hendricks, whose squads went a combined 38-16 the past two seasons. "We have 19 and every girl has been playing softball for at least 10 years."

Still, the Pioneers are picked to finish in the middle of the Region XX pack by the coaches, well behind Charles and Hagerstown.

"We'll just have to see who is standing at the end," Hendricks said.

His team will play 23 of its 32 regular-season games at home. Anne Arundel also will be the site of the Region XX tournament.

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