County powers aim to reclaim state title

March 24, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

For eight consecutive years, an Anne Arundel County softball team had won the Class 4A state championship. It was tradition. It was expected.

But it didn't happen last spring.

Instead, Northern of Calvert County, in its first season in the East Region, went undefeated and claimed the prize. The Patriots eliminated Chesapeake in the region final, 6-3, in 10 innings, ending the Cougars' unprecedented streak of state titles at four. They capped their remarkable season with junior Kelly Shipman's no-hitter to defeat Perry Hall, 10-0, in the state final.

Shipman became the only player in state playoff history to throw no-hitters in both tournament games. She's back, and so are the worries of many county coaches that Northern again will be a blockade to Randazzo Park.

Which area teams pose the biggest threat to Northern? A good starting point is Glen Burnie, which lost to the Patriots, 4-1, in last year's region semifinals.

The Gophers return All-Metro pitcher/shortstop Denise Warren and All-County designated hitter Chris Napora, plus pitcher/shortstop Samantha Miller. Warren (.459, five doubles, two triples, one home run, nine RBIs, 21 runs, 17 steals) and Miller combined for 13 wins. Warren, the county's Player of the Year, had 57 strikeouts in 56 innings and a 0.75 ERA. Opponents batted .133 against her.

"We know the road to the states goes through Northern," said coach Bob Broccolino, whose team finished 14-5 and tied with Bel Air for the No. 6 ranking in the metro area.

Chesapeake lost two All-Metro players -- shortstop Jaime Long (.360, seven doubles, three triples, 15 RBIs, 13 runs) and second baseman Michelle Manner (.372, 15 runs, 17 steals), who made four errors combined. Long also won six games and posted a 0.81 ERA.

As usual, the Cougars still have a formidable pitching staff, plus the added incentive of avenging last year's defeat, when some of Northern's fans taunted Chesapeake's players and coaches as they left the field.

"This is my 11th year here and we've never rebuilt," said coach Dennis Thiele, whose team finished 17-3 and ranked No. 2. "These kids have a winning tradition here and they won't knuckle under to anyone."

Severna Park has won 29 games the past two seasons without going to the states. Last year, the Falcons led Chesapeake, 1-0, through six innings of their region semifinal, but were beaten, 2-1, in eight innings. They had ended the Cougars' 49-game winning streak on April 22, 2-1.

Coach Wayne Mook must replace outfielders Jen Avent and Amy Senger, plus two other players who decided not to return. But he welcomes back All-Metro outfielder Melissa Snyder (.396, two doubles, two triples, 11 RBIs, eight steals, no errors) and All-County pitcher Christy Huber (11-5, 1.17 ERA, 153 strikeouts), among others.

For the second straight year, Old Mill missed the playoffs by losing its last regular-season game, by 3-0 to Glen Burnie. All-County infielder and leading hitter Amanda Kopchinski (.415, two doubles, 12 RBIs) is gone, along with pitcher Angie Mihalik, outfielders Natalie Bell, Lauren Spears and Jen Miller, and infielder Brandi Pennington. But the pitching staff remains strong, and coach Lori Darnall is staying positive.

"As usual, we have the potential," she said. "If we can just get the offense going, we should be right in there."

Arundel (10-8) and North County (11-7) also posted winning records last year and hope to challenge for a berth in the 4A state tournament. The Wildcats were ranked No. 14.

Two Class 2A teams made the region playoffs, and one -- South River -- went to the states for the first time in eight years.

Northeast won 10 games before being eliminated by Parkside, 7-4, in the region semifinals. Coach Marianne Shultz lost just one player, Loren Bailey, but she was the Eagles' No. 1 pitcher and best power hitter.

South River went 13-8 under first-year coach Corinne Weigand, losing to Atholton, 4-1, in the state semifinals. Eight seniors were on that team, including All-Metro outfielder Amy Perry (.452, six doubles, six home runs, 38 RBIs) and tireless pitcher Mandy McLaughlin.

Weigand was unable to return this spring and has given way to assistant Steve Rose.

Archbishop Spalding won the Catholic League tournament for the fifth time in six years, finishing 18-0 and ranked No. 1. Two All-Metro players have graduated, including pitcher Carrie Parsons, the Catholic League's Player of the Year who went 9-0 with a 0.96 ERA, 100 strikeouts, two no-hitters and two one-hitters. She also batted .508 with eight doubles, three triples, two home runs, 33 RBIs and 29 runs.

The good news? Among the returnees is All-Metro infielder and leading hitter Crystal Henderson (.552, 31 runs, 32 steals, 13 RBIs).

The county has three other new coaches besides Rose. Brian Love replaces Sue Fitchett at North County (11-7), Dave Conrad takes over for Bruce Springer at Broadneck (6-11), and Charlie Seibel inherits the Southern (1-17) team from Marti Woodfield.

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