West Coast import may play major role in Centennial season Eagles have won crown four times in five years

Local Sports : Softball Preview

March 20, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

For the past two years, Emily Hall was the starting center fielder for her high school softball team in Cerritos, Calif., a 15-minute drive southwest of Los Angeles.

She played well last year, batting .459.

Then her family moved.

Three thousand miles later, Hall walked into Centennial High last August.

They were expecting her.

"Every time I was introduced, they'd say, 'You're the one from California' " said Hall, who arrived here in late June. "Everyone has this expectation that I'm going to save the team."

A center fielder saving the Eagles' softball team?

Yes and no.

Hall also can pitch.

"It's like a godsend," said Centennial center fielder Lindsay Von Pair.

The Eagles last season won their fourth county title in five years behind the pitching of Kim May, the Baltimore Sun's Howard County Player of the Year. May pitched every inning of every game and finished with a 19-3 record and an 0.64 ERA.

But May's graduation left a big opening, one that Hall, a 5-foot-1 junior, is eager to fill.

"I'm happy to have this chance," said Hall, a lefty who was a backup pitcher for her California team. "It's a new experience [being the No. 1 pitcher], but one that I'm looking forward to. We have a lot of potential this year. I think we'll have a good season."

Centennial coach Dale Huting likes what he has seen of Hall in practice.

"So far she looks very promising," said Huting, who probably will bat Hall leadoff. "I expect her to carry the biggest part of the pitching for us. And from what I've seen, she's capable of doing that."

The Eagles graduated six players with starting experience, but Hall gives them help where they need it most. Centennial's county title will be challenged by the usual suspects Glenelg, Mount Hebron and Atholton and Howard also is a team to watch.

No matter how a team does in the regular season, every school makes the playoffs this year under the open tournament format.

Three teams have new coaches, and two veteran coaches will leave following the season to coach at new schools.

Bill Winder takes over for Eric Aronowsky at Mount Hebron, where the Vikings have played in the Class 3A state final the past two seasons. Two junior varsity coaches have moved up, with Jen Petering taking over for Ray McMillan at Hammond and Mike Anikis replacing Joe Staub at Oakland Mills.

Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar and Atholton coach Dave Vitagliano will join the county's two new high schools following this season. Struhar has been named athletic director and softball coach at Long Reach and Vitagliano will coach softball at River Hill.

Glenelg, which won county titles in 1990 and 1994 and finished second the three years in between, has only one senior, co-captain and all-county third baseman Jessie Lombardo. Despite being young, the Gladiators have a solid squad that includes junior co-captain pitcher Marni Brown, who was 14-5 last year with 77 strikeouts.

"Glenelg is probably more of a favorite then we are right now," said Centennial's Huting. "They're young, but young isn't a bad thing. Glenelg has a group of sophomores and juniors who have played together for a while, and that's a nice situation to be in."

Said Struhar, who could start as many as seven sophomores: "I think we're just one in a pack. We're not loaded."

The Gladiators will have a completely new outfield, but their infield remains intact. Joining Lombardo will be three sophomores who batted over .300 last season Pam Goldberg at shortstop, Kristin Hooker at first and Meghan Goetz at second.

Mount Hebron returns three all-county players in shortstop Sarah Eberhart, center fielder Heather Cole and catcher Kathy Kiersarsky. All three are excellent hitters and will be counted on to score a lot of runs to help take some pressure off the Vikings' inexperienced pitchers.

With the graduation of all-county pitcher Jenny Joyce, Mount Hebron will rely on two sophomores Meredith Milio and Lauren Abicht. Milio played junior varsity last year and is expected to start. Abicht, who also plays first base, pitched one varsity game last season and batted .288 with 20 RBIs.

"They both have a lot of promise," said Winder. "We're going to give both of them a lot of innings, and we're hopeful they can develop into a really good 1-2 punch."

Atholton graduated four players that batted .333 or better, including its top pitcher, Kim Ruprecht. The Raiders, who played in the last three Class 2A region finals, but moved up this year to 3A, will be counting on the pitching of sophomore Holly Gick.

"This is all new to me," said Gick, who was 2-0 last year on the varsity with a 2.69 ERA. "I'm a little nervous now, but once we start playing I know I'll feel better."

Vitagliano has a young team, but he feels confident it will be competitive.

"I think we'll be OK," Vitagliano said. "Our pitching is good, our defense is good. My concern now is hitting. Hopefully, we'll get better as the season goes on."

Howard, Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake and Hammond all finished under .500 last season and look to improve. The Lions have a solid hitting lineup that could put them on the other side of .500 this season.

"The sleeper [team] will be Howard," said Glenelg's Struhar. "Dave Vezzi is a good coach. Howard's going to sneak up on some people."

Pub Date: 3/20/96

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