County teams aim to re-establish image as playoff powers Chesapeake, Glen Burnie, Spalding are strong again

Local Sports : Softball Preview

March 20, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

It's true that Anne Arundel County's girls softball dynasty was rocked the past two years by Northern of Calvert, which won two straight state 4A championships.

But it will take more than a two-year run by Northern and its hard-throwing 6-foot pitcher Kelly Shipman to wipe out all that Chesapeake, Glen Burnie and Severna Park accomplished in the past decade.

Eight straight Class 4A state titles from 1986 to 1993 is nothing to sneeze at. Chesapeake captured five of the championships, Glen Burnie took two and Severna Park one.

Arundel High started the success story by winning the 1983 state 4A title.

The softball capital of the state is still Anne Arundel County, especially in the northern and central parts of the county, where Catholic League power Spalding also resides.

Spalding has been the metro area's No. 1 team the past two years with a combined 38-2 record and the Cavaliers just might be strong enough to make it three in a row.

It all began in 1979 when softball pitching gurus Jack Crandell and Paul Tewey started giving clinics at Brooklyn Park and suddenly a few girls in the county were throwing fastballs in the high 50-mph range.

And the schools that had those girls throwing rockets were doing all the winning because this is a sport where one person can dominate like no other team game.

Most pitchers can throw every game and if a coach has a dominating pitcher to send to the mound every day, it takes a minor miracle to beat that team.

Soon the word about Crandell and Tewey spread to other parts of the county and many parents spent their weekends driving their daughters to the clinics and sitting with them.

"It's like church," said Arundel coach Paul Yannuzzi. "You go every Sunday whether you want to or not. Parents are making a commitment to take their kids to clinics because a lot of colleges are giving money for girls to play softball. The slingshot [pitching style] was the old way. Now kids are throwing underhanded. Our [Anne Arundel] kids are throwing in the upper 50s and on the West Coast they're throwing in the upper 60s."

With more and more hotshot pitchers emerging and more teams winning in the county, a new breed of dedicated parents and fans started following girls softball and supporting the school programs to the hilt.

Small-town communities such as Lake Shore (Chesapeake High), Riviera Beach (Northeast) and Glen Burnie were suited perfectly for building fierce pride in their school's softball teams.

Severna Park, Brooklyn Park (now North County), Gambrills (Arundel) and Millersville (Old Mill) were other towns that were susceptible to the softball bug.

"Those people up there get fanatical about their softball," said South River coach Steve Rose, who would welcome the same kind of enthusiasm down south.

A scene at Glen Burnie High last Thursday is a perfect example of how far some parents in the county will go to make sure their school has the best-possible playing conditions.

Several parents and members of the Glen Burnie boosters were out on the field, raking leaves in preparation for last Friday's scheduled scrimmage between Spalding and the Gophers, last year's No. 2 team in the final poll.

Their work went for naught as rain postponed the scrimmage. But it didn't matter too much, the field was still in better shape than it had been.

"They [boosters] had already fixed our pitching machine and fenced in our dugout," said Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolino.

It is Broccolino who downplays the importance of coaching high school softball in the county and gives most of the credit for the success to the prolific recreation leagues and summer teams such as Wagners, the Angels and the Magic and to Crandell and Tewey.

"These players come to us knowing about all there is to know about this game," said Broccolino. "All we have to do is make them a cohesive unit."

However, Broccolino believes the county's days of running off eight straight state 4A championships are virtually a thing of the past.

"Our dominance is pretty much over," he said.

Yannuzzi agrees: "The rest of the state is catching up to us because the pitching clinics are spreading into other counties."

But Chesapeake coach Dennis Thiele, entering his 13th year as softball coach at the school, thinks the county will still be the major player in the state 4A softball title field.

"Northern has to completely rebuild this year," said Thiele who is fully aware that the hard-throwing Shipman has graduated and received a full softball scholarship to the University of Maryland.

Thiele's Cougars are the favorites to win the county's strong North division this season, fending off a strong challenge from Glen Burnie and overcoming the usual threats posed by North County, Northeast and Old Mill.

In the South, Severna Park appears to have too much of Christy Huber for Arundel to handle in an expected two-team race.

That would set the stage for a Chesapeake-Severna Park showdown for the county championship. The Falcons were No. 3 in the final metro poll last year and Chesapeake was No. 10.

Spalding looks to be a runaway winner in the Catholic League this season after winning the tournament championship the past two years and the regular-season title outright in 1994.

The Cavaliers shared the regular-season honors with IND last season.

Pub Date: 3/20/96

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