In search of offense, coaches seek ways to run up the score Many put emphasis on speed, base-running

Local Sports : Softball Preview

March 20, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Liberty coach Nora Murray has it all planned out.

Speedy outfielder Candice Young leads off with a bunt single and then steals second, leaving Brigit Becker or Liz Armstrong to knock her home. "It looks pretty easy on paper, but you got to make it happen," Murray said.

The biggest concern coming from the majority of the county softball coaches this season is being able to generate runs. It comes from an assortment of problems most of the teams had offensively last season.

"Last year, we weren't aggressive enough at the plate. We also left too many runners on second and third with less than two outs," said Francis Scott Key coach Joe Linthicum. "We have to go up there looking to get a hit. We'd get down two strikes and then become defensive. We need to look for our pitch early on, but still have to stay focused on not being overly aggressive."

At South Carroll, Amy Stephenson and Michele Mitchell were a good one-two punch at the top of the order, but the Cavaliers couldn't take advantage. Both return and coach Debbie Eaton is hoping to see them cross the plate a lot more this season.

"We really didn't have any big hitter. Amy and Michele had good on-base percentages, but there was no consistent power hitters behind them," Eaton said.

A young Liberty team was in the same situation and Murray is hoping the year's worth of experience will help get things turned around this year. The Lions are trying to find other ways to score runs. For example, Young is making better contact and learning how to bunt. The Lions also are working hard on their running game to take the extra base when it's given.

"We need to pick up on our hitting," Murray said. "We're looking for some people to come through for us this season, we have a good nucleus back and are still young. In order for us to compete, we're going to have to hit the ball."

Westminster second-year coach Scott Tobias said his Owls had HTC problems getting runners on base early in the innings last year and that's something they will need to improve on this year.

"I told our girls we have to get our leadoff hitters on base. That's when you can start doing things stealing bases, moving runners over to put people in scoring position for our big hitters," Tobias said. "We're teaching our girls about different situations like hitting behind runners to advance them. That puts the pressure on the defense."

Tobias added a couple of his players have learned the art of slap hitting to get the most out of their speed.

One team that didn't have any problems scoring runs was North Carroll. The Panthers had five players on the all-county first team last season with four hitting .350 or better. Two of those players Kathleen Tunney and Becky Bosley return this season along with four-year starter Christina Crouse.

Tunney and Bosley were the run scorers at the top of the order last season, but coach Rich Harvey said they will drop down in the order and hit third and fourth. The question Harvey now has is who will get on base for them to drive in runs.

"The middle of the lineup is real solid, but after that I don't know. Talent-wise, we're OK. It's just a matter of how quickly they all learn to play together," he said. "We do have more speed this year than last, so that will help."

One thing that will help out the hitters this season is the departure of former North Carroll pitcher Kandi Lippy. A first-team All-Metro performer last season as a senior and a two-time Carroll Player of the Year, Lippy went 15-6 last season with 134 strikeouts and six shutouts to lead the Panthers to the Class 2A state final.

North Carroll still appears to be the favorite in the county this season with its strong nucleus back. How well the pitching minus Lippy holds up will play a role. Liberty made major improvements last season with a young team and with continued progress, can really make some noise this year. Look for Westminster to bounce back with a lot of its experience returning and Tobias settling in in his second season as coach.

Carroll teams competing in the Central Maryland Conference will once again see plenty of competition from its Frederick County rivals, particularly defending champ Thomas Johnson.

Francis Scott Key should finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League.

Pub Date: 3/20/96

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