Verdict on Henderson already in: She's good Crystal Henderson: Spalding's shortstop, who will study law at UNC, has no objections to trying harder.

April 25, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Want to see one of the best all-around girls softball player in the Baltimore metro area?

Go watch senior shortstop and leadoff hitter Crystal Henderson play for top-ranked Archbishop Spalding.

Henderson is a two-time All-Metro first-team selection and has led the Cavaliers (13-1) to the No. 1 ranking in the Baltimore metro area and a 51-3 record over the past 2 1/2 seasons.

She has received a scholarship to play softball for the University of North Carolina and her major ambition in the sport now is to play in the 2000 Olympics.

In case anybody is getting any ideas about representing Henderson, forget it.

She is headed for a career in law and has already helped Spalding win a mock trial over North Carroll. Henderson was the lead prosecutor in the trial that was sponsored by the Bar Association of Maryland.

"I call her Marcia Clark," said Spalding coach Linda Taylor with a laugh.

On the field, Taylor calls Henderson anything that relates to excellence, intensity, leadership and winning.

"When things are on the line, Crystal will get it done," said Taylor.

"She gets the ball rolling for us," Taylor added. "She gets on base, steals second and before you know it we have a run. I'm fortunate I have enough good hitters to put behind her because I love her at the leadoff position. She is the fastest girl on the team and almost always gets on base one way or the other."

Henderson stole 38 bases in 20 games last season when she hit .619 (four home runs, 21 RBIs).

Most coaches couldn't afford to have a hitter like Henderson leading off, especially this season when her power numbers are way up.

Heading into yesterday's game against Mercy, the four-year starter had four home runs, six doubles, three triples and 20 RBIs in 14 games while batting .609.

"I worked out a lot in the winter to improve my strength and I've just naturally grown stronger," said Henderson, whose steals (10) are off this season because of the increase in power. "My goal every year is to improve in all categories but I don't think I'm going to steal more bases. I believe I can hit more than .619."

The drop in base-stealing opportunities is the only thing that has dimmed slightly another brilliant season for Henderson.

"I love the flexibility I have leading off a game and immediately going to second on a steal and having Kathleen [O'Hara] bunt me to third," she said. "The most important run of the game is the first one. I'd much rather hit first than third or cleanup where I would have a lot of runners in front of me."

However, a lot of the disappointment over the lack of steals was wiped out recently against Northeast when she hit for the cycle in a 10-1 victory.

"That was like the neatest thing I've ever done," said Henderson. "I've always wanted to hit for the cycle since I saw Carrie Parsons do it for us when I was a freshman."

Two of the major driving forces behind her rise to prep softball prominence have been her father, Carl, and Taylor.

Carl Henderson has coached his daughter at every level and is the assistant coach at Spalding.

"I get the majority of my ability from my dad," said Crystal. "He goes to clinics and listens to top college coaches talk and he comes back and works on all of it with me. Him and my mom [Jan] both play slow-pitch softball."

Taylor has developed a close bond with Henderson, who wears No. 12 -- the same number Taylor wore.

"I often tell Crystal, she reminds me of myself," said Taylor, who was the Baltimore area Metro Player of the Year in 1985 at Glen Burnie. "She loves the game, has a lot of spirit, plays in all the leagues like I did, wants to win and is a shortstop. My dream for her is to be Metro Player of the Year."

Pub Date: 4/25/96

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