Confidence works wonders for Owls Softball success: A season after a 5-13 finish, Westminster is putting it all together.

April 26, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

At this time last year, the Westminster Owls' softball team was struggling through an awful season.

The players and first-year coach Scott Tobias were adjusting to each other. The senior pitcher was no longer on the team, leaving the responsibility to an inexperienced freshman. The Owls, expected to challenge North Carroll for the county title, were without chemistry and finished with a 5-13 mark.

As much as the Owls would like to forget about the season, it has benefitted this year's team.

The No. 14 Owls are 7-2 this season, 3-0 in the county and 5-1 in the Central Maryland Conference. There's chemistry, an understanding from the players of what Tobias expects -- sound fundamental defense, a balanced offense -- and pitcher Carli Harris, with a valuable year's worth of experience, owns a 2.16 earned run average.

"And confidence," Tobias said. "With the five-game winning streak we put together, we gained a lot of confidence."

After an 8-1 loss to Centennial in the season opener, the Owls won five straight -- including a 4-3 win against North Carroll -- and started another important stretch Wednesday with a 9-5 win over CMC-foe Linganore.

Wednesday's win started a string of six games in six straight school days for the Owls, which will include county rivals Liberty (today) and South Carroll (Monday) and conclude with a big rematch at North Carroll with the county title on the line.

The Owls' 4-3 win over North Carroll earlier in the season was the kind of game Tobias has been looking for all along and has helped set the tone. The Owls scored two in the bottom of the seventh to get the win. Junior shortstop Katie Curtin opened the inning with a triple to deep center. Harris followed with a run-scoring single and senior center fielder Melanie Koltko ended it with a double to right-center.

"Whenever you play North Carroll, you know you're going up against a good, sound ballclub," Tobias said. "It's a rival, a good rival. It was a fantastic moral booster. The girls executed, did things well and got rewarded."

Everything has come together for the Owls, starting with the defense. Curtin has been the glue at short with senior Shelley Dinterman calling the plays at second. Jacie Mathias, a designated hitter last season, has been a big surprise at third base. Koltko has great range in center, and leadoff hitter Lauren Henry has the team's best arm in right.

"Last year, I took for granted some things defensively I thought the girls knew. This season, we went back to fundamentals and went through a lot of different situations," Tobias said. "The girls we have now react to those situations, think through them and make the plays."

Harris has pitched every inning of every game this season and improves every time out.

"She's feeling more and more comfortable and starting to hit spots," Tobias said. "She understands if you can hit the spots, you don't have to be overpowering."

The offensive output has come up and down the order. Koltko and Mathias are both hitting .400 with Curtin at .320 and seven RBIs. Henry is hitting .333. Junior catcher Courtney Wunderlich isn't hitting for a good average so far, but is doing the little things -- hitting behind the runners, sacrifice flies, putting the ball in play -- and has five RBIs.

"We've had good run production throughout the lineup and that was a big concern going in," Tobias said. "You can see the girls' confidence and self-esteem grow. We're getting runners on and now they know all the things they can do -- bunting them over to second, hitting behind the runner or having them steal a base. The girls do these things and say, 'Hey, we can do this.' "

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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