Transfer of Ryals, departure of Shultz shakes up county G. Burnie loses star, Northeast loses coach, so Spalding one to watch

Softball Preview

March 23, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Two major off-season events in softball-mad Anne Arundel County have changed the face of the game drastically.

Sophomore Sabrina Ryals, the top player on Glen Burnie, the No. 2 team in the Baltimore area last season, has transferred to Archbishop Spalding, the No. 1 team in the area the past three seasons and the top team in the preseason poll this year.

The move by Ryals has to go down as one of the county's and state's most significant transfers.

How many times does an All-Metro first-team freshman shortstop who hit .421 with 17 RBIs and 16 runs scored leave a No. 2 team for No. 1 with three years eligibility remaining?

"She just came over here. I didn't recruit her," insisted Spalding coach Linda Taylor. "She had been approved for enrollment at Spalding as a freshman last year but withdrew when an illness in her dad's family wouldn't allow it to work financially."

Ryals' mother, Kathy, confirmed Taylor's story about the family illness and said the reason for the transfer had nothing to do with sports.

"I pulled her out of Glen Burnie when I became frustrated with her academic administrator, who wouldn't work with us on getting the right classes for her," said Kathy Ryals, who said she made the decision at the end of January.

Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolini said he was totally surprised ++ by the Ryals transfer.

"Sabrina never came to me before she left," said Broccolini. "I thought maybe she was mad at me for something about softball."

The other stunner involves Marianne Shultz.

Shultz, Anne Arundel County's Coach of the Year last season at Northeast, will not be coaching softball at the Riviera Beach school this season because she is teaching and coaching soccer at Arundel High, where athletic director Bernie Walter does not allow any members of his staff to coach at other schools.

With Shultz not able to return to Northeast, the Class 2A state runners-up last spring, the school has turned to former longtime successful coach, Lynn Pitonzo.

Before retiring four years ago to watch her son, Jon, play lacrosse at Mount St. Joseph, Pitonzo guided Northeast to seven state championships in 14 years and had the school's field named after her.

"Actually Marianne was continuing what we were doing when I left," said Pitonzo. "We stress fundamentals and make kids believe they can win."

An extremely disappointed Shultz said she had hoped Walter would change his mind and allow her to coach at Northeast.

"I'm going to miss it," she said.

"Softball is my favorite sport and Northeast has a lot of talent this year. But teaching health and phys ed is first for me, and coaching second. I wanted to teach at a high school and I got the chance at Arundel. Bernie wants everybody to stay in the building. I'll go see Northeast play as much as I can and I'll be working with the Class 2A East Region tournament."

Shultz had been teaching at Brooklyn Park-Lindale Middle School when the opportunity to go to Arundel developed last fall.

Said Walter: "She [Shultz] agreed before she was offered the job [Arundel assistant girls soccer coach] not to coach at any other school. A person is as good as their word. She might coach a second sport here, but it hasn't been worked out."

For Taylor and Spalding, the timing of Ryals' arrival couldn't have been better.

Crystal Henderson, the All-Metro Player of the Year in 1996 and a three-time first team All-Metro choice as a shortstop, graduated last spring and received a scholarship to play softball at the University of North Carolina.

Henderson hit .627 from the leadoff position last year and drove in 34 runs with seven home runs, seven doubles, five triples and 20 stolen bases for the 24-2 Cavaliers.

"I knew we had a big hole to fill at shortstop," said Taylor. "And Sabrina Ryals piled a bunch of dirt in that hole."

Taylor said she realizes how the transfer of Ryals looks and is worried that other coaches will accuse her of recruiting.

"The fact that I don't recruit is one of the things I'm proudest of," she said.

Rushing to support Taylor as an honest coach who doesn't recruit was North County coach Brian Love.

"I've known Linda for a long time and I know she would never recruit a player," said Love. "She's not like that."

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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