March 23, 1997|By Bill Free

Annapolis Panthers

1996 record: 0-18. Coach: Gloria Day.

Top players: Jen Gerety, Jr., OF; Darla Stafford, Sr., P; Kammi Cottrell, Jr., OF; Jackie Edwards, Jr., OF; Meredith Stewart, Sr., 1B; Danielle Verdugo, Sr., C; Sharie Neptune, So., 3B; Jen Ferris, Jr., IF.

Outlook: The return to softball by junior basketball standouts Kammi Cottrell and Jackie Edwards after a year's absence has generated new interest in a program that has been struggling recently. Day said Cottrell and Edwards were outstanding hitters and outfielders as freshmen but decided not to play last season. The return of Verdugo as a catcher after two years off is another plus, prompting Day to predict as many as four wins after a winless 1996. "We've made progress with the help of my assistant, Jeff Reed, in our pitching and teamwork, and we have more experience," said Day.

Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers

1996 record: 24-2. Coach: Linda Taylor.

Top players: Crystal Ray, Sr., P/SS; Kathleen O'Hara, Sr., P/SS; Sabrina Ryals, So., SS; Michelle Stack, Jr., 1B; Beth Yourishin, Jr., C; Michelle Marll, Jr., 3B; Courtney Dixon, So., OF; Kristin Dulay, Fr., P; Julie Janyska, Jr., OF

Outlook: With the hard-throwing Ray back to intimidate hitters for a fourth season, O'Hara returning after a 10-0 year and All-Metro shortstop Ryals having transferred from Glen Burnie, it's hard to imagine how the Cavaliers could slip much from last year's third straight finish as the Baltimore area's No. 1 team. Ray faced all the top teams on the Spalding schedule last year and still came away with a 12-2 record, 0.76 ERA, 165 strikeouts, two no-hitters, four one-hitters, three two-hitters, seven shutouts and 25 walks in 91 innings. Ray has been a high school All-America for three years, mixing changeups, drops and curves with her fastball and intense desire to win. O'Hara threw five shutouts, one no-hitter, struck out 102 and had an 0.34 ERA in 61 innings last season. O'Hara and Ray are also outstanding hitters; O'Hara hit .494 with a team-leading 39 RBIs last season, and Ray hit .385 with 10 doubles, one home runs and 31 RBIs. Yourishin is not only a strong defensive catcher but hit .494, had 38 RBIs and a team-leading seven triples. If Ray or O'Hara should get hurt, the Cavaliers have a highly-regarded freshman pitcher, Dulay. Also, Dixon provides speed and Janyska power.

Arundel Wildcats

1996 record: 16-5. Coach: Paul Yannuzzi.

Top players: Breanna Kitchen, S., C; Soraya Grace, So., P; Maria Drury, CF, Sr.; Mari Ramsey, So., 1B; Sarah Mayne, Sr., 2B; Kristin Daffin, Sr., SS; Kady House, Sr., 3B/P; Alisha Hepfer, Jr., OF; Erin Markish, Jr., OF; Ashley Hines, So., OF; Valerie McDowell, So., OF

Outlook: Arundel won the county's South division last season but never got to challenge North winner Glen Burnie because of two rainouts. Yannuzzi has Grace groomed to take over the pitching duties, and the hard-hitting Kitchen returns behind the plate. Grace was 5-0 on the mound, and Kitchen hit .350. Also back are strong-armed center-fielder Drury, who had seven assists last year; House, who hit .300; Daffin, who moves from second to short, and Hepfer, who is outstanding defensively. Ramsey is a transfer from California and could be a big-time hitter. "I think we can win the South again," said Yannuzzi. "Our first nine are pretty good."

Broadneck Bruins

1996 record: 5-13. Coach: Tom Moreland.

Top players: Susie Conrad, Sr., P/SS; Jamie Leigh Hughes, So., 2B; Caitlin Senkel, Sr., LF; Courtney Wagner, Jr., 3B/P; Suzie Shuttleworth, So., P; Michelle McGrath, So., RF; Leslie Lapham, So., CF; Bryn Weller, Fr., C; Sindy Heidler, Jr., 1B; Christine Seeley, So., IF.

Outlook: More pitching depth and improved hitting should enable the Bruins to make a stronger run in the South division this season. Behind the ace, Conrad, on the mound are Shuttleworth and Wagner. Weller, Wagner, McGrath and Shuttleworth also are expected to provide strong hitting. "I was pleased with the turnout," said Moreland. "We'll be young and competitive, and if our pitching comes through, we'll do all right."

Chesapeake Cougars

1996 record: 13-6. Coach: Dennis Thiele.

Top players: Missy Silvers, Sr., P; Nikki Carpenter, Sr., P; Angie Zittle, Sr., RF; Julie French, Sr., 1B; Brooke Clyde, Jr., SS; Lauren Gontkof, So., LF; Jennifer Davis, Sr., 2B; Angie Kissling, Sr., 2B; Michelle Cappe, So., CF; Meredith Pirone, So., IF

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