Tested talent gives River Hill head start New school has veterans to challenge Centennial, Glenelg for county title

Softball Preview

March 23, 1997|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Long Reach and River Hill are first-year schools with veteran coaches.

So much for the similarities.

The Lightning, under former Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar, have 14 players, six of them freshmen, and none with varsity experience.

The Hawks, guided by former Atholton coach Dave Vitagliano, have 13 players, including six of eight juniors that played varsity last season.

"We're definitely not a first-year team," said River Hill pitcher Holly Gick, a first-team all-county selection last year at Atholton.

In fact, River Hill is among four schools that should compete for the county title.

"What I see," said new Glenelg coach Dean Sheridan, "is Centennial, Howard, us and River Hill. In what order, I'm not sure."

All four of those teams, which won their season openers Friday, have outstanding pitchers. Centennial has Emily Hall, last year's county Player of the Year and an All-Metro pick; Howard has second-team all-county selection Rachel Grantham; Glenelg has first-team all-county pick Marni Brown and River Hill has Gick.

Pitching for Long Reach will be Kristen Schaper, who has potential but nevertheless is a freshman. "We're starting from scratch," said Struhar, beginning his ninth season as a head coach. "We're building a program.

"The River Hill situation is a little different," Struhar added. "What he's doing is adapting two very good programs from Atholton and Glenelg into one."

Besides Gick, who finished 11-7 last year with an ERA of 1.53, River Hill has another all-county selection in junior first baseman Kristin Hooker.

"I'm constantly amazed by what she does," Vitagliano said of the former Glenelg player. "She may very well be the best player in the county."

Hooker handled 162 chances and made only two errors last season. She batted .452, and had 33 hits, including 10 doubles.

Junior Meghan Goetz, who hit .340 as a freshman at Glenelg, will start for the Hawks at second base. She missed most of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.

"Certainly we can make a run for the county title. We've got talented players," said Vitagliano. "What we're struggling with now is understanding what it takes to be a county champion, a region champion. Understanding what it takes to make a run at the state tournament. Right now that's my biggest challenge, to get them to that point where they understand what it takes on a daily basis.

"There's a fine line between being a good team and being a great team; being a team that's going to be way over .500 and making a serious run for the county title. You don't want to look back after the season and say, 'If we just had worked a little harder,' "

While River Hill will be starting two freshmen, Amanda Bile and Lisa Humphrey, Long Reach could start as many as five.

Struhar, whose Glenelg teams finished first or second the last seven years, said his "greatest challenge is to make them understand how competitive this county is" and that "they're going to have to play at a higher level. Being a freshman is not an excuse anymore."

Struhar, whose Glenelg teams won the county title in 1990 and 1994, said he hopes to win some games but is mainly "looking for improvement."

The key for the program's success will be getting the girls to play year round.

"My job is to get all the girls to do what the Glenelg players did, and that's play, and play often," said Struhar, Long Reach's athletic director.

"When you play in the summer and fall leagues you're going to get better, and the winning will take care of itself."

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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