Different stories yield same result: winning Varied backgrounds help in 15-4 Pioneers' bid for fifth straight title

April 06, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Samantha Miller is enjoying pitching again at Anne Arundel Community College after a bad freshman-year experience at the University of Maryland.

Chris Napora is hitting extremely well and has earned a softball scholarship to Towson State.

All Sherry Goodman has done is go 14-1 on the mound after figuring she was not good enough to make the team last season.

And Amy Loprete is starting in left field and hitting .318 even though she was never a starter in high school.

Those four different success stories are typical of what has helped propel the Anne Arundel Community College women's softball team into the National Junior College Athletic Association limelight this spring.

The Pioneers were ranked No. 1 in a pre-season NJCAA Division III poll and are living up to that billing with a 15-4 start.

This excellent start comes on the heels of an outstanding 1996 season in which Anne Arundel CC put together a 33-7 record and finished ninth in the NJCAA championship tournament.

The Pioneers also won their fourth consecutive Maryland JuCo title last year and are seeking a fifth straight under coach Jim Hendricks.

This season, the NJCAA has split its women's softball competition into Division I and Division III, with the Pioneers being grouped in Division III.

Miller, a pre-season NJCAA All-America selection, is leading the Pioneers' charge towards a Division III championship with some spectacular pitching and determination.

Against some of the top teams in the country this spring, Miller has compiled a 7-3 record, 1.80 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 15 walks.

Miller was superb last week against powerful Gulf Coast Junior College (Fla.), allowing just five hits and two earned runs in a 3-2 loss.

The sophomore right-hander is picking up where she left off last season for the Pioneers (22-4, 146 strikeouts, 35 walks, 1.04 ERA).

It was the kind of freshman year Miller needed after dropping out of Maryland on a sour note at the end of the fall 1995 semester.

Miller entered Maryland with high hopes of making the softball team as a walk-on. She came from a traditionally strong Glen Burnie High program and had been honored as the All-Metro Player of the Year in the Baltimore area as a senior pitcher and shortstop in 1995.

But she said, "I don't think I was given a chance at Maryland. I never got to pitch in practice and never played in any games in the fall semester. They had two pitchers behind Kelly Shipman [former Northern-Calvert ace] and I never got a chance."

Miller said a fractured finger during the fall semester at Maryland also hampered her efforts to make the squad.

"Maryland is not a hot topic with me," said Miller. "But I'm comfortable at Anne Arundel CC. A lot of people consider it like a high school. But it's a different atmosphere when you walk across campus and talk to people. Also, I liked the idea the school had been nationally-ranked in softball in the past and I knew coach Hendricks was a hard, demanding coach."

Hendricks said Miller caught a lot of teams "off-guard" last season with her excellent location of pitches and ability to mix **TC fastball with off-speed offerings.

"She's even throwing more off-speed pitches this year," said Hendricks. "Because I've told her not to think about striking people out, just get the ball over the plate and put it in play and let our strong defense do the rest."

Miller believes in her defense with "all my heart and soul."

"We really click together as a team and should be more prepared for the NJCAA tournament this year," said the NJCAA honorable mention All-America selection last year.

Miller, Napora and catcher Jen Stapler are all sophomores from Glen Burnie High and are three of eight Anne Arundel County products on the 10-player squad.

Napora, a third baseman and pre-season honorable mention NJCAA All-America choice, leads the team in almost every offensive category, hitting .500 with a .927 slugging percentage, 30 RBIs, two home runs, seven triples and 20 runs scored.

Napora hit .466 as a freshman.

"My dream all along was to go to a major Division I school like Maryland and play softball," said Napora. "But I didn't have the right class [Algebra II] I needed to go to Maryland. Honestly, that is the reason I went to Anne Arundel CC and it has been great for me. I'm going to Towson State on a softball scholarship. But I'm going to miss my friends like Sam [Samantha Miller] yelling at me about everything. She's like a second mom to me."

Goodman is another sophomore from Anne Arundel County but she did not play high school softball because her school, Calvary Baptist, did not have a team.

The other four team members from Anne Arundel County are sophomore shortstop Stephanie Bennett, Old Mill High; center fielder Brianna Weidman, Severna Park High; freshman second baseman Jen Johansen, Northeast High, and freshman first baseman Tracy Mrazeck, North County.

Bennett is a tri-captain with Miller and Napora and she is hitting .480 with 20 RBIs, 23 runs scored, five triples, three doubles and a .740 slugging percentage.

Weidman is hitting .490 with 26 runs scored and six stolen bases; Johansen carries a .396 batting average with 20 runs scored, eight stolen bases and five doubles, and Mrazeck is hiting .489 with 12 RBIs, 14 runs scored, one home run and a .979 fielding percentage.

Loprete, Bowie High, and sophomore right fielder Sherry DePhillip, Northern-Calvert High, complete the squad.

Pub Date: 4/06/97

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