1998 All-Howard County softball team

May 28, 1998|By Rick Belz and Stan Rappaport

Coach of the Year

Chuck Struhar, Long Reach: Struhar's slogan, the same one he used successfully at Glenelg, is this: "It all starts with the right attitude." Struhar wants his players playing softball as often as they can. "You have to convince the kids they have to play all-year round. That means in summer leagues and fall leagues. If they do that, they're going to have success," said Struhar, also Long Reach's athletic director. Long Reach was 2-19 overall and 2-16 in the league in its first season a year ago. This spring, the Lightning, with only one senior starter, improved to 12-10 overall and 10-8 in the league. "They're great kids," Struhar said of his players. "They love the game and are easy to coach." And Struhar expects better things to come. "Next year will be even better," he said. "I think we'll vie for the county championship." Struhar has convinced many of his players to participate in summer leagues, including second-team All-County pitcher Kristen Schaper, who threw a perfect game and two no-hitters this season. This is the fifth time this decade that Struhar has won Coach of the Year honors. He also won in 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1995 while at Glenelg. His 1990 and 1994 Gladiators teams won county championships. From 1990 through 1996, his Glenelg teams never finished lower than second place.

Player of the Year

Shana Wyant, Glenelg, senior, pitcher: After waiting two years to become the team's first-string pitcher, Wyant delivered a stellar performance, leading the Gladiators to their first regional title and state tournament appearance. Wyant is the second member of her family to earn Player of the Year honors. Her sister Angie, a 1991 Glenelg graduate, was co-Player of the Year in 1991 as a second baseman and also earned All-Metro honors. Angie went on to play four years at Campbell University in North Carolina, and that's where Shana will attend college. Wyant expects to play second base at Campbell. Wyant, who throws hard and has six different pitches, allowed 34 runs (18 earned) and 67 hits in 126 innings, walked 47 and struck out 107. Her ERA was 1.00. She was just as dangerous -- and effective -- at the plate and on the bases. She batted .406 and had 28 hits, including five doubles and three triples. She scored 26 runs, had 15 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and walked 12 times. "She's a fierce competitor for sure and works very hard," said Glenelg coach Dean Sheridan. Wyant, who often grunts when she delivers a pitch, was 18-0 as a freshman JV pitcher, then became an All-County second baseman her sophomore and junior years.

The first team

Holly Gick, River Hill, senior, pitcher: A three-year first-team All-County selection, Gick led the second-year Hawks to the county title. She finished 17-4 with a 1.43 ERA, and batted .412 with 21 hits and eight RBIs. Gick, who has good speed and a strong command of her pitches, threw a no-hitter against Howard in this year's playoffs. She gave up 40 runs (26 earned) in 127.6 innings, 89 hits, 37 walks and struck out 128. Two years ago, when she pitched for Atholton, Gick was 11-7 with a 1.53 ERA. Last year at River Hill, Gick was 13-7 with a 1.75 ERA.

Kelly O'Neill, Howard, junior, pitcher: One of the top pitchers the last two years, O'Neill finished with a 12-6 record and a 1.16 ERA. The hard-throwing right-hander gave up 55 hits, 38 runs (17 earned), walked 48 and struck out 116 in 102 1/3 innings. She also had 14 wild pitches and hit three batters. O'Neill, a repeat first-team All-County selection, batted .385 and had a team-high .646 slugging percentage. She had 25 hits -- including two doubles, three triples and a team-high three home runs -- and scored 25 times. Her 19 RBIs also were a team high.

Stacey Swiney, Howard, junior, catcher: Swiney, the Howard County Player of the Year last season, made a team-high nine errors this season. But she still is the county's most feared catcher, with a strong arm and powerful bat. Swiney had team highs in runs (29), hits (29), average (.453), slugging percentage (.641) and stolen bases (6). She also had three doubles, three triples, a home run, 12 walks and 16 RBIs. She is a three-year first-team All-County selection in softball and was a second-team All-County pick in basketball.

Lauren Abicht, Mount Hebron, senior, infielder: fielder: A second-team All-County selection the last two years, Abicht led her team in very offensive category except runs (she that missed that by two). Abicht, a first baseman, had 23 hits, including four doubles and two triples. She batted .500, and had 19 RBIs and scored 13 times. Her slugging percentage was .737. Abicht will attend West Virginia University, which has no softball team.

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