All-Metro softball team

June 07, 1999|By GLENN P. GRAHAM

Player of the Year

Amanda Shifflett, Northeast

Numbers, numbers, and more numbers. Shifflett put up plenty of them in leading the No. 1-ranked Eagles (24-2) to their record ninth state championship.

For instance: When she came up with two outs and a runner on in the first inning of the Class 3A state title game against North Carroll, it was no surprise when she ripped a triple to right-center. Then she scored, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead that would turn into a 9-0 title win.

The Eagles' shortstop, a four-year starter, smashed the ball everywhere this spring. Showing more patience at the plate and going with the pitch to all fields, Shifflett hit .573 -- .282 points higher than last spring -- and drove in 38 runs. She scored 38 more times with six homers and a state-record nine triples.

Another example: In a 2-1 win over Severna Park in the Anne Arundel County title game, her two-run homer in the first proved the game-winner. Later in that game, she singled -- her 100th career hit.

"Part of Amanda's problem last season was she put too much pressure on herself and would get herself all worked up at the plate. The one goal she said she had going into the season was being more relaxed," said Northeast coach Marianne Shultz. "She always got us going, and everyone knew they could always count on Amanda. She also plays basketball and is around the atmosphere of being a leader. She knows how it feels and what she wants to do."

Consistency was a Shifflett trademark this spring. Headed for Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh this fall, she had 20 multiple-hit games.

Deana Benner, Northeast

No pitcher in the area came through with more big wins than Benner, who started her senior season rehabbing a bad knee and ended it jumping up and down after a 9-0 win over North Carroll in the Class 3A state championship.

She finished the season 7-1 with a 0.31 ERA.

She tossed a no-hitter against Glen Burnie, allowed five hits against Severna Park in a 2-1 win for the Anne Arundel County championship, and produced a three-hit gem in a 2-0 win against perennial state power Northern-Calvert in the region final.

She closed out the season with a three-hitter against North Carroll for Northeast's ninth state title.

Benner, headed for Radford University, also hit .366.

Coach of the Year

Marianne Shultz, Northeast

Shultz turned three possible negatives - last year's upset playoff loss, not having two top pitchers early because of health problems, and a tough schedule - into team-strengthening positives.

The result was a picture-perfect 9-0 win over North Carroll for the Class 3A state championship.

The state title was Shultz's first but ninth for No. 1-ranked Northeast, which also took the prestigious Anne Arundel County title.

Shultz had her Eagles (24-2) ready to play in the final, which the Eagles dedicated to former JV coach Linda Hackmann, who died in April of cancer.

"The girls knew that's what they worked for, and that's where they wanted to be," Shultz said.

Sabrina Ryals, Spalding

It was fitting that Ryals closed out her outstanding four-year career with the game-winning hit in the Cavaliers' 3-2, eight-inning win over Pallotti to capture their second straight Maryland Independent Schools Tournament championship.

A four-time first-team All-Metro shortstop and pitcher, Ryals hit .448 with 25 RBIs, 23 runs and 10 doubles this spring.

On the mound, she was 6-2 with a 1.07 ERA and 55 strikeouts.

The way she played the game was impressive, always understanding game situations. In the Catholic League championship game against Seton Keough, she worked a bases-loaded walk to bring home the winning run.

Stacy Smith, Northeast

Smith's outstanding four-year career can be summarized by one battle. It came in the Class 3A state semifinals against Thomas Stone with the Eagles holding on to a 2-1 lead in the sixth.

Smith was facing clean-up hitter Kristie Pickeral with the potential winning run on second. Pickeral pulled foul after foul down the third-base line before finally getting the count full.

Pickering finally swung through a changeup, the Eagles advanced and went on to win the state title.

Missing the early part of the season recovering from mononucleosis, Smith (8-1, 0.23 ERA) came back with the same All-Metro form she had as a junior, not allowing an earned run until the last regular-season game.

Erin Caffrey, Atholton

Caffrey, a senior, was able to make a difficult transition, moving to center field after playing catcher. She made it look easy as the Raiders captured their first Howard County championship in 26 years.

With her speed and the ability to get a good jump on the ball, the Raiders' outfield became a team strength.

Also a catalyst offensively as the leadoff hitter, Caffrey hit .344 with 21 runs, six RBIs, five doubles and a team-high nine stolen bases.

Atholton coach John Zitko said another fine quality that came from Caffrey, a team captain, was her leadership and ability to keep teammates up.

Caffrey plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh.

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