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Softball

March 20, 2000

Preseason Top 15

1. Spalding

Last season: 25-7, ranked No. 2

Skinny: For the past decade, Spalding dominated the Catholic League. This season, with 12 returnees led by sophomore pitcher Jessica Saunders, the Cavaliers should do the same in the new Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland's A Conference.

2. North County

Last season: 17-7, No. 10

Skinny: Could this be the year the Knights find a way out of the tough Class 4A East region? With pitching depth, their entire infield back and a scrappy offense, the opportunity is there.

3. Northeast

Last season: 24-2, No. 1

Skinny: The defending Class 3A state champion Eagles lost All-Metro Player of the Year Amanda Shifflett and two All-Metro pitchers, but always find a way to win in the end. Northeast will be banking on more success from junior pitcher Rachel Herrick, who went 6-0 last spring as a fill-in.

4. Chesapeake-AA

Last season: 15-5, No. 5

Skinny: Another Class 4A East challenger, the Cougars have two veteran pitchers, a proven infield and a new head coach, Don Bishoff. An entirely new outfield will have to deliver.

5. Seton Keough

Last season: 15-6, No. 7

Skinny: New head coach Fred Brocklander, a major-league umpire for 15 years, knows a strike zone. So does standout pitcher Kristin Dulay.

6. Severna Park

Last season: 25-7, No. 3

Skinny: The Falcons got the hard part out of the way by winning the Class 4A East and then were upset in the state final. Hit heavy by graduation, can standout pitcher Lauren Pollock carry the load?

7. Glen Burnie

Last season: 8-9, unranked

Skinny: After taking the 4A state title two years ago, the Gophers fell on hard times last season. Don't count on that happening two years in a row.

8. Atholton

Last season: 17-2, No. 12

Skinny: Behind freshman pitcher Katie Zitnay last year, the Raiders won their first Howard County crown since 1973. But they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs, and this season are focused on going deep into the playoffs.

9. Arundel

Last season: 19-3, No. 4

Skinny: A four-year battery graduated, can the Wildcats recharge? Junior shortstop Alexis Viera is a good start.

10. North Carroll

Last season: 20-3, No. 6

Skinny: Former head coach Rich Harvey left new coach Lloyd Ford with plenty: eight returnees from last spring's Class 3A state runner-up team. But four All-Carroll County picks have graduated.

11. Mount de Sales

Last season: 15-6, No. 9

Skinny: Seven starters return to surround a young pitching staff. Leading the way and leading off is All-Metro center fielder Kerri Pisel.

12. Franklin

Last season: 18-2, No. 11

Skinny: Four starters departed for the Baltimore County champs. No problem. The Indians can draw from a JV team that hasn't lost in four seasons.

13. C. Milton Wright

Last season: 16-7, unranked

Skinny: The Mustangs, now in the 4A East, feature the area's top catcher, Megan Hube. They won the Harford County championship last spring then hit a snag against county rival Fallston in the region playoffs.

14. Perry Hall

Last season: 16-4, No. 14

Skinny: The Gators have been the 4A North region champs three of the last four years. A young pitching staff will help determine if they make it four out of five.

15. Wilde Lake

Last season: 15-5, unranked

Skinny: The Wildecats have eight starters back, and should have no problem scoring and executing in the field. But can junior pitcher Kristy Kaiser step in for All-Howard County performer Jen Babish?

Players to watch

Jamie Clingan, 2B, IND

Arguably the metro area's finest leadoff batter, Clingan hit .386 for the Indians with 26 runs scored and 24 steals last season. The senior committed just one error in 86 chances at second base.

Megan Hube, C, C. Milton Wright

The senior catcher put up huge numbers (.597, 7 HRs, 29 RBI) last spring to lead the Mustangs to a Harford County title. She's just as impressive behind the plate, taking charge of the pitchers and possessing a strong arm that keeps runners from stealing.

Lauren Pollock, P/1B, Severna Park

The first-team All-Metro selection hit .469 and went 5-1 on the mound last spring, allowing just four earned runs in six games. This season, Pollock will be asked to do more as the ace of the Falcons, who will look to reach the Class 4A state title game for a second straight season.

Jessica Saunders, P, Spalding

The hard-throwing Saunders burst onto the scene as a freshman last season and dominated, going 7-2 with a 0.10 ERA and 81 strikeouts. She was given the ball in the Catholic League championship game and came through with a 2-0 gem against Seton Keough.

Lisa Tunney, P, North Carroll

In her first varsity season last spring, Tunney posted a 9-0 mark with a stingy 0.46 ERA to help lead the Panthers to the Class 3A state final. Crafty and always keeping the ball down in the strike zone, the senior allowed just 27 hits all season with 37 strikeouts.

Katie Zitnay, P, Atholton

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