Coaches to face changes on mound

Graduations open way for newcomers to pitch

March 20, 2000|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

So who's going to do the pitching this spring?

What has made Anne Arundel the elite softball county in the metro area for years is its supremacy on the mound.

The county was particularly dominant last season with one of the strongest senior core of pitchers around.

Class 3A state champion Northeast had two top hurlers in Deana Benner and Stacy Smith. Four-year standout Amanda Donaldson led Severna Park to the Class 4A state final.

North County's Kellie Evans brought heat to the plate along with a dangerous bat. Soraya Grace had four fine seasons at Arundel and likely would have been the top pitcher in any other county. Spalding's Sabrina Ryals and Broadneck's Suzie Shuttleworth also closed out fine careers.

Back to the question.

"You'll see some new faces, but as far as the caliber is concerned, it won't change much. It's just a matter of some of the younger ones gaining a little experience," said Northeast coach Marianne Shultz. "In our county, we have it so wonderful with the pitching clinics that are available at the younger ages."

Some teams have standouts waiting in the wings, waiting for their turn to shine.

When Northeast's Benner and Smith were out of the lineup in the early part of last season, sophomore Rachel Herrick stepped in and went 6-0 with a 0.59 ERA. Severna Park has junior standout Lauren Pollock (5-1) ready to take over, but the Falcons will be sacrificing her outstanding play at first base.

Sophomore Brittany Boyd and senior Brandi Shickton give North County two quality pitchers to replace Evans.

After four years of sending Grace to the mound almost every time out, Arundel coach Paul Yannuzzi will pitch by committee, led by junior Sara Kriger.

Will the big turnover in pitching translate into more offense?

"The pitching should be just as strong, but there might not be as [much depth]. That may open the game up a little bit and make things even more competitive," said Shultz.

With Glen Burnie looking to return to form after an uncharacteristic 8-8 season in 1999 and Chesapeake returning its two starters, Erin Taylor and Katie Nelson, the county title is any team's to claim.

"It's going to be very interesting," Glen Burnie coach Bob Broccolino said. "If nothing else, it will be a very balanced year. There won't be any teams going 17-1 or 16-2 because everyone will be taking turns knocking each other off."

North County looks to be at the top of the list going into the season among the public schools. Boyd and Shickton give the Knights two quality pitchers, their entire defense returns and the lineup is scrappy and powerful.

"I learned a long time ago you don't count on what it looks like on paper in March. It's who's still standing in May," said North County coach Brian Love. "This year, we hope to be that team standing. The kids are focused and I think we're farther along hitting-wise, defense and pitching. We'll have to do the little things."

The Spalding Cavaliers, who dominated the Catholic League last spring, look to be primed at doing the same in the new Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland's A Conference this season.

Sophomore pitcher Jessica Saunders, who enjoyed a 2-0 win over Seton Keough in the Catholic League tournament final as a freshman, should be even stronger this season and the Cavaliers have the defense and offense behind her.

Keough will likely pose the biggest threat with senior pitcher Kristin Dulay, who started out at Spalding before transferring last year, leading the way. The Gators have a new coach in Fred Brocklander, who spent 15 years as a major-league umpire.

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