Pitchers ready step to forefront

Strong arms, experience could help quiet some bats

March 20, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

In a county known for its bats, Carroll schools are proving that they have the arms as well.

All five public schools have an ace on their pitching staffs this season. Class 3A state runner-up North Carroll is led by first-team All-County pitcher Lisa Tunney, while Liberty has honorable-mention pick Lindsay Rankin on the mound.

Francis Scott Key complements first-team All-County pitcher Meredith Carter with honorable-mention selection Misti Myers. South Carroll has honorable-mention hurler Ashley Taylor and Emily Wolfing, while Westminster can mix Nichol Moeller with Heather Sinclair.

The bevy of pitchers has some coaches envisioning low-scoring games.

"Who can manufacture runs, who can take advantage of the error, every game could possibly be like that," says North Carroll coach Lloyd Ford. "1-0, 2-1 games are very possible."

The development of pitchers is somewhat surprising when one considers that Carroll County has been regarded as one of the better hitting counties.

Case in point: 10 of the 14 past season's first-team All-County players batted above .300 and two finished better than .400.

But molding a pitcher can be difficult. Some pitcher find out that the pressure of giving up runs can be strenuous.

"It's a very high-pressure position," said Liberty coach Nora Murray. "If you can't throw strikes, it makes for a very different ballgame, and not every player has this ability."

Francis Scott Key coach Joe Linthicum said he believes that a good pitcher has to strike a balance between being confident and cocky.

"You can be quiet or loud, but most of all, you have to be resilient," he said. "If they hit one off of you, you can't be afraid to pitch against the next batter."

There's some debate over whether teams need an ace to be successful. Some coaches feel that a standout pitcher can be the difference between winning or losing a close game.

Others, like Westminster coach Lisa Harford, believe that having two hurlers is better than one.

"If my starting pitcher can go hard for three or four innings and then I can bring someone else in who is fresh, that doesn't give the batters a chance to catch up," Harford said. "I don't need one incredible pitcher and one average pitcher."

Moeller and Sinclair give Harford that flexibility. Moeller, a sophomore who started last year, boasts a changeup and a fastball, while Sinclair, a senior, has a good breaking ball.

At South Carroll, the junior duo of Taylor and Wolfing have struck out a combined 83 batters. Taylor has a 1.10 ERA, and Wolfing has a 1.60 ERA.

Rankin is the staff ace at Liberty, where her 2.17 ERA and ability to throw six different pitches has befuddled many opposing hitters.

Perhaps the pitchers with the most honors last season are Carter of Francis Scott Key and Tunney of North Carroll.

Tunney, a senior, went 9-0 in her first varsity season as a junior and had a 0.46 ERA with 37 strikeouts. Her stinginess -- only 27 hits all year -- helped the Panthers reach the Class 3A state title game.

Ford can also use junior Angie Springer, who -- unlike Tunney -- is a control pitcher.

Carter had a solid sophomore season, going 7-1 with a 0.94 ERA and striking out 72 batters. She should improve this year, but if she doesn't, Linthicum can put Myers, a senior who narrowly missed first-team honors, on the mound.

All of which has South Carroll coach Debbie Eaton feeling upbeat about the state of the game.

"Good fast-pitch games should be 3-2 or 2-1," she said. "I think there will be low scores, and the pitchers in this county will be a big reason for that."

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