S. Carroll swings away, despite hits

Baseball: The Cavaliers captured last year's 3A state championship on the strength of a deep lineup. Now they face the prospect of defending that title with a depleted one.

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

What a difference a year makes.

At about this time last year, George Richardson looked up and down his South Carroll roster and knew he had a formidable lineup and an imposing pitching staff. That Cavaliers squad proved him right by capturing the Class 3A state championship.

Now, the third-year coach has only four players with more than five varsity at-bats and a pitching rotation that includes six hurlers who spent most of last season on the JV squad.

The transition from juggernaut to question mark has prompted Richardson to refrain from making any guarantees about this season.

"We just don't have the same type of team to repeat last season," he said. "I believe everything runs in cycles. We're going to have our ups and downs."

The ups were plentiful last year. Fueled by memories of a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Thomas Johnson in the 1998 playoffs, South Carroll blitzed the opposition last season, going 21-4.

One of the Cavaliers' more significant victories came in the regional finals when South Carroll traveled to Frederick to meet Central Maryland Conference rival Linganore.

The Cavaliers' five-inning, 12-0 rout of the Lancers was capped by an 8-1 win against Leonardtown in the state championship game, but senior second baseman Chris Vasse said the Linganore game was pivotal.

"We knew that if we could get past them, we would have a good chance at states," said Vasse, who was the designated hitter last season.

The key to last season's run was striking a seemingly perfect equilibrium between hitting and pitching.

The offense averaged 8.6 runs a game and the lowest batting average in the lineup was .361.

The offense fed off the power of Kevin Damiano, who batted .538 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, and 42 RBIs, and Jason Tourangeau, who hit .508 with eight homers and 30 RBIs.

Damiano and Tourangeau paced the Cavaliers from the mound as well, combining for an 11-1 record with 163 strikeouts. They had help from Brandon Woodward, who finished 8-1 with 76 strikeouts, and Eric Bopste and Kyle Wilson, who contributed valuable innings.

How good was the pitching staff? Consider that all five hurlers are currently pitching on the collegiate level -- Damiano at Penn State, Tourangeau at East Carolina, Woodward at St. Mary's, and Wilson and Bopste at Frederick Community College.

"Who would've expected a class in which five of the pitchers are pitching in college? That doesn't happen," Richardson said, adding that the quintet combined to strike out a state-record 269 batters. "It's just a credit to what that class had."

Only time will tell what the current crop of players will yield, but the odds don't appear to favor South Carroll. Five of seven all-county players -- including Damiano, Tourangeau, and Woodward -- have graduated, taking with them a good chunk of run support.

On the mound, Richardson has six pitchers who have never thrown a varsity inning.

"Last season, we dominated so many games with our pitching, and we're not going to be able to do that," he said. "Teams are going to put the ball in play against us this year."

But some teams are not taking the Cavaliers so lightly. Westminster coach Jim Rodriguez thinks Richardson and company will springboard off last season's run.

"Success breeds success. Despite the fact that they're not going to have three top-notch pitchers, they've learned what it takes to be successful," Rodriguez said. "I fully expect them to be good."

Although opponents will be eager to pin the state champs with losses, senior catcher Greg Harrison said he is looking forward to facing their pitching aces and potent bats.

"We want to see everybody's best pitcher, their best hitters," Harrison said. "We can only get better going against someone as good as you are."

And Vasse is confident the Cavaliers will contend for the state crown.

"We understand that we're not going to bat 1.000," he said. "But we're going to do our best. We'll be fine."

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