N. Carroll softball can't afford slips

Panthers need to beat

Urbana to stay in hunt


April 28, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The last time the North Carroll softball team clashed with Urbana, the prize was sole possession of first place in the Central Maryland Conference standings.

Since then, Urbana has dropped from the race for the conference championship, but the stakes are no less significant when the Hawks of Frederick County visit the Panthers at 4 p.m. today in Hampstead.

For North Carroll, a victory means staying near the top of the leader board. A loss would dim any hope of a second consecutive conference crown.

The Panthers had been sitting in control for much of the season until they lost a 1-0 squeaker to Frederick on Wednesday and a 7-2 decision to Thomas Johnson yesterday.

The setbacks left North Carroll with a 6-3 conference record (10-3 overall) -- two games behind conference-leading Westminster, which edged Thomas Johnson, 3-2 in eight innings, also on Wednesday.

"That puts Westminster up a game on everybody," said Panthers coach Lloyd Ford. "It starts to put some pressure on you."

If North Carroll wants to keep pace with the Owls, the Panthers will have to defeat Urbana, which lost 1-0 to the Panthers on April 7.

Ford said he sees many similarities between his squad and the Hawks.

"They have strong pitching, a strong defense, and they try to take advantage of what offensive opportunities come up," he said. "It's like playing a mirror image."

Against Urbana, Ford said he expects to start senior right-hander Lisa Tunney, who is 5-2 despite not giving up an earned run.

Meanwhile, Westminster, which is 8-1 in the conference and 9-2 overall, plays at Frederick today.

The Owls, who hold a one-game lead over North Carroll in the race for the county title, earned the advantage when they tagged Thomas Johnson with only their second loss in the conference on Wednesday. The victory helped Westminster avenge a 7-0 loss to the Patriots on April 5.

Coach Lisa Harford, who has a formidable pitching tandem in sophomore Nichol Moeller (6-0 with a 1.94 ERA) and senior Heather Sinclair (3-2), said she likes the position her Owls are in.

"Our destiny is in our hands," she said. "If we keep winning, we'll win the title. We don't have to hope that someone else will lose. That's the position you want to be in."

Cavs start racket

The South Carroll boys and girls tennis teams have emerged as the leaders in the sprint for the county championship.

The girls squad is 3-0 this season with victories against Liberty, North Carroll and Westminster.

North Carroll is 2-1, while Francis Scott Key, Liberty and Westminster own identical 1-2 county marks.

The standings on the boys side are slightly more congested. Although South Carroll is undefeated with wins against Liberty, North Carroll and Westminster, Liberty, the defending county champ, is only a half-game back with a 3-1 county record.

North Carroll has defeated Francis Scott Key and Westminster, but faltered badly against Liberty and South Carroll.

North Carroll coach Mike Klingenberg said he believes that if his squad has any chance of winning the county crown, his three doubles teams -- with only a combined five losses -- will have to provide the team points.

"If they play well, we can beat anybody," Klingenberg said. "If they falter, then we don't have the flexibility to get points elsewhere."

Liberty coach Bruce Damasio has top singles player Doug Ferguson, who has lost only once this year, but said his Lions won't successfully defend their title if they don't find a way to top both North and South Carroll.

"If we want to win it, we have to beat the other two," Damasio said. "We can't afford to fall down."

Liberty wake-up call

If Erik Barnes is worried, he doesn't show it.

Despite a 3-2 loss to Urbana on Wednesday that ended an eight-game winning streak for the Liberty baseball team and dropped the Lions into a first-place tie with the Hawks, Barnes, the coach, almost welcomed the setback.

Barnes said he thought the team was growing complacent and was beginning to assume that every game was a "W."

"To be honest with you, it might rile us up a bit and wake us up," Barnes said. "We haven't been hitting very well. Hopefully, this will redirect our focus back to the field."

And the Lions received some good news Tuesday with the return of pitcher Jim Miller.

The junior right-hander, who missed five games because of a broken bone in his right foot, hurled 3 1/3 shutout innings in relief and struck out four in Liberty's 5-3 victory over conference rival Westminster on Tuesday.

"It was a big lift," Barnes said of Miller's appearance. "We missed Jimmy a lot because he was pitching so well in the beginning of the season."

Miller, who improved to 3-1, rejoins a solid Lions rotation that includes senior Jesse Stank (2-0 with a 1.53 ERA) and senior Perry Sartain (2-0, .483 average).

"I'm really proud of the way we have pitched this year," Barnes said. "I thought we would be a team that scores a lot of runs. We haven't scored that many runs yet, but the pitching and defense has been there."

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