2000 All-Howard County softball teams

High Schools

June 02, 2000|By RICK BELZ AND STAN RAPPAPORT

Player of the Year

Kristen Schaper, Long Reach: No one was more valuable to a team then Schaper. The senior pitched and batted the 14th-ranked Lightning to a 17-5 record, an outstanding improvement from the first three seasons when they won a collective 23 games. Long Reach coach Chuck Struhar knew he had a light-hitting team and that Schaper would have to pitch well every start for the Lightning to be competitive. And almost every time she came through. "When you know you don't have any room for error, that's when a true athlete comes out," Struhar said. "She did it every day." Schaper struck out 118, 51 less than in her junior season, but cut her walks down by 20 to 35. "She became a smarter pitcher this season," Struhar said. "She was dominating because she stayed focused, even when we weren't hitting." Armed with an outstanding fastball, Schaper struck out a season-high 14 Howard batters in a 7-0 win, one of six shutouts that helped her to a 12-5 record. A four-year starter, Schaper finished with 540 career strikeouts. She had 19 games in which she struck out 10 or more batters, had three no-hitters and one perfect game. "Each year she's gotten better and better," Struhar said. "If you're going to be a successful pitcher, you've got to put in the time, and she did. She's been a good role model for our younger pitchers." Schaper, who will play at Howard Community College next season, batted third for the Lightning and led the team in average (.381), hits (24), doubles (10), total bases (36), RBIs (14), slugging percentage (.571) and on-base percentage (.450).

Coach of the Year

Dave Vitagliano, River Hill: Vitagliano's teams are fundamentally sound, and it's no wonder. "The biggest thing we instill is discipline in terms of the game inself, that everything is fundamentals," Vitagliano said. "Fielding ground balls, catching fly balls, throwing to the right bases and little things like hitting the cutoff. In practice that's what we focus on and those are the things I get angry at if we don't do right." Most of the time, the Hawks get it right. In four seasons since the school opened, they have posted county records of 12-6, 15-2, 15-5 and this year's 14-4 mark that tied for second place, one game behind Atholton. In fact, the Hawks beat sixth-ranked Atholton twice this season, 5-4 and 6-3. River Hill rallied to beat Long Reach to advance to the Class 3A East region finals, but was shut out by fourth-ranked Northeast. "All in all a very successful year," said Vitagliano, who coached eight seasons at Atholton before taking the River Hill position. "I think the most gratifying thing was that the kids, like Amanda Bile and Lisa Humphrey, that we were really counting on came through and had really big seasons their senior years. And in terms of our seniors and their leadership on and off the field, I couldn't have asked for anything more from those two and Kelly Myers and Marie Ziesat." Three of Vitagliano's teams at Atholton made the regional finals, and the 1994 squad lost in the state championship.

The first team

Katie Zitnay, Atholton: Sophomore jinx? Forget it. Zitany, last season's Howard County Player of the Year, had another outstanding season. She pitched every game, leading the sixth-ranked Raiders to a 21-4 record and berth into the state Class 2A championship game. She had one perfect game, three no-hitters, two one-hitters and 10 shutouts. She struck out 81 and walked 18 in 170 innings, and finished with a 0.66 ERA. Opponents' batting average against her was .156. "She used a few more pitches with confidence this season," said Atholton coach John Zitko, "and she learned how to use her fastball more effectively." Zitnay developed an excellent changeup this season, and her control was the best in the county. She was always around the plate, knowing her defense was solid behind her. Zitnay batted third in the lineup and led the Raiders in runs scored (27) and on base percentage (.510). She was second in hits (34), doubles (five), RBIs (24), steals (15), batting average (.420), walks (15) and slugging percentage (.506).

Sarah Costa, Atholton: A repeat first-team all-county selection, Costa led the Raiders in hits (36), doubles (7), RBIs (27), batting average (.424) and slugging percentage (.647) and tied for team high in doubles (seven), triples (four) and home runs (one). Batting in the clean-up position, the junior had a second-best .500 on base percentage, and scored 23 runs and had nine steals. Costa knows the game as well as anyone. She is an excellent defensive catcher with a strong arm that most teams didn't challenge. This season, coach John Zitko allowed Costa to call the pitches. "Her physical skills were there. It was time for her to develop the mental part of it," Zikto said. "She did a superb job. She really became very good at it."

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