Around The Area

Softball

March 20, 2002

Anne Arundel County

Northeast's second county championship in three seasons had a lot to do with its senior leadership and stability on the field. A third may not come so easily.

Certainly, the Eagles are not to be counted out as they have depth, but replacing six starters will be a difficult task.

A preseason favorite is Chesapeake, which graduated three starters but is blessed with an All-County pitcher in Lindsay Ettinger and five other starters.

Glen Burnie has enough pitching and hitting to get into contention.

Severna Park graduated just one player from a squad that met Northeast in the county title game. North County's roster is younger but has more speed in the batting lineup. Another team that could surprise is Arundel.

Baltimore City

The fight for first place in the city league is expected to lack suspense. Western, which has won 43 straight city-league games and captured four consecutive league championships, again is clearly the team to beat.

Unlike last season, when the city teams were divided into a weak and strong division, all the teams now are in one division. That means a lot of lopsided victories for the Doves.

City, which has a promising pitcher in sophomore Ashlyn Ayres, may be the best of the rest, and Poly is a team to watch.

Western returns five starters from last season's squad that went 15-4. Heading the list of returnees is senior catcher Heather Delair (.519, 23 RBIs), a two-time All-Baltimore City/County player.

Baltimore County

The league has realigned this season in an attempt to keep all of the strong teams out of the same division. Franklin and Dulaney are the favorites in Division I, while Eastern Tech, Catonsville and Perry Hall figure to be the top teams in Division II.

With a solid one-two punch on the mound and seven returning starters, Eastern Tech (14-4) looks like the best team overall.

Perennial contender Franklin slipped from 18-2 to 12-7 last season, but the Indians have seven returning starters and should return to their form of two years ago.

Dulaney (12-11) is looking to pick up where it left off last year, when the Lions overcame a mediocre regular season to advance to the Class 4A state championship game.

Carroll County

The power of Carroll County again resides with Westminster, the defending Class 4A state champion.

The No. 3 Owls (16-7) graduated three starters, but return county Player of the Year Nichol Moeller, who finished 17-5 with a 0.65 ERA, 99 strikeouts and just 10 walks. All-County catcher Casey Brengle also returns.

The Owls shared last year's county title with North Carroll (18-4), winning the Central Maryland Conference and advancing to the 3A state semifinals. The Panthers return their entire All-County outfield and All-County shortstop Kristy Shaffer, but will be without No. 1 pitcher April Bauerlein until probably mid-April.

Francis Scott Key and South Carroll also should get their share of victories.

Harford County

C. Milton Wright won a share of its fifth consecutive county title last season, but co-champion Fallston poses a serious threat to the Mustangs' streak.

While C. M. Wright (15-6) graduated All-Metro pitcher Laura Siler and three other starters, the Cougars (17-5) return seven starters, including second-team All-Metro pitcher Heather Donhauser (14-3, 1.33 ERA, 94 strikeouts, 13 walks in 95 innings).

Although the overall quality of softball in the county has improved, Fallston and C. M. Wright again figure to be a notch above the rest.

A team that could challenge the two favorites is North Harford, which slipped to a disappointing 10-10 last season after returning the nucleus of a 15-5 team.

Howard County

Back-to-back state finalist Atholton (22-3) expects to be the class of Howard County once again, thanks to the return of eight starters.

The Raiders' strength will once again be pitcher Katie Zitnay, already a two-time Howard County Player of the Year. The senior pitched in every game but one last year, going 22-2 with a 0.34 ERA and 117 strikeouts, and also hit .494 with 43 RBIs. Returning first-teamers Aubrey Barrett, Kelly Kemp and Karen Lee will add to a talented lineup.

River Hill, led by Megan Mitchell and Kelly and Robyn Smith, could give Atholton a run with excellent pitching and experience. Howard returns one of the best arms in Kristin Gormus, while Centennial, Glenelg, Mount Hebron and Hammond all return talented offensive players.

Private schools

Don't be surprised if familiar faces emerge as the top contenders for championships in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland.

McDonogh appears ready to repeat as the A Conference champion. The Eagles graduated just one senior from a squad that went 16-6 and captured its first league tournament crown in 13 years of participation.

Archbishop Spalding returns three All-Metro players and has won four straight state private schools crowns.

Catholic and Mount de Sales can put up big roadblocks, but a team to watch may be the Institute of Notre Dame.

And don't forget Pallotti. The four-time state private schools finalists, the Panthers open their first season in the A Conference.

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