Atholton's Zitnay makes her mark

Pitcher sets state record with 74th career victory


May 02, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Katie Zitnay never gave much thought to chasing greatness.

Game after game, year after year, the only thing that mattered to her was having a softball in one hand, a glove on the other. Didn't much matter beyond that. Nothing could duplicate the pure joy that came from staring down a hitter, reaching back, and firing fastball after fastball.

Over the course of the last four years, that single-minded focus made Zitnay one of the area's best softball players. Yesterday, it helped etch her name in the state record books as the Atholton senior won her 74th career game with a 5-0 shutout of Mount Hebron. The win pushed Zitnay past Michelle Collins (1987-90) of Surrattsville for career wins.

"It feels great," said Zitnay, who gave up eight hits over seven innings to the Vikings. "It's not only my record, it's a record for the four other seniors on the team who've been with me since freshman year. They've been behind me the whole way and without them, it never would have happened."

It likely won't be the only state record the two-time Howard County Player of the Year breaks this season for the No. 2 Raiders (14-2). Zitnay needs only five more RBIs to break the career mark of 114, set by Taryn McDonald (1992-95) of Northern High School in Calvert County, and needs only two more triples to tie Amanda Shifflett of Northeast (1996-99) for the career state record of 15.

"I've never set out to break any records," Zitnay said. "I've never even thought about it. I didn't know about the record [for career wins] until a couple weeks ago, and the team didn't even know until yesterday. We wanted to keep it kind of quiet until I tied it [with a 4-0 win Tuesday over Glenelg]."

Zitnay's quiet consistency has been her greatest strength, helping her go 74-10. She's quick to admit that she's not a strikeout pitcher, instead relying on location and simply letting hitters put the ball in play. More often than not, hitters end up pounding the ball into the dirt or hitting it right at Atholton's steady defense.

"It's amazing how focused Katie is on what she has to do every single pitch," said first-year Raiders coach Maureen Shacreaw, who also coached against Zitnay as an assistant at River Hill. "She expects so much of herself. Coaching against her, I found out how hard it is to rattle her. Having her on my team, I see how committed she is."

Zitnay's excellence is also apparent at the plate, where she's easily the county's most feared hitter. She's hitting .450 this season with 23 RBIs, five triples and two home runs.

There is still a team goal Zitnay wants to accomplish, however. No team from Howard County has ever won a state title in softball, and Atholton is aiming to be the first. The Raiders made it to the title game last year, but lost to North Caroline when Zitnay was unable to pitch with an eye injury.

"We need to make it through counties and regionals first," Zitnay said. "We're not looking ahead."

Oak. Mills comes up short

On the other end of the spectrum, the Oakland Mills softball players went into yesterday's game against Wilde Lake with a positive outlook, thinking it might be their day. But a few bad innings here and there and some timely hits by the Wildecats resulted in a 8-3 loss, the Scorpions' 45th consecutive defeat.

Oakland Mills hasn't tasted victory since April 7, 2000, when the Scorpions squeaked out a 3-2 win over Hammond. Since then, it's been a lot of frustration. The team went 0-19 last season, and fell to 0-14 this year.

"We're trying our best to stay positive," said Scorpions coach Jon Browne. "But it's been tough at times. Today I think we went into the game with the best attitude we've had all season, but it didn't happen for us."

While there hasn't been a lot of highlights for Oakland Mills, one of them has been the play of Dana Shepherd, the Scorpions' shortstop. Last year Shepherd made waves and drew raves by playing for the Oakland Mills JV baseball team. But this year, she decided to play softball, hoping to enhance her chances of playing in college.

"It was a lot of fun playing baseball because that's what I grew up playing," Shepherd said. "I miss it sometimes. But I wouldn't do anything differently. I just figured I had a better chance of helping the softball team this year."

Despite going 0-for-6 against the Wildecats, Shepherd is hitting just under .300 and is one of the top base stealers in the county with 15.

Browne said Oakland Mills' best shot at a win could be in the playoffs, where the Scorpions could face one of the weaker teams from Baltimore City in the first round.

"It would be a nice shot in the arm for us," Browne said. "We could use the boost."

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