Spalding in a brand new game

A fresh cast makes Cavaliers no sure thing for IAAM `A' title



High School Sports

Spring Preview

March 21, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF


That's what Archbishop Spalding coach Linda Taylor says she's been in her first nine years at the helm. Cycles of talent came year after year, which translated into wins and league titles.

After the Cavaliers captured another Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown last spring - making it 12 IAAMconference titles in 13 years - Taylor had a good idea this season would be somewhat different.

Seven graduated from last year's top-ranked team, including three from the All-Metro first team; two more would-be starters decided to go out for track instead to train for the winter sport of skeleton; and All-Metro first-team second baseman Keri Lounge and her .392 batting average are out because of shoulder surgery.

Now, when you ask fellow coaches around the league who is the team to beat, it's not an automatic "Spalding" response, but more like "It's wide-open," and "You can never count Spalding out."

Taylor likes it that way.

"I can't think of a year where we've been in a situation like this one. But the girls are stepping up and accepting this challenge, doing whatever it takes to maintain this legacy," she said. "A lot of people may be counting us out, but this team doesn't feel that way. This is going to be fun for me and everyone else - a great challenge."

Senior pitcher Caitlin Fisher, waiting patiently behind graduated standout Jessica Saunders, is ready to get her turn. Junior Marissa Wentzler will play second or shortstop and try to provide the punch in the middle of the order. And the Cavaliers have another thing on their side: tradition.

"Sometimes I'll go in the gym all by myself and just look at the wall with all our banners. There's not too many schools where you play for a particular program with its very own wall. We're going to put another banner up - you watch," said Fisher.

Call it Gray factor

When junior pitcher Ashley Gray decided to leave the Institute of Notre Dame this school year and return to Northeast in Pasadena, it largely affected both programs.

With seven starters still returning from a breakthrough 19-8 season, IND was expected to make a strong run at the IAAM A Conference crown with Gray - last year's Baltimore City/County Player of the Year - the starting point. The Indians will remain in the hunt with senior pitcher Connie Kumor, who led the JV to a league championship, taking over.

"It's a big loss and changes the complexion some, but we still have so many other starters," said IND coach Greg Ehrman.

Meanwhile, nobody was happier than Northeast coach Marianne Shultz, whose Eagles went 16-7 last season, to see Gray walk through school doors on the first day in September.

High praise from Nelson

Catonsville coach Bill Nelson said freshman pitcher Amada Fefel is the most talented pitcher to come up through the program in his nine years.

That's pretty high acclaim seeing how much Nelson knows about pitching. His son, Jeff Nelson, is a longtime big-leaguer now playing with the Seattle Mariners.

The Comets (16-6 last season) will be a team to watch in Baltimore County. The team already has three quality pitchers to go with Fefel.

"Amanda has great velocity and control and while a lot of girls have the fastball and change, she has a lot of pitches she can throw for a strike," said Nelson, who expects Fefel to develop into the Comets' big-game pitcher.

Quite a move

Wilde Lake coach R.J. Windows is living in a different world.

Windows, a former coach at Shadyside High in Ohio, directed a Tigers program that compiled an impressive 93-6 record in three seasons and went to the state semifinals twice and quarterfinals once.

In his first year with the Wildecats, Windows inherits a team that won five games last spring and has never advanced to a Class 3A state semifinal.

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