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Softball

High School Sports

March 19, 2004

Anne Arundel County

Two-time defending 4A champ North County graduated one starter but added three and has the metro area's top battery in junior pitcher Beth Mullins and senior catcher Danielle Martinez, making the Knights the favorite in a talented field.

Severna Park, 3A champ last spring, has most of its nucleus back with sophomore pitcher Kaila Jenkins trying to match last year's impressive postseason.

Could this be the year Chesapeake breaks through in the 4A East region? The Cougars have their entire infield back, led by shortstop Tracey Dahlen and third baseman Brittany Owen.

Northeast has a good starting point in pitcher Ashley Gray, Old Mill returns plenty, and Glen Burnie should return to form.

Baltimore City

Poly and Western again will be vying for supremacy in the city ranks. The Engineers won the Division I championship last spring, handing the Doves their first losses in league play since 1998. Corey Johnson replaces Heather Myers as Poly coach.

Susan Winemiller steps in as new Western coach, succeeding Carla Barrera. The Doves are now in the 3A North and will have to contend with Catonsville.

The Doves and Engineers will be in Division I with Carver, City, Patterson, Poly, Southwestern and Southern-Baltimore, in its final varsity season before becoming Digital Harbor. Division II features Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Dunbar, Edmondson, Forest Park, Lake Clifton, Northwestern, Southside, Walbrook and Reginald Lewis.

Baltimore County

The county has been realigned into two divisions - 4A-3A and 2A-1A- with the winner of each squaring off for the title. Lansdowne and Eastern Tech appear to be the best of the 2A-1A division. Catonsville and Dulaney should be the top two in 4A-3A.

The Comets, last season's champs, lost five starters but return sophomore pitcher Amanda Fefel, the county's best hurler, and sophomore shortstop Mallorie Clary.

The Lions have a new head coach in former assistant Lori Ryan, but the same offensive firepower with sisters Brittany and Dani Woods. Dani, a senior second baseman, batted .667 last season with 31 runs batted in while leading the Lions to a state semifinal appearance.

Carroll County

North Carroll and Westminster battled for the county title last season and the two should lead the race again this year. The Panthers edged Westminster by a half game for last year's county crown and have won their Class 3A region title for three straight years.

North Carroll junior pitcher Jessica Smith (15-3, 0.92 ERA), the county Player of the Year, returns to spark a team that's strong up the middle.

Westminster (14-7) returns several key players, including seniors Alexa Ashwell (CF), Jamie Hines (2B) and Christine Simmers (OF) and gets Century-transfer Stacy Davis (P).

Liberty was last year's surprise team and went 12-7 after only three wins the year before. Pitching should help Francis Scott Key contend for the title.

Harford County

Fallston breezed to a16-0 county mark last year, but will have it much tougher in season one of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.

Cecil County teams Bohemia Manor, North East, Perryville and Rising Sun join Fallston, North Harford and C. Milton Wright in the top division.

A veteran nucleus and good pitching will buoy the Cougars. C. Milton Wright and North Harford have the talent to play with anyone.

In the other division, Edgewood, Havre de Grace and Bel Air will vie for the top spot with Elkton while Joppatowne rebuilds. Aberdeen (Lisa Farmer) and Harford Tech (Melissa Dutterer) have new coaches.

Howard County

A year after reaching the top, Glenelg might not leave this spring.

The Gladiators (20-1) captured their first county championship since 1994 and their first region title since 1998 last season. Replacing six seniors will be easier with the return of last year's starting battery, a strong infield and some big bats in the lineup.

River Hill (13-6) boasts three potential starting pitchers and could make a run. Mount Hebron (13-6) graduated just three starters and is eager to build on its appearance in last season's Class 3A East region final.

The dark-horse candidate is Atholton (10-10), which returns 10 players from last year and will be backed by a solid infield.

Private schools

Take your pick on choosing a favorite in what should prove to be a balanced and competitive IAAM A Conference.

Pallotti may be the first place to look with its strength up the middle anchored by All-Met Kristin Fusco in center. At Institute of Notre Dame, outfielders Lindsay Lowder and Courtney O'Hara are back to get on base and catcher Kim Proctor is there to bring them home. A young Mount de Sales team should be better; Spalding has a good mix; and last year's surprise tournament champ, Seton Keough, hopes to pick up where it left off. .

In the IAAM B Conference, Lutheran chases after its fifth straight crown, while Park tries to make it three C crowns in four years.

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