At Harford Tech, change in attitude transforms baseball

Streaking Cobras earn spot in UCBAC title game


High Schools

May 09, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

For Harford Tech, the turning point of one of the winningest baseball seasons in school history actually came in a loss.

In an April 16 game against Bohemia Manor, Cobras first-year coach John Watson benched three starters because he was unhappy with their commitment to the team.

The Cobras (11-5, 9-3) were shut out that day, 12-0, but reeled off six straight wins before losing on Friday to win the Susquehanna Division and capture a berth in Wednesday's Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference championship game against ninth-ranked Bel Air at 3:30 p.m. at Thomas Run Park.

"I let them know that I was prepared to go with that team I put on the field if they didn't decide to play the way I wanted them to as their coach," said Watson, also the Cobras football coach. "I think that was our turning point."

Said senior starting pitcher Dustin Culver: "He played the people who came to practice and were dedicated and he set the standard for everybody else. It was a good decision because the guys we have now are the ones that are dedicated to the team."

The Cobras have done it with consistent hitting (the team batting average is about .350), the pitching of Culver (6-1) and senior Kevin Lipple (3-3) and a team concept.

Harford Tech has several comeback victories, including a 9-8 win over Havre de Grace that put it in the driver's seat for the division championship. The Cobras trailed 8-3 in the top of the seventh, but scored six in the inning to defeat the Warriors.

"There's no superstar on this team," said Watson, who also praised the hitting of third baseman Josh Zynel, center fielder Dino DeAngelo and first baseman Troy Neville. "We're 11 deep, but the guys really pull together. It's almost like they'll drive me nuts during the game and make a mistake here and there, but then they'll come back and make a great play."

Watson said the Cobras are taking extra satisfaction in the successful season because the school isn't known as an athletic powerhouse aside from the wrestling team, and the baseball team doesn't have a field for practice or games.

The Cobras have played a couple of their home games at the Churchville Recreation Center, but mostly play on the road. And for practice, Harford Tech has been in the gym, on the tennis courts and on the school's football field, but rarely on a baseball diamond.

"I think that's the only thing that has set us down, but we still go into every game thinking that we can win, no matter where the [opposition] is from," Culver said.

Said Watson: "The fact that they are the first Susquehanna baseball champion will always mean something. People always remember the first, and you can't take that away from them."

Championship week

Some championships have already been decided, but the majority of the spring titlists will be crowned this week.

On Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Thomas Run Park, the Fallston softball team, which coasted to the Chesapeake crown, will play for the UCBAC championship. The Cougars' opponent will likely be Elkton, which could clinch the outright Susquehanna title with a victory over Aberdeen tomorrow.

In track and field, the Harford County championships will be held on Thursday and Friday at C. Milton Wright, with a rain date of Saturday. The Harford County tennis championships are scheduled for Wednesday and Friday at Harford Community College. Thursday and Saturday will be the rain dates for the tennis.

In lacrosse, C. Milton Wright captured its seventh straight girls title and Fallston unseated North Harford as the boys champion.

Frank on a roll

On a C. Milton Wright girls lacrosse team loaded with talent - all eight Mustangs seniors will be playing next year in college - it is easy to get lost in the shuffle, but senior attacker Christina Frank hasn't allowed that to happen.

A second-team All-Harford County selection last season, Frank has broken out this year to lead the Mustangs with 49 goals to go along with eight assists. Twenty goals and four assists have come in the past four games for Frank, who will play next year at George Mason.

"All of a sudden, she's just really been in a zone for us," said Mustangs coach Carl Greenberg, whose third-ranked Mustangs finished its regular season at 13-1 after a 10-6 win at Century on Thursday night. "She's taken it upon herself when she's inside [12 yards] to be a really aggressive scorer. She plays really well within our system, but obviously when he touches the ball, she likes to take a look at the cage.

Wells nearly untouchable

How dominant has Fallston senior pitcher Kirsten Wells been?

In 96 innings, Wells has allowed only 33 hits and 15 walks and opposing hitters are batting less than .100 against her.

Wells is 15-1 and her 0.15 ERA leads the metro area.

Sun staff writer Katherine Dunn contributed to this story.

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