Centennial pumps up volume

Baseball team brings noise to provide lift

Kitchens' warm-up not routine

Shagogue ready to keep River Hill soccer on top



About 10 years ago, the National Federation of High Schools passed legislation to abolish "bench jockeying" in high school baseball.

While some high school teams had truly gotten out of hand with their unsportsmanlike verbal razzing, some coaches feared that the elimination of good-natured chanting would take some of the spirit out of the game.

The Centennial baseball team, however, has taken the noise to another level in entertaining, non-offensive cheering. The Eagles don't appear to be short on school spirit and seem to have fun each time they take the field.

It shows in the play of the No. 5 Eagles (5-0), who won the Class 3A state title in 2004 and appear to have another contender this season. They lead the Howard County League in wins - and noise.

"There is no doubt that our bench can be a positive factor for us," said fourth-year coach Denis Ahearn, a sociology teacher. "These guys have a lot of fun out here. Their spirit gives us great team chemistry and that means a lot."

Before each game, the Eagles huddle in front of their bench, put their hands in the circle and belt out a catchy chant of "Papapa-ooom" that Ahearn says they call "their beat-box."

The pre-game ritual concludes with a boisterous yell that in essence signals "play ball."

They don't let up during the game and you can hear all sorts of chants and cheers with words like "peanut butter" - for the players sticking together - emanating constantly.

"We didn't have a great season last year [they went 14-7], but we didn't have the kind of spirit this year's team has," ace right-hander Scott Swinson said. "We really have a lot of spirit this year."

Not routine

Glenelg sophomore right-hander Hunter Kitchens doesn't use the standard routine of throwing off a practice mound to warm up before a game.

Kitchens, who was 5-3 as a second-team All-Howard County pitcher last year, throws to his catcher off a mound for about 10-15 minutes, takes a break and then goes and plays long toss for a while.

He then sometimes returns to the mound for a few minutes.

"It's my typical routine that I've been using for a long time," said Kitchens, who is 5 feet 11, 155 pounds. "I don't remember how I started using it, but it's a habit I've gotten into."

In between innings, he uses a band that he attaches to a fence and stretches out with his throwing arm. He does it every inning while he's pitching.

No matter, it works for Kitchens, who has emerged as one of the top pitchers among underclassmen in the area.

Great expectations

Newly hired River Hill boys soccer coach Matt Shagogue knew the question would be coming - again and again.

How was he going to fill the big shoes of former coach Bill Stara, who stepped down after winning a Maryland-best 14 state titles - seven at River Hill after capturing seven at Centennial?

"I know his legacy and know what I'm getting into. It's intimidating, but it's also a great opportunity that I'm looking forward to," said Shagogue, a 1998 Towson University graduate who had junior varsity coaching stints at Archbishop Spalding and more recently Reservoir. "One of the main things is to carry on the tradition River Hill has built and we're going to expect to win a state title. That's what I'm going to push on to the boys and we'll work real hard toward that."

Shagogue played his high school soccer at Howard High when Stara was winning his state titles at Centennial. He said you can expect the Hawks to play a controlled style with an aggressive approach.

The team is already preparing to defend last year's Class 3A crown - shared with Towson after a draw in the title game - with a two-week conditioning program.

patomalleysports@aol.com glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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