Back to big time, Eastern Tech shows softball future is bright

On High Schools

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High Schools

May 26, 2006|By MILTON KENT

After their 2A state semifinal game with Calvert Tuesday, the Eastern Tech softball team huddled together in the grass outside one of the fences at Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie.

And save for the discussion about the procedures for turning in equipment, you'd have hardly known that the Mavericks had been eliminated in a 3-0 loss to the defending state champions.

That's just the way Eastern Tech second baseman Brittany Bangert wanted it. The Mavericks had nothing to hang their heads about, in what was ostensibly their first taste at the big time in four years, and she didn't want any of her teammates feeling any other way.

"Our expectation was to win the regional championship," said Bangert, a second-team All-County selection last year. "No one expected us to come this far and win this. We have big hopes for next year."

That notion, no doubt, is what kept the disappointment low among the Mavericks. They are starting to build something special and reaching this platform a little bit ahead of schedule might be the best thing for them.

"They're young. We don't have a senior on the team," said coach Dave Scrivener. "We're starting three freshmen and three sophomores. I was actually surprised. They were nervous, but I don't think they were that intimidated. I thought they did well."

The Mavericks, who finished the year 13-7, suffered heavy graduation losses from last season, when they advanced to the Class 2A North region final.

But even with a young lineup, Scrivener, who is 93-36 in seven years at Eastern Tech, planned a tough schedule out of the chute to see if the Mavericks could make a tournament run.

They started out 0-3 with losses to Arundel, Catonsville and Western Tech, the school that knocked them out of the tournament last year. But Scrivener thought things could go worse, and counted his blessings, especially after the Mavericks ripped off eight straight wins after the three losses.

"Realistically, when we started the year, we scheduled some tough teams, and we scheduled a lot of tough county teams to try and get us to this point. We thought we were the best team in the region and they came through with it," Scrivener said of the Mavericks, who were seeded third in their region.

Scrivener put his faith in pitcher Michelle January, and it was rewarded. The 5-foot-8 junior worked to a 1.82 ERA, giving up 62 hits and 24 walks in 112 innings, while striking out 117 heading into Tuesday's game, and batting .380.

Though January took the loss Tuesday, she pitched well, giving up nine hits, striking out eight and walking two, working brilliantly out of a second-and-third and no-out jam in the Calvert second by striking out the side.

"That felt great to get all those outs. I got pumped for it," January said.

Added Scrivener: "She kept the ball down for the most part. Everything we were calling was down except when we were trying to waste a pitch. She did a good job and she's really come along all year. She's turned into more of a pitcher. Her changeup has really helped her. As good as it was [Tuesday], it's been better as the year has gone by. She's carried us all year with her pitching."

But January and the Mavericks had to be flawless Tuesday and Calvert, and especially pitcher Megan Elliott, had to be subpar for Eastern Tech to have a shot.

Elliott, the state's all-time leader in wins and shutouts, was in full diva form Tuesday, with her pink headband and the little dance she did with third baseman Lauren Robinson at the start of each defensive inning. Elliott walked the leadoff hitter in the first, then cruised, striking out 13, while allowing only two runners into scoring position.

"I think everybody was very nervous. I decided to relax and find a pitch and hit it," said Bangert, a member of the school's state championship soccer team, who got the lone hit off Elliott. "She was a little intimidating, but you just had to relax up there. That's the only way we were going to get a hit up there, is to relax."

With everyone returning next season, perhaps the fortunes will turn for the Mavericks, and they'll bring swagger to the postseason.

"We're a young team," Bangert said. "Last year, we did all right, but this year, we were rebuilding. We had a lot of juniors and a lot of sophomores and a couple of decent freshmen that helped us. Hopefully, we'll come back next year and go all the way."

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