Atholton softball rides surprise year into semis

May 21, 2008|By Glenn Graham and Pat O'Malley

Coming off a four-win season last spring, Atholton softball coach Maureen Shacreaw didn't know exactly what to expect this year, believing a .500 campaign would be marked improvement.

Instead, the Raiders captured the Class 3A East region with a 16-5 mark going into last night's state semifinal game against Franklin.

Using up to four freshmen in the lineup, adding two valuable pieces in California transfers Chelsea and A.J. Ponce and bringing a relaxed approach to the field, the Raiders have been playing their best when it counts the most. After defeating Anne Arundel County power and then-No.4 Northeast, 3-1, in the semifinals, the Raiders upended top-seed Stephen Decatur on Saturday, 6-3, to advance to states.

A.J. Ponce, a senior second baseman who will play at Marist next year, has emerged as the team leader and is batting .438 with 17 RBIs and 11 runs. Younger sister Chelsea, a sophomore pitcher, is 8-2 with a 1.07 ERA and has won eight straight. Freshman pitcher Haylie Goheen is 8-3 with a 2.50 ERA. She drove in four runs, including a two-run homer, in the win against Stephen Decatur.

"The younger kids have been fun to watch - they're just having fun. I don't think they realized what they accomplished [winning the regional title on Saturday] until they got the plaque," said Shacreaw, who was quick to credit her assistant coaches John Zitko and Don Mitchell.

Marriotts Ridge baseball: When Marriotts Ridge squeaked by Calvert of Prince Frederick, 3-2, on Saturday to win the Class 2A South regional, the host Mustangs (17-5) had their second regional title in as many varsity seasons. It took outstanding efforts by two determined senior leaders in Stephen Blucher and Kevin Seker. Blucher had missed the entire season up to Saturday after blowing out his knee during basketball season. The left-hander had a triumphant return, yielding four hits, striking out four, walking three and giving up two runs (one earned) on 85 pitches in five innings. Junior Tim Blair went the last two innings to get the win. "We only won a few games [8-14 as the Class 1A South winner] last year," said Blucher, who will attend Pennsylvania State University and try to make the team as a walk-on. "I pitched pretty well [junior year], but this is amazing, unbelievable." Said coach Paul Eckert: "Stephen was outstanding, especially for someone who had not pitched all season." Seker, a three-sport standout at the three-year-old school, did not play baseball as a junior after a very good season as a sophomore. He was coaxed into playing by his teammates and coach this season. Seker started the game-winning, two-run seventh by lining a single to left and stealing second base. With one out, Steve Kahl slapped a single between first and second that was slowed by the high grass. While he beat it out for an infield hit, Seker, who was running on the pitch, never stopped running and scored easily to tie the game at 2. "That play was all Kevin," Eckert said. "The third base coach sat and watched an outstanding athlete make a play. He's been clutch all year."

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