Athletics News

Softball

Skipjacks sign seven for title defense
State champs also bring back former all-state choice Morris

WYE MILLS – You don’t replace players like Jordan Wright, Jill Piasecki and Melanie Buck – the trio of Skipjacks who played on both the 2009 Region XX women’s softball championship team and the 2010 state title squad.

You can, however, reload with an eye toward building another championship team.

That’s exactly what Chesapeake College head coach Durrie Hayes has done with the Skipjacks. He has brought in seven freshmen and brought back a key contributor from the 2009 World Series squad to augment the six returning players from last year’s 24-8 team.

And the team Hayes has assembled could potentially be the Skipjacks’ strongest team yet.

"We’ve definitely got more depth than we’ve ever had," said Hayes, who welcomed the freshmen to the fold Tuesday afternoon. "We have more kids on the roster – and any of the 14 could be starters. If we end up with 14-16 players we can do stuff in practice we hadn’t been able to do in the past simply because we didn’t have the players to do it."

In addition to the seven freshmen, Hayes re-recruited first baseman Anna Morris, an all-conference selection on the 2009 team before sitting out the 2010 campaign.

"Anna played for me three years at Easton (High) and one year at Chesapeake. She has the system down and she’s a big hitter," said Hayes.

Five of the seven freshmen – Queen Anne’s County High graduates Malinda Hutcherson (second base/outfield) and Anna Lancaster (first base/outfield), Kent County High’s Linda Roark (shortstop/outfield) and Brook Creighton (third base/outfield), and Easton High alum Sarah Spicher (third base/catcher) – graduated from Mid-Shore high schools. Lavin Kulina (third base/outfield) graduated from Long Reach High while pitcher/outfielder Amber Labille hails from Lackey High – the same school that 2009-2010 standout Buck attended.

"We’re expecting big things out of Amber – she had a nice summer with travel ball," said Hayes, who expects Labille to share the pitching load with sophomore returner Kelsi Robinson (Huntingtown High/Calvert County) and possibly Hutcherson.

Catcher/third baseman Tiffeny Ricks (Colonel Richardson High), second baseman/outfielder Janean Lowenberger (Saskatchewan, Canada), shortstop/third baseman Becca English (Fort Myers, Fla.), and outfielders Chelsea Hunt (Paint Branch/Montgomery County) and Alycia Vansant (Kent County High) are also back.

The strong recruiting class – which doesn’t include some players who intend to walk on to the team – is just one more piece of evidence that the Skipjacks have become a dominant program in the state and region.

I think now you have to say if you want to win the region, you’ve got to go through Chesapeake," said Hayes. "I think winning two years in a row – the region in ’09 and the state last spring – has definitely helped our recruiting. Now we’ve got 14, 16, 18 kids coming out. Some are kids who want to play here this year who wouldn’t have thought of us before."

Hayes – who loves playing "small ball" at the top of his batting order – said this year’s team may have the most all-around speed of any he’s fielded at Chesapeake.

"Lavin is as fast as Jordan Wright (who led the state in steals last year); Roark batted leadoff for Kent County; Kelsi and Janean are fast and Brook Creighton’s not far behind. Becca can also steal a base for you," said Hayes. "We have six girls who can go out and steal a base – that’s pretty good."

Hayes thinks the power bats that come behind the speedsters – Morris, Ricks, Creighton, and Spicher – will get lots of opportunities to drive in runs.

Hayes will have plenty of games to evaluate his talent this fall with seven doubleheaders scheduled. The Skipjacks are currently scheduled to start and end at home, with a pair on September 12th against Delaware Tech and a closing doubleheader against Prince George’s Community College on October 10th.

Photo caption: Chesapeake College’s reigning women’s softball state championship program introduced its freshman class on Tuesday. From left to right (back row): Amber Labille, Lavin Kulina, Sarah Spicher, (front row) Anna Lancaster, Malinda Hutcherson, and Linda Roark. Not pictured is Brook Creighton

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