Focus on Sports
Chesapeake rolls into softball regionals

Posted on Thursday, May 04, 2006

HAGERSTOWN – The Skipjacks are pleased with their season – but they´re not satisfied.

"We´re obviously very happy with what we accomplished during the regular season," said Melissa Thompson, the second-year head coach who guided the Chesapeake College women´s softball team to an 18-8 regular-season record. "But you play for the playoffs. That´s when you want to be playing your best softball."

The third-seeded Skipjacks hope to start a long post-season run in this weekend´s National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Region XX tournament. Chesapeake, which has won seven straight games, plays sixth-seeded Cecil Community College (17-25) Saturday at 9 a.m. in the tournament´s single-elimination round.

The three first-round winners will advance to the tournament´s double-elimination competition along with top-seeded Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville, which drew a first-round bye in the seven-team tourney. Catonsville is 29-8 overall and 14-1 against the tournament field – that one loss being an 8-1 thumping at the hands of the Skipjacks.

The Skipjacks, who also dropped a 2-1 decision to CCBC-Catonsville, are possibly the best story of the tournament. Chesapeake finished fourth in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference with a 14-6 league record one year after a 4-14 campaign that included a 13-game losing streak.

"For our sophomores this is really a tremendous run," said Thompson. "They´re the ones who got the team off the ground. I know they had to be a little skeptical after last year, but when they saw everything we had, they were ready to go."

The sophomores – third baseman Katie Connolly (Queen Anne´s County High), catcher/outfielder Katie LaNeve (Colonel Richardson), first baseman Kelly Henckel (St. Michaels), and catcher Katie Satterlee (J.M. Bennett) – returned this season to find an impressive pair of pitchers.

North Caroline High graduate Amanda Lord (10-3, 3.12 earned-run average) and St. Michaels High alum Heather Lawrence (8-4, 4.08 ERA) have been an effective 1-2 punch for the Skipjacks. While the right-handed Lord and southpaw Lawrence are both freshmen, that´s just about where the similarities end.

"Amanda hits her spots - she can throw her fastball hard and put it anywhere she wants it to go," said Thompson, whose pitchers usually play the outfield when not pitching. "Heather can throw any pitch – rise ball, drop ball, fastball, curveball, screwball, changeup."

The pitching has been backed by an offense that averages almost eight runs per game and has three of NJCAA Division II´s top 25 hitters. Connolly is currently third in the nation with a .578 batting average while LaNeve (.493) is 16th and freshman shortstop Beth Morris (.472) from Queen Anne´s County High is 25th.

"We hit the ball – that´s what we do," observed Thompson. "We´re going to hit the ball somewhere in our lineup. When we´re playing really well, everyone´s hitting."

Basketball player-turned-second baseman Monette Malabet (Sussex Tech) may be learning as she goes, but the freshman´s 19 steals have set up some big innings. Freshman Courtney Jackson (Easton High) is heating up – illustrated by clutch hits in both ends of a doubleheader victory over CCBC-Dundalk last week – and holding down center field.

Crystal Burns (Easton High) is the lone reserve since an injury to Kari Burns (Easton High), but the short-staffed Skipjacks keep plugging along.

"I´m impressed with how hard everyone works," said Thompson. "Not only do they practice, but they want to keep practicing after Bill (Faust, the Skipjacks´ assistant coach) and I are ready to let them go. The way they balance classes, homework, games, and practices is really great to see."

Thompson said her players´ ability to play multiple positions has been another key to the team´s success, particularly with such a small roster.

"I can put just about anyone just about anywhere on the field," said Thompson. "Katie Satterlee is a good example. She´s played seven of the nine positions over the last two seasons."

Thompson hopes the Skipjacks are in position this weekend to battle for the school´s first softball regional championship since 1981.

"We´re going to give it our best shot," said Thompson. "They always go all-out."


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