The fear is gone in Anne Arundel County.
Midway through the regular season, parity rules the county. Reputations that used to intimidate are irrelevant.
Chesapeake Coach Don Ellenberger, who oversaw two of the Pasadena school’s seven Maryland 4A state titles and led the Cougars to two more state championship appearances in the past two years, can speak to the calamity in the county.
“No one has taken charge of the county, and that’s unusual,” he said.
“When you’re playing somebody, it’s kind of like there isn’t a fear any more. I’ll just talk for Chesapeake, but I know some years nobody wanted to face [us] because we were considered a dominant team. You know, sometimes that plays on your psyche. Well, that’s all gone now.”
The Cougars (6-3, 5-1) captured the past two Anne Arundel County championships, and Ellenberger said they returned a “nucleus” of players from those teams. But so far, they have not separated themselves.
After a 2-2 start, Cheseapeake went 4-1, scoring 38 runs in its past two games. The lone loss in that period was a one-run defeat at the hands of Northeast (8-2, 6-1) , which – along with Severna Park (7-3, 5-2) — started the week wedged in a 5-1 bottleneck atop Anne Arundel.
Northeast beat Severna Park on Monday to inch ahead of Chesapeake.
“You don’t know which team is bringing what any day,” Ellenberger said. “Somebody can come up and bite you that you don’t expect.”
In this “rare,” season, the balance of power has shifted to Howard County. In a cross county showcase on March 23 and 24, Howard teams went 7-3 against Anne Arundel foes. Chesapeake beat Howard that day, but later lost to No. 5 Glenelg. Northeast beat Marriotts Ridge, but later lost to Howard.
“It was almost like a reversal of prior years,” Ellenberger said. “This year they came in and beat us.”
Ellenberger, in his twelfth year at Chesapeake, has his theories about the difference. He said many teams lost crucial seniors – the Cougars graduated 2012 first-team All-Met third baseman Kimberly Federowicz — and many families can’t afford to enroll their daughters on travel teams, curtailing experience in the process.
Ellenberger said the pitching talent is equal, but Howard teams boast more depth in their lineups.
Fortunately for him, Cheseapeake is still in a position to contend in the county and beyond. The Cougars wrap up their season with an away game at Northeast on May 3.
The top of Chesapeake’s order is set, but Ellenberger said he is still tweaking the lineup.
Junior shortstop Emily Kirby leads off the lineup, and she’s hitting .405 with 14 runs scored. Hunter Royston, one of two freshmen to make the team, bats second. In her last three games, she went 8 for 9 with 6 RBI.
“All she does is get on,” Ellenberger said. “Got good speed and can play defense, so she was a very pleasant surprise.”
Senior captain Olivia Ravadge, who set the Maryland state record for single-season RBI with 54 last season, is hitting .333 with 12 runs scored despite facing less opportunities for opposing pitchers.
Ellenberger said before the last two games, his offensive production wasn’t where he wanted, so he implemented two hours of live pitching into Wednesday’s practice.
Any uncertainty about this season for Chesapeake can be soothed by looking backward. In 2012, the Cougars started 3-5, but won 17 straight after a passionate postgame speech from Ellenberger.
Now he’s preaching to believe once again.
“We told them, ‘Look where we were last year. Look at our record now. We’re close. All you’ve got to do is come out and win these next couple weeks, and you’re sitting right there and everybody’s going to worry about you again.’”
The Post Top 10
O’Connell defeated Stone Bridge, 3-0, last week in a matchup of two of the top three teams. . . . Glenelg handed Hammond its first loss in a 5-4 nailbiter on Monday to remain in first place in Howard County. . . . Lake Braddock has outscored its opponents 101-9.
1. Northern (10-0) LW:1
2. O’Connell (11-0) LW:2
3. Sherwood (8-0) LW: 4
4. Stone Bridge (11-1) LW: 3
5. Glenelg (10-0) LW: 5
6. Lake Braddock (9-0) LW: 7
7. South County (9-1) LW: 8
8. McLean (11-1) LW: 9
9. La Plata (7-0) LW: NR
10. Briar Woods (8-3) LW: NR
Dropped out: No. 6 Woodgrove, No. 10 River Hill
Records through Tuesday