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Baseball/Softball Notebook

Matta's Special Delivery Is Working for Potomac

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page PW11

The last time Potomac radically altered a pitcher's delivery, John Adams turned out to be a staff savior. The latest Panther to undergo the transformation to side-armer is junior Mike Matta, and the results have been remarkably similar.

Potomac boasted an 8-1 record going into the weekend, half the wins thanks to Matta, whose motion was changed in the late summer and early fall.

Osbourn Park's Mandy Craig is among those who paid tribute to late umpire Robert "Mac" McLaughlin, who died in December. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washignton Post)

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"When you do that, you don't know how long it's going to take to click," Potomac Coach Mike Covington said. "Because he hadn't pitched that many innings, you didn't know what you were going to get.

"It's basically the same reason we dropped John down. When [Matta] threw over the top, he had a real low elbow and had a sore arm and those type of things and really struggled getting his elbow above his shoulder when he threw."

Adams, a two-time All-Extra selection, now plays at Louisburg (N.C.) Junior College.

Matta has about a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and, when not pitching, plays a variety of positions. He's batting about .365. Sophomore catcher Sean McCauley leads the team with a .580 average, and senior first baseman Brandon Maupin is two home runs shy of tying Danny Lopaze and Reggie Brooks for the all-time school lead of 18.

Senior second baseman Bobby Potter gets the cast off his broken arm soon but his return date is unknown. Covington would like to at least be able to use him as a courtesy runner. Potter stole 25 bases last season.

With Potter's injury and other offseason tumult, the coach is surprised the Panthers won eight of their first nine games. They were scheduled to play at Hylton last night in the rescheduled Eddie Hope Invitational championship.

"I'm kind of shocked," Covington said. "Some of our lesser-known guys have really done a nice job of filling in roles and doing what they're asked to do and not be superstars and do things they can't do."

Radical Swings

Any coach of a first-year program, with a roster full of young players, knows there will be good days and bad days. But losing 32-1 to Osbourn Park one day, and giving No. 3 Osbourn all it can handle in a 1-0 loss two days later?

That was the case with the Battlefield softball team, which found out just how competitive it can be when it makes the routine plays (although the run Osbourn scored was unearned).

"I have no idea," Coach Joe Schelzo said when asked about the gaping disparity in the two performances. "We kind of focused on some problems in practice and [there was] a little bit of chewing out being done and a matter of pride that they couldn't be happy with what happened. They hadn't played bad up to that point.

"They're so young, they just don't know what they are or aren't capable of. They're gradually learning."

The Bobcats entered the weekend 2-5, with wins over Woodbridge and Potomac Falls. Freshman pitcher Megan Sutphin threw a three-hitter against Osbourn and has allowed only a few earned runs this season. Freshman shortstop Kaitlyn Sileo is batting over .500.

Battlefield is fielding a varsity and junior varsity team. Fellow first-year school Freedom has no varsity, and Gar-Field and Stonewall Jackson do not have JVs.

"We've got a solid base already," Schelzo said. "I think we'll be very competitive in a year or two."

'Mac' the Nice

When a couple of coaches get together to talk about an umpire, it usually isn't to discuss how much they liked him and miss him.

Not so Friday afternoon at the Hylton-Osbourn Park softball game, when both teams paid tribute to the late Robert "Mac" McLaughlin, a longtime area ump who died in December at age 57.

Osbourn Park Coach Willie Lemay knew McLaughlin since they were boys, when Lemay attended Mount Vernon and McLaughlin went to Edison. Hylton Coach Harry Bell used to umpire with McLaughlin and lived a half-mile from him.

Fans who attended the game received a paper with a testimonial to McLaughlin, and his daughter, Robin, a former player and coach at Hylton, threw out the first pitch. His widow, Gwenn, also was in attendance. Osbourn Park players wore jerseys with "Mac" on the back. A few Gar-Field team members also dropped by for the event.

"He was, number one, a brilliant umpire," Lemay said. "He was the best. He was right in the game. He was always in position to make the right call. Plus, just his attitude. Always smiling. Kids migrated to him. They just loved him."

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