When Chesapeake upset then-No. 4 North County in softball last Tuesday, Cougars Coach Don Ellenberger wasn't a bit surprised. On the same day, top-ranked Severna Park was upended by Broadneck, throwing the Anne Arundel County race wide open.
"It's getting crazy," Ellenberger said of last week's games. "We spend the whole season beating up on each other just to try to make it to the state tournament, and we're usually tired when we get there."
_____From The Post_____
Pitching depth lifts Frederick to the top.
Bowie stays in good shape despite Erin King's injury.
For Douglass, Erik Nurmi is a perfect surprise.
_____Games to Watch_____
No. 8 DeMatha at No. 2 Paul VI Catholic, Today, 6: The Panthers (17-1) are coming off first their first loss of the season, a 5-3 defeat against Good Counsel, and will be without one of their best players, Alex Gregory (back sprain). Three-time WCAC champion DeMatha, meantime, has won two in a row.
Bowie at Eleanor Roosevelt, Thursday, 4: The undefeated Raiders host the Maryland 4A defending champion in a meeting of the top two Prince George's 4A teams. The winner will be the favorite in the Maryland 4A South Region.
No. 7 Westfield at Herndon, Friday, 6:30: Westfield (9-2, 1-1 AAA Concorde District) will be looking to bounce back from losses to Oakton and St. John's last week. Herndon (7-1, 1-1) is also coming off its first defeat against Oakton. The game is a rematch of last year's Concorde District tournament final, which Westfield won, 10-4, in eight innings.
Long Reach at No. 7 Centennial, Tomorrow, 4: Howard County's remaining undefeated teams -- both are 8-0 -- battle for sole possession of first place in the county. Long Reach junior right-hander Amy Guyton has started every game, while Centennial has alternated between freshman Kate Hobson and sophomore Alona Lawson.
Sherwood at No. 8 Damascus, Thursday, 3:30: This Montgomery 4A East battle pits the only remaining undefeated teams in the county -- the Warriors and Swarmin' Hornets are both 7-0.
Hylton at Gar-Field, Tomorrow, 4: Gar-Field (10-2) had won five consecutive Cardinal District titles before Hylton (6-3) snagged the past two. Hylton swept the Indians in three games last year.
No. 6 Oakton at Madison, Tomorrow, 6:30: Rematch of last year's Northern Region final, won by Madison, 2-0. The week doesn't get any easier for the Warhawks (9-2), who will host Langley -- 4-0 winners over Madison last month -- on Friday.
The craziness continues tomorrow when the No. 10 Cougars (7-1, 6-0 entering yesterday's games) travel to Broadneck (6-1, 5-1), and No. 3 Severna Park (6-1, 6-1) hosts No. 5 North County (7-1, 5-1).
Of the four contenders, perhaps the most surprising is Chesapeake, which has only two seniors in its starting lineup and is relying on a cadre of talented freshmen and sophomores.
Ellenberger jokes that opposing coaches are mad at him because they thought he was misleading when he downplayed the caliber of his squad before the season. "We don't know what we have yet," he said. "My kids don't know they're not supposed to be doing this. We're just hoping that we don't wake up."
After dropping its season opener, Chesapeake has won seven straight with timely hitting and strong pitching and defense, as well as what Ellenberger calls "some luck."
The Cougars took advantage of North County errors to score both runs in their 2-1 win over the Knights. A day earlier, Chesapeake trailed Old Mill by two runs, but exploded for eight runs in the top of the seventh for a 9-3 victory.
The most consistent hitter for the Cougars has been sophomore first baseman Jordyn Williams, who leads the team with a .480 batting average and 11 RBI. In the past five games, senior second baseman and leadoff hitter Brooke Owen is 10 for 15 at the plate and has scored eight runs and stolen five bases.
Owen and senior center fielder Emily Bolling, who has thrown out two runners at home plate, are the cornerstone for a young defense. Junior pitcher Joanna Allen has a 2.21 ERA in 50 2/3 innings with 13 walks and 28 strikeouts.
"When she [Allen] moves the ball around, we have a good shot," Ellenberger said. "We think defensively we're going to be able to play with whole lot of teams."
-- Judith Evans