Former all-Extra pitchers Harley Rice and Jake Skillen this week accepted scholarships to play Division I baseball next season. Rice, a 1998 graduate of McDonough, spent last season at Charles County Community College but will transfer to Hofstra University in New York this year. Skillen, a 1999 graduate of Northern, heads to High Point University in North Carolina.

Rice will be under the tutelage of Reginald Jackson, a pitcher in the New York Mets organization from 1982 to 1985. Jackson is in his third year as head coach of the Flying Dutchmen after spending time as supervising scout for the Mets (1988-93) and pitching coach for Hofstra. The team went 14-28 in his first season but improved its record to 20-24 last year.

Rice, a right-handed pitcher who throws in the mid-80s, said he hopes to make an immediate impact.

"This is an extremely good opportunity for me," Rice said. "You don't see many schools that offer that kind of professional-level coaching. Coach Jackson has been where I want to be. He already said he plans on only having me for two years and then having me drafted."

Rice, who will attend Hofstra on partial academic and athletic scholarships that will cover more than half of his tuition, said he has changed his mechanics from his high school days and is now a more fluid pitcher.

"I've made a lot of improvement and have gotten to a point where my dad can no longer teach me any more," said Rice, who learned to pitch from his father, Steve. "And now these coaches with the professional experience can pick up where my dad left off."

Skillen, another right-handed pitcher who consistently throws in the mid-80s, said he credits Jerry Wargo, father of Northern teammate Cody Wargo, with his opportunity at High Point. Skillen's athletic scholarship will cover a little more than half of his tuition.

"The coaches there called Jerry asking for a right-handed pitcher, and he sent them to me," said Skillen, who went 6-1 during the spring for the Patriots (17-5), with 44 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 2.02 earned-run average. "They came up and watched me during a Legion game, and I guess I made the final decision after I went down there to look around in mid-July. It was real scenic, a nice atmosphere. I'm feeling a little nervous about leaving here, but it'll be good to get down there and get in the swing of things."

High Point will be in its first season of Division I play this year, joining the Big South Conference.

Big League Softball

Team Wins 2 at Series

The Maryland District 7 all-star softball team began its defense of the Big League World Series title Monday in Kalamazoo, Mich., with a 6-1 win over Canada in the first game of round-robin play. Recent Westlake graduate January Balenger pitched the complete game for Southern Maryland, striking out six, walking one and yielding three hits.

Balenger was helped offensively by Kristie Pickeral, a rising junior at Thomas Stone who went 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and three runs batted in. Former all-Met Beth Radford, a 1998 Northern graduate who is entering her second year as a catcher at the University of Maryland, scored twice for Southern Maryland on a hit and a walk.

Clarisa Crowell and Devin Karcesky combined to pitch a no-hitter to lead the team past the California state champions, 17-0, Tuesday.

Balenger is one of four pitchers Southern Maryland will rely on as it looks for an unprecedented third straight championship. In addition to Balenger, the team boasts former all-Met player of the year Crowell, a 1998 McDonough graduate who went 25-8 with a 1.05 ERA in her first season at Virginia Tech; Karcesky, a rising senior at Northern; and Lizzy Estevez, a 1998 Westlake graduate who led Charles County Community College to the Maryland Junior College title this season with a 9-3 record and a 2.29 ERA.

Candice Rice, a former all-Met player from Northern who is entering her second year at West Virginia Wesleyan, is out with an eye injury.

Southern Maryland is one of six teams at the world series. The top two teams from round-robin play will advance to Saturday's final, which is scheduled to air on ESPN2. Southern Maryland has lost just one game in each of the past two Big Leage World Series and has twice defeated the host team from Michigan in the final.

Tennis

Singles Title for Williams

Top-seeded Jack Williams won the Southern Maryland Tennis Association Championships' open singles title against second-seeded Michael Branch in a default.

Williams won 24 games, while losing only three, in the tournament, which took place Friday through Sunday at White Plains Park in Charles County.

Williams advanced to the final by defeating Kathy Stevenson, 6-0, 6-0, in the quarterfinals; and Robert Bassett, 6-0, 6-3, in the semifinals.

In the men's 3.5 singles, Steve Hurst won the final, 6-2, 6-2 over Lloyd Bettis. Ron Robey won the 3.0 singles title by defeating Wayne Zurowski Jr., 6-0, 6-2, and Liz Blair, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

Danny Hancock and Mike Winstead won the men's open doubles with victories over Robert Bassett/Bryan Guy, 6-3, 2-6, 6-0; and Steve Moyer/Johnny Cantu, 6-2, 6-3. The 3.5 doubles match pitting Stephanie Speelman and Justin Figel against Blair and Williams will be scheduled later.

CAPTION: Duayne Chaney of Mechanicsville returns a serve during a men's singles semifinal at the Southern Maryland Tennis Association championships.