Ellen Hungate has played first base and third base. She also has pitched. Shortstop might be her favorite position on the softball field. She even once tried playing catcher, in a scrimmage, but that did not last long.
"It scared me," she said. "I can play everything but catcher. I admire people that do catch."
As Eleanor Roosevelt prepared for the playoffs, however, Coach Billy Hunter sat down with Hungate, a senior and four-year varsity player, to tell her that sophomore Jessica Webster would be the team's pitcher in the postseason and Hungate would be playing second base.
Hungate's response to not playing the marquee position, a position she split with Wesbter during the regular season?
"I'm fine going with whatever he decides to do," she said. "I like playing second. I don't feel the need to be the pitcher."
Said Hunter: "Ellen is a team player. Obviously, you're the attraction when you're pitching. . . . It may bother her, but she doesn't show it."
Wherever she plays on the field, Hungate has the chance to hit. With two outs in the first inning of the Maryland 4A South Region final against Bowie last Friday, she tripled down the right field line to drive in two runs. The Raiders went on for a 2-1 victory and advanced to the state semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons.
Roosevelt (18-3) was scheduled to play Chesapeake on Tuesday night; that game ended too late to be included in this edition. The championship game is scheduled for tomorrow or Saturday at the University of Maryland.
The Roosevelt softball team and Bowie baseball team are the only county teams competing in their respective sports for a state title. Ten county teams comprise the 4A South Region, guaranteeing the county a representative in the state tournament.
In the 3A and 2A classifications, however, county teams rarely defeat opponents from Howard, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties. The Surrattsville softball team in 1990 and the Gwynn Park baseball team in 1985 were the last Prince George's teams to win a region title in these classifications. This season, county 3A and 2A teams went 0-14 in the playoffs against teams from other counties.
The Crossland softball team, which was undefeated in the 3A/2A league, lost its playoff opener to Centennial of Howard County, 10-4. Similarly, the Gwynn Park baseball team went undefeated against county opponents and lost its playoff opener to Long Reach of Howard County, 2-0.
"It's just the [different] level of competition," Gwynn Park baseball coach Matt Cooke said. "That's why we try to go to Easter tournament games and try to schedule as many nonleague games as possible. When you don't see kids throwing 80-85 miles per hour, it's kind of hard to adjust to it."
Prince George's has gone without a baseball state title since 1984, when Gwynn Park and Bowie were victorious. In softball, Surrattsville was the last county team to win a state title, accomplishing that feat in 1989. Bowie advanced to the Maryland 4A final last season, and Roosevelt played in three consecutive title games from 2000 to 2002.
The Raiders were hoping to break through this season, with a lineup led by junior shortstop Kelley Oklesson. Erin Casey moved from second base to third this season to help fill a defensive need.
Left fielder Jessica Monaldo made a splendid throw from deep left field to nail a runner trying to advance on a fly out and prevented the tying run from scoring in the sixth inning against Bowie. Right fielder Christina Hill had two triples and a single in that game.
And Hungate is happy with her role, regardless of where she is playing.
"It's good to be able to play different positions, because you never know where a team might need you," Hungate said. "Throughout my four years at Roosevelt, I and other players have moved positions a lot. It's good to be versatile like that. It's good to have a primary position that you like the most and are more comfortable with, but I like getting the chance to play different places."