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Cougars feelin' good

May 23, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

SEVERN, Md. - The Catoctin softball team changed its attitude for 2002. For a program with 12 region championships before this season, it sounds like a bad idea.

But the footloose and free-wheeling Cougars made the switch willingly, and it's led them into their first Class 1A state championship game since 1999.

Catoctin, in its eighth trip to the final, goes for its second state title at 6 p.m. today against defending champion Southern Garrett at Randazzo Park.

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"Our team unity, it's just a lot different," senior catcher Jess Valentine said after last weekend's regional championship victory over Poolesville. "We're a very tight group."

Tight, that is, until they take the field. Then, the 20-4 Cougars become the epitome of business casual. Laughing and joking complement a shrug of the shoulders when things don't go perfectly, but stopping the funny stuff in big situations.

"I get a different sense with this team," said first-year Catoctin coach Amy Hunt, who assisted on last season's team that lost in the state semifinals. "They want it, and they want it bad. And they'll do anything it takes to get it."

Tuesday in their semifinal against North East, it required great defense. The Cougars made all the plays they needed, and then some. Valentine caught the Indians' Jess Bentley stealing by at least eight feet in the third, and her teammates victimized Bentley again with the game on the line in the fifth inning.

The North East left fielder had just singled to left to pull her team within two runs and tried to push the envelope by taking second on a possible relay home. But Catoctin third baseman Cam Jensen quickly cut off the outfield throw and gunned out Bentley at second base to end the inning and keep it a 4-2 game.

"I would think (our experience helped)," Hunt said. "We haven't had that happen in a game yet this year, so I'm glad they saw it. Cam wasn't nervous and gunned it."

The nerves will likely show this afternoon against the Rams and standout pitcher Jennifer Bosley. But that's OK; it's the way it's supposed to be.

"There will be a little," pitcher Shawna Wilkes said. "But nothing we shouldn't be able to handle. If we go out and play our game, we'll have a good showing."

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