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Railroaders' reclamation project

Once-downtrodden softball program reborn under guidance of Shullenbargers

Once-downtrodden softball program reborn under guidance of Shullenbargers

April 23, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

BRUNSWICK, Md. - When Chris and Jessica Shullenbarger "took the plunge" into coaching the Brunswick softball team last year, it barely registered a blip.

Then again, nothing about the Railroaders' program registered a blip. In the three seasons prior to the Shullenbargers' arrival, Brunswick won a total of 13 games.

"The Brunswick reputation made it acceptable to be bad," senior Heather Termohlen said before Monday's game against Clear Spring. "If we lost, so what?"

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"To some extent, the softball team had been a social activity instead of full-out competitive ball," Jessica Shullenbarger said.

Now, it's both - and suddenly, the Railroaders are all over the radar screen of the MVAL Antietam.

There's no mistaking the family atmosphere the Shullenbargers have formed with the players.

Aside from time spent on the field, the Railroaders also have "team building" days during which they've planted trees, painted the benches behind the softball backstop and participated in other activities. The "all-for-one, one-for-all" approach the Shullenbargers brought with them has rubbed off on everyone.

"At other times it's been more, 'I want to win, I want to win,' but attitudes were never approached," senior LeEllen Lewis said. "When a player struggled, before we'd just leave her alone. Now, we are all there for each other."

There's also no mistaking these Railroaders don't care too much for losing - as this season's 7-1 start proved.

"It's definitely a surprise," Termohlen said. "I've been here three years and I didn't know if we would do this before I graduated. It's a shock, but a good shock."

The program took a turn for the better last year with a respectable 9-10 finish highlighted by a trip to the Class 1A South region final.

"It's hard to tell where or when, but somewhere between mid-season last year and the regional final against Catoctin, the drive kicked in," Jessica Shullenbarger said. "They were ready to be champions in that game. They returned to tryouts with the desire still burning this year."

The talent is certainly in place for a run to the state tournament. Lewis is batting an area-leading .611, Termohlen is batting .417 and Hilary Remsburg has a 1.11 ERA in going 3-0.

"Ideally, every team would like (to win a region title)," Lewis said. "Being in the finals last year, we want to take the next step."

One way or another, the Shullenbargers will enjoy watching the fruits of their labors.

"We have the opportunity to draw on a pool of incredible talent to bring pride to a school, a program, families and the players themselves," Jessica Shullenbarger said. "... It's a great way to spend three months outside of the classroom with high school students."

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