Cadets march to Chesapeake lead

Baseball/Softball notes

Baseball/Softball notes

April 08, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Through its first four games, Frederick's baseball team has proven one thing: It will be difficult to halt the Cadets' forward march.

No. 2 Frederick already is the only undefeated team in the MVAL Chesapeake Conference, earning that distinction with a hard-earned 2-0 victory over Urbana on Tuesday. The Cadets have all the pieces in place for a deep run come the playoffs in May.

"They're really coming into their own," Cadets coach Phil Rhodes said. "A lot of these guys - Billy (Gross), Cory Rhodes, Matt Kalmar, Jesse Highling - a bunch of these seniors have been playing on the varsity since sophomores. Finally, things have been paying off for them and ultimately for us as a team."


Gross has been at the heart of Frederick's hot start. The imposing pitcher hurled a four-hit shutout at Urbana and has the look and the stuff that will likely draw the eyes of major league scouts.

"He's a little intimidating for a lot of hitters," Rhodes said. "His presence (says) he is in command. With the velocity that he's been throwing at, he's been in high 80s and topped off at 91 on one occasion, and he can throw the curve ball for strikes when he has to. He can be devastating to hit against."

When he's not pitching, Gross plays shortstop and joins with Cory Rhodes (third base), Kalmar (second base) and Highling (first base) to form an experienced infield, while Mike Herald, Kyle Myers, Wes Gross and Highling give the Cadets some depth on the mound.

"We're pretty deep pitching-wise, and defensively, we feel we're pretty solid as well," Phil Rhodes said. "Offensively, things are starting to click a little bit more. We're finally getting to the point where we're playing (games) a little more consistently, and the bats are really starting to come around."

Though they stand alone in the Chesapeake, the Cadets understand they must keep getting better in order to make a meaningful run in May.

"Even the kids know the potential is we can even be better than we are right now," Phil Rhodes said.

Spartans put 0-18 in past

Michelle Eichelberger's first season as McConnellsburg's softball coach couldn't have been more frustrating for her or her players, as the Spartans suffered the pain of a winless record in 2004.

The disappointments of spring led to the rejuvenations of last summer, when Eichelberger - with the help of her husband - put a team in the Chambersburg Suburban 14-under fast-pitch league.

"They won their league and won the championship," Eichelberger said. "Some of those girls aren't quite old enough to play varsity ball yet, but they did a nice job. That helped us tremendously.

"We're still sort of in a rebuilding stage. I don't think we're going to tear anything up, but we'll win some ball games this year. We've got some younger girls coming up in the future that will help the team."

While the full dividends of the summer league won't be known for another few years, the hard work and dedication of the current crop of Spartans are already reaping rewards. McConnellsburg won its first three games this season to help forget about last season's turmoil.

"It definitely was a morale booster, a team booster," Eichelberger said. "It brought the girls together, and they saw they could actually do this together if they just stick together and communicate and encourage each other and rebound from the pitfalls."

Freshman Ashley Peck is getting playing time in the circle, and her ability to throw strikes fits perfectly with Eichelberger's philosophy of making the other team earn a win.

"I'm trying to focus on fielding and hitting," Eichelberger said. "(Peck) will put strikes in there, she's not walking anybody. The defense is probably going to have to do twice as much work as some other teams that are striking a large number of people out. That's still better than eight or 10 walks per game. If we're going to lose a game, we're going to lose it with the ball in play."

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