VanBrakle fitting in quite nicely with Crimson Tide

April 24, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

When you're good but not being heavily recruited by a college, word gets around of your availability, and somewhere along the line opportunities will exist.

That's the scenario Chambersburg (Pa.) High School graduate Stephanie VanBrakle faced as she went through her 2002 senior season for the Trojans softball team.

VanBrakle was also playing for the New Jersey fall showcase team and it took a notice from the other side of the field to get the ball in motion toward her eventual college home.


That "home" became Tuscaloosa, Ala., where VanBrakle has been one of the stars of the University of Alabama softball team, which is 48-9, ranked 13th in the nation and has the most victories among any Division I team.

Jackie Wilkins, a senior center fielder for the Crimson Tide, was playing against VanBrakle when she was with the New Jersey team.

"Jackie's mother was watching me and said something to Jackie, and the word got to Alabama," said VanBrakle. "(Alabama) had shown a little interest when I was a junior, but nothing serious. Then all of a sudden they start staying in touch with me."

VanBrakle, now a junior for the Crimson Tide and second on the school's all-time strikeout list, said Oklahoma was the only other school that showed any degree of interest.

"It was easy to decide to go to Alabama. ... It was a place where I felt I had opportunity to make my own mark," VanBrakle said.

The righty is carving her niche for the Crimson Tide on the mound. She is currently 24-4 with a 1.22 earned run average, has struck out 232 in 172 innings and allowed only 121 hits (only 14 for extra bases).

VanBrakle and her teammates were geared for this weekend's key matchup against No. 12 Georgia, the East Division leader of the Southeastern Conference at 22-2. Alabama sat atop the West Division at 19-5.

"We've been waiting for this weekend," she said. "Both are going after one another. We want to get up on them so we can host the regionals."

VanBrakle was an SEC first-teamer as a sophomore and the conference's freshman of the year.

"I've been doing much more training and lost 25 pounds and feel great," said VanBrakle. "I've worked on new grips and new pitches. Our competition is beefed up and you can't lay back for anyone."

An undergrad in physical education, VanBrakle plans on getting her masters in sports management and possibly interning in strength and conditioning.

Julie Scherpf, a Berkeley Springs graduate, is batting .301 with a team-high 24 RBI at Shepherd University. Megan Zahnow, also from Berkeley Springs, is batting .302 with one homer and 13 RBI, while Berkeley Springs' Maggie Smith is 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA.

Jamie Griffin, a Martinsburg graduate, is batting .255 with a team-leading five homers and 17 RBI for Shepherd.


Matt Johnson, a North Hagerstown graduate, was recently named Player of the Week by the Old Dominion Athletic Conference for his performance as a member of the Bridgewater (Va.) College Eagles.

The 5-foot-10 junior outfielder went 8-for-17 last week with four extra-base hits as his team went 4-0. He hit his first home run of the season against Southern Virginia, and in a doubleheader sweep of Randolph-Macon, he had four RBI with a double and home run. For the season, Johnson is hitting .317 (33-for-104) with six doubles, two homers, 20 RBI and 12 walks. He is majoring in biology.

East Carolina's T.J. Hose, a North Hagerstown graduate, evened his pitching record at 3-3 on Friday in a 12-0 shutout over Memphis. Hose pitched the first six innings, allowing two hits and striking out nine. He has a 5.02 ERA in three starts and 14 appearances with two saves and 42 strikeouts in 34 innings. He also has issued 22 walks and hit 12 batters.

Tony Magnanelli, a Frederick graduate, recently hurled a seven-inning complete game for Shepherd University in an 8-3 win over Davis & Elkins. He struck out eight and allowed six hits and is now 3-2 for the year with a 4.71 ERA.

Other Shepherd baseball stats for area players include Dirk Webb, a Hedgesville graduate, hitting .319 with one homer and 12 RBI; Josh Bowers, a Williamsport graduate, hitting .290 with one homer and 11 RBI; Phillip Powell, a South Hagerstown graduate, hitting .235 with two homers and seven RBI; Steve Kozak, a Jefferson graduate, hitting .261 with 13 RBI; Matt Noll, a Jefferson graduate, hitting .298 with seven RBI and Chris Anderson, a Middletown graduate, with a 1-0 record and 4.26 ERA.

Brad Fitz, a Greencastle graduate, picked up a win this week at Shippensburg University with 1 1/3 innings of relief in a 9-3 decision. He is now 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA.

Adam Caron, a Waynesboro graduate, is second on the Shippensburg stat sheet in batting with a .349 average in 15 games with five RBI.

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