What are the best high school teams in Frederick this winter?
Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ll likely have to wait a little longer to find out. Frederick County public-school sports have been postponed since the beginning of the school year because of the pandemic.
So to help fill the void, The Frederick News-Post thought it would be fun to ask readers to pick the best Frederick County high school teams of all-time in each sport.
Each week, we’ll feature a sport and list contenders from years past in that sport. Readers can visit www.fredericknewspost.com to vote for the team they think is best. We’ll do this for all sports, fall, winter and spring.
Each Thursday, when we list candidates for another sport, we’ll reveal the team from the previous week’s sport that got the most votes.
This week’s sport: Softball. May the best team win.
1986 Catoctin Cougars
Accomplishments: Class C state champion, 17-5 record
This was the first Frederick County softball team to win an MPSSAA state title, and it would’ve been hard to find a more fitting pioneer.
Heading into the 1986 season, no Frederick County softball team had reached the state tournament as many times as Catoctin, which made the MPSSAA final for five straight years from 1979 to 1983.
Also, the Cougars had advanced to the state finals four times, only to fall short of the big prize. No wonder they came out with a vengeance in the 1986 state final, rolling to a 14-5 win over Brooklyn Park.
“This feels great,” Cougars left fielder Martha Parker told The Frederick News-Post after winning the crown. “We had been hearing all year how Catoctin always gets to the finals and chokes. We didn’t.”
This was a Catoctin team packed with plenty of offensive punch, a trait the program still possessed before sports got shut down by the health crisis in 2020.
Parker, the senior leadoff hitter, reached base five times, scored three runs and stole four bases in the state final. Fellow seniors Samantha Bollinger (three hits and two RBIs), Dawn Blickenstaff (reached base three times) and basketball star Tammy Joy (two hits, two RBIs) also did their part.
Meanwhile, sophomore pitcher Sherry Seiss (13-1 that season) scattered nine hits and escaped a serious jam in the sixth.
Catoctin head coach Dave Schrodel joked that he hoped momentum would carry over to his job the following fall as the Walkersville football team’s new head coach.
In fact, Schrodel ended up guiding the Lions to a football state title in 1987. He also won two softball state crowns at Walkersville, and one of those teams appears on this list.
Likewise, Catoctin’s program, which has earned a state-record 21 state tournament berths, will also appear again on this list.
1988 Frederick Cadets
Accomplishments: Class A state finalist, 14-6 record
It was around the 11th inning when a fan approached me and said, “At this point, does there really need to be a loser?” The answer was yes and unfortunately, it was Frederick.
That was the first paragraph of The Frederick News-Post’s article about the 1988 Class A state softball championship game between Frederick and Surrattsville. A first-person sentence in such a game story is odd, even more so for one that included no byline, like this one.
Nonetheless, that first paragraph’s sentiment seems right on the money. Playing in a state championship for the first time, Frederick suffered a 1-0 loss in a game that lasted 14 innings.
Throughout the season, the scrappy, Ed Remus-coached Cadets usually found a way to win. Having an offense that averaged just under 14 runs a game sure helped.
But when ensnared in a pitcher’s duel like this, the Cadets were more than capable of hanging in there, even on a day when Surrattsville sophomore Michelle Collins piled up 35 strikeouts (yes, 35) and gave up just three hits.
Frederick pitcher Jenny Dilks didn’t blink. She struck out 10, scattered five hits and was backed by a defense that made numerous outstanding plays. Granted, she caught a break in the bottom of the 12th, when what would’ve been the game-winning run for Surrattsville was erased because the batter failed to touch first base.
But in the bottom of the 14th, Surrattsville’s Amy Stewart drew a leadoff walk, stole second, advanced to third on a bunt and scored on a sac fly to left field.
Dilks was The News-Post Co-Player of the Year. Aside from pitching, she batted .568, scored a team-high 34 runs, stole 12 bases and finished with 26 RBIs. Kelli Summers and Lisa Ausherman earned Frederick News-Post all-area first-team honors.
Frederick returned to the state final in 1991 and 1992. While those teams were also worthy of being on the list, the 1988 edition gets the nod for basically playing two championship games in one.
1994 Thomas Johnson Patriots
Accomplishments: Class 3A state champion, 19-3 record
With a hard-hitting lineup and an ace pitcher, Thomas Johnson became the first Frederick County team in eight years to capture a state crown.
The ace pitcher was junior Julie Blake, who went on to pitch at Towson State (now Towson University). She went 18-3 in 1994, polishing off her season with a nine-strikeout, four-hitter in TJ’s 8-2 win over Mount Hebron in the state final.
Talking about the pitcher in a preview for the championship game, TJ coach Steve Nibbs said, “Whenever she steps on the mound, I’m confident.”
With Blake in command against the Vikings, TJ got all the offense needed in the three-run first, when Blake, Sara Tresselt and Melissa Welty all singled and Jen Shankle had an RBI groundout. Later, center fielder Becky Phillips hit a two-run triple.
TJ had five players earn Frederick News-Post all-area honors — Phillips, Blake, Shankle, third baseman Amy Warner and infielder Katie Simpson. Also, Nibbs was coach of the year.
1999 Walkersville Lions
Accomplishments: Class 2A state champion, 25-1 record
With one of the best pitchers to come out of Frederick County leading the way, Walkersville won its second state crown in four seasons in 1999.
That pitcher was the late Amy Burdette, a hard-throwing left-hander who went 23-1 with an 0.26 ERA, tossed nine no-hitters — including three perfect games — and piled up 257 strikeouts in 159 1-3 innings during her senior season in 1999. Oh yeah, she also batted .321 with team highs in homers (four) and RBIs (31). Not surprisingly, she earned Frederick News-Post Player of the Year honors.
With two outs and the go-ahead run on base in the seventh, Burdette notched strikeout No. 257 to wrap up Walkersville’s 2-1 win over North Caroline in the Class 2A state championship game.
But in that game, Burdette also got an unforgettable boost from her defense. With Walkersville clinging to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, the Lions pulled off a triple play.
Freshman right fielder Sarah Ramsburg (who later played at Mount St. Mary’s) made a running shoestring catch and doubled up a runner at first, then first baseman Melissa Kolb threw to shortstop Bethany Seylor, who doubled up the runner on second base.
Aside from Burdette, the only other holdover from Walkersville’s 1996 state championship team was second baseman Lisa Abbamonte, who also was a cornerstone of this team.
“They’ve had a tremendous career here. In their four years, Walkersville only lost five games,” Lions coach Dave Schrodel told The Frederick News-Post.
In the 1999 state final, Abbamonte, a speedy leadoff hitter, scored both of Walkersville’s runs off singles by Burdette and catcher Janet Paterson. She also made a leaping catch.
Abbamonte, Paterson and Ramsburg all earned News-Post all-area first-team honors.
2011 Urbana Hawks
Accomplishments: Class 4A state champion, 21-0 record
Guess it’s fair to say Urbana entered the 2011 season with some extra motivation after suffering a heartbreaking loss in the previous season’s state semifinals, which ended on a bizarre infield fly-rule double play while the Hawks were rallying.
There would be no losses for the Hawks in 2011. Urbana concluded its perfect 21-0 season by beating juggernaut and previously unbeaten Chesapeake-AA 5-3 in the state championship game.
Urbana is the only Frederick County team to win a Class 4A crown, and it’s the only team on this list that went undefeated.
After getting ousted in the state semis the previous two seasons and never reaching the final before, the Hawks had to face Chesapeake ace Megan Hyson, who entered the game with a 22-0 record and 0.64 ERA.
“I was a little bit concerned about the kids being nervous,” Urbana coach Frank Husson said. “They hit the ball as well tonight as they have in practice. They knew they could hit the best that Hyson was going to throw at them. They came out swinging the bats right from the start.”
Urbana jumped out to a 3-0 lead and ended up collecting 10 hits. Sara Thacker led the way with an RBI triple and RBI double. Jessica Trammell had three hits and an RBI, Stephanie Murphy had two RBI singles, and Alexa Murphy doubled.
Thacker, a center fielder, and shortstop Katie Sebbane also made fine defensive plays to back Murphy, a senior pitcher who struck out six to earn the win.
Murphy was The News-Post Player of the Year, while Sebbane, catcher Kristen Juenger, Thacker and Trammell earned first-team all-county honors.
2011 Catoctin Cougars
Accomplishments: Class 1A state champion, 19-3 record
Heading into the season, the 2011 Catoctin Cougars didn’t have a single player on their roster who had played in a state tournament game, a rarity for the perennial power.
Turns out, they were far from fazed by such high-stakes games.
Returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2006, when it won a state crown, Catoctin captured its Frederick County-best third state title by rolling to a 10-0, mercy rule-shortened win over Loch Raven in the championship game.
Not bad for a team with just four seniors on the roster.
“Most people thought we were underdogs the whole season,” Cougars senior shortstop Carly Farr told The Frederick News-Post. “It’s nice to prove them wrong.”
While seniors like Farr (.446 average, two home runs, 28 RBIs), outfielder Cady Baer (.493, 20 RBIs) and infielder Ashley Smith (.446, 15 RBIs) led the way, the Cougars obviously got contributions from numerous underclassmen.
One of them was freshman pitcher Rhianna Drieu, who threw a three-hit shutout in the state final. Aside from good control (she issued no walks), Drieu benefited from a rock-solid defense. For instance, freshman left fielder Kristy Erfurdt snagged two liners that seemed destined to be hits.
Other young contributors included sophomore Kaylee Krietz (.450, 30 stolen bases), freshman Courtney Clemons (who scored the game-winning run in the state semis when a pitch went past the catcher) and sophomore pitcher Katie Kinna.
With so many players in the early stages of fine careers on the roster, Catoctin remained a power for years to come under head coach Jessica Valentine.
2014 Linganore Lancers
Accomplishments: Class 3A state finalist, 20-2 record
Linganore’s perennially strong program has yet to win a state title, but no Lancers team came closer to getting that big prize than this one.
For the second time in three seasons, Linganore faced mighty Northern (Calvert) in the state championship game. After falling 10-0 in 2012, the Lancers made the Patriots sweat out a 4-2 win en route to their seventh state title in as many years.
Trailing 4-1 in the top of the seventh, Linganore pulled closer when Casey Golombieski doubled and later scored. And with runners on second and third and two outs, Linganore junior cleanup hitter Madison Ambush stepped up to the plate.
Earlier in the game against Northern ace Jess Cummings, Ambush belted an RBI double, walked and singled. This time, Cummings deliberately walked the Lancers standout, tossing four pitches that came nowhere near the strike zone.
“I’ve been around too long to know what could happen,” Patriots coach Robert Earl Radford said. “She had the ability to tie the game with one swing of the bat.”
Cummings then notched the game-ending strikeout, ending another stellar Linganore season. Counting their 2019 state semifinals appearance, the Lancers made seven trips to the MPSSAA final four in 13 seasons.
Ambush, who batted .421 with 12 doubles, two triples, three homers and 28 RBIs, led a prolific offense that featured fellow all-area first-teamers Devan Puhl, Katelyn Kosar and Kennedi Ambush (whose speed produced a slew of infield hits), among others.
Kosar was the main pitcher, going 16-2 with an 0.97 ERA, and she was backed by an excellent defense that got clutch plays from the likes of outfielder Puhl and shortstop Mckenzie Ridgely.
2015 Middletown Knights
Accomplishments: Class 2A state champion, 21-1 record
In 2012, Charley Toms returned as Middletown’s softball head coach, and he had freshman player named Sami Main.
It was hard to tell back then, but the process of transforming Middletown from a downtrodden program to a state power was underway.
Three years later, with Toms at the helm and Main firing away from the pitcher’s circle, Middletown captured the program’s first state crown by beating perennial state power Easton 4-1 in the 2A championship game.
Main turned in a typically dominant outing that day, striking out nine and holding Easton scoreless until it scored on a two-out error in the seventh.
“Sami was incredible. She hasn’t thrown better this year, if in her career,” Toms said. “Because Easton is a formidable opponent. They don’t have seven state titles because they’re slouches.”
In 2015, Main went 21-1 (the lone loss came to 3A state semifinalist Linganore) with a 1.40 ERA and struck out 205 in 140 innings. She also hit .514 with two homers and 30 RBIs. After earning News-Post Player of the Year honors, she later pitched for the University of Maryland.
As valuable as Main was, the Knights had other weapons like junior shortstop Annie McClain, whose range in the field and productivity at the plate were on display throughout her career. McClain tripled and scored the game-winning run in the regional final, hit a solo homer in the state final and batted .507 on the season.
Like McClain, Knights senior catcher Kaela Pratt (.372) also earned all-area first-team honors, while the Knights also had second-teamers in Emma Watt, Meghan Brown, Taylor Green and Samantha Hockenbery.