By Nelson Coffin
For the first time in forever, Chapelgate’s softball team does not have the burden of falling just short of a B Conference title on its shoulders.
The Yellowjackets took care of that issue last May by winning back-to-back 5-4 playoff triumphs, first in a semifinal against Notre Dame Prep and then against St. Paul’s School for Girls in the conference championship game at Harford Community College on junior catcher Ellie Henneberg’s single.
The nail-biters not only gave Chapegate its only softball crown, the close wins also finished off a perfect 13-0 season for the Howard County contingent after outscoring opponents, 128-37.
Following those final two taut wins, Chapelgate coach John Issac said that “attrition” played a key role in the team’s championship run after losing three times in the conference final since 2014.
This spring, the Yellowjackets’ repeat bid will be in the good hands of a core of returnees who give the team a sturdy and skilled spine up the middle.
Senior Emily Ventkatesan returns as the same No. 1 pitcher she was last year when winning all 13 games and fashioning a 2.20 earned run average with a whopping 155 strikeouts. The right-hander fanned 11 Gators in last year’s final.
Hennenberg is back for her junior year behind the plate following a season in which she posted a .697 on-base percentage.
Watch for junior Olivia Sunde to move around defensively, logging time at second base and possibly left field to give Issac some defensive maneuverability.
Senior Grace Edwards (.630 on-base) is a fixture at shortstop, as is speedy junior Jess Lucas (.630) in center field.
Lucas led the Yellowjackets with 18 steals last season, six more than runner-up Sunde.
Issac, beginning his 16th year at the Chapelgate helm, said that he believes the B Conference will once again feature plenty of parity.
“St. Paul’s will be good again, even though they lost a really good player in Rachel Colbus (currently playing at NYU),” he said. “They have a lot of other good players coming back, And St. John’s (Catholic Prep) has a really good pitcher. You just never know who else is going to be good. But we don’t really worry too much about wins and losses. Attitude and effort are more important than wins and losses, It’s how you respond to variables — bad weather, umpires, how the ball bounces — that counts.”