Pikesville Softball Riding Explosive Offense to Winning Start

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It hasn't taken long for first year head coach Max Cookinham and the Pikesville Panthers softball team to start winning together.

Pikesville had jumped out to a 3-0 record to start 2016, but took a step back by losing 18-17 to Carver yesterday. For Cookinham, he thinks the team will be able to use the loss as a growing opportunity.

"It has been extremely important as our first three wins were by wide margins, but we still need to tighten up a great deal of things," Cookinham said. "The loss I believe should be a strong learning experience for the girls that we are not going to walk into anywhere and just win."

Despite losing their undefeated status, it's hard to deny that the Panthers have been playing well.

The team's offense has been particularly explosive thus far. The Panthers have already scored 83 runs this season. The 17 runs they scored in the loss against Carver is the lowest total they've put up all season.

Seniors Emily Heilbrunn and Monique Scott have been the table setters at the top of the order for Pikesville, constantly getting on base and wreaking havoc. The team's primary power threats are a pair of sophomores, Ariella Jackson and Jamie Talbert, both of whom have gotten off to a flying start. Senior Evy Gelvar has also been a strong contributor, with Cookinham saying she's been a constant threat all seasons on the base paths.

Cookinham credits the commitment of his players for the offense's start this season. A lot of times, it takes an offense a couple weeks to get going, but the Panthers came into the early part of the season in mid-season form.

"A great deal of our girls play club ball and play softball year round, so when they walked in, they were ready to go," Cookinham said. "With that being said, we haven't been perfect yet. There are still a great deal of things we need to work on offensively, and we will get better."

Despite the team's excellent surge at the plate to start the season, Cookinham doesn't think its offense is Pikesville's greatest strength, crediting the team's senior leadership and coaching staff as two positives that few teams can match.

"The team is loaded with nine seniors who all have extremely strong leadership qualities, and at any time are able to take the reins," Cookinham said. "My assistant coaches, Natalie Cryan and Mackenna Bush, have both been with the program the past several years. They're amazing and I lean on them a great deal. Both are truly an asset and make this team better every day."

Defensively, Pikesville has also had a strong start to 2016, but the team will have to monitor the health of junior pitcher Emmanuelle Tulsky, who picked up an injury in the game against Carver. It's a frustrating blow for Tulsky, who Cookinham says has been making great strides every time she takes the mound.

Looking ahead, Cookinham has big plans for Pikesville this season which are all based around the MPSSAA playoffs. The team's first goal is to win its region, which would put it in the state semifinals. At that point, the Panthers would be just two games away from bringing home Pikesville's second girls team state championship in school history.

Regardless of how the team's season ends up, it looks as if Cookinham and the Panthers will be a good fit.

"These girls, they are an absolutely amazing group of young women that I am truly lucky to coach," Cookinham said. "I am so excited that I get to help them try and achieve their goals."
April 8th, 2016By: Wick Eisenberg

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