During Northern Lehigh's 1988 state championships softball season, head coach Brian Schell could send out either of two very good pitchers - Nicky Warmkessel or Sharon Mack.

Twenty-two years later, with Schell in the third year of his second stint with the Bulldogs, his staff is once again blessed with several talented hurlers.

Senior Julie Wagaman, juniors Maggie Lear and Tamara Stubits and sophomore Lauren Habereren can all give the team quality innings this season.

It's a situation many other softball programs would love to have. But for Schell and his coaching staff, it created a bit of a problem for them.

"It's tough," Schell said. "I don't know how other programs have dealt with it when they have had more than one good pitcher. I guess if you have one pitcher who's far superior to the others then it's not that hard. Our difficulty is that these four pitchers could all be starting for another team.

"They have the kind of talent which makes it difficult to chose one or two above the others."

Rather than focus on the negatives of the situtation, Schell pointed out how the number of arms could pay off over the course of the regular season.

"It's a good problem to have," Schell said. "It certainly takes a lot of pressure off of each of them knowing that there's somebody who can come in if they run into trouble or aren't quite on that day.

"It certainly is an advantage. We have what a lot of other teams don't have."

When it comes down to game strategy, Schell stated it's in the program's best interest to stick with a two-person rotation rather than trying to alternate between the four of them.

"You can't really go with a four-person rotation because you only have 20 games in a season," Schell said. "It's not really possible to do because sometimes a pitcher might only pitch once every two weeks or something. So, you don't want that to happen.

"You can really only go with a two-person rotation to make sure your pitchers get enough work throughout the season."

Schell has gone with Wagaman as the Bulldogs' ace because of her experience as a starter. Northern Lehigh rode the strength of her arm last year and went on to win the Colonial League West Division and earned a berth in the league and district playoffs.

Although it was a tough decision to make, Schell picked Lear to take on the No. 2 spot in the rotation.

However, that doesn't mean Stubits and Habereren won't get their chance to take on a starting role themselves.

"If either one of them (Wagaman and Lear) runs into a problem in a game then that's where Lauren and Tamara would come into play," Schell said. "We are trying to get them a start here or there. Again, who knows? The season is long. If somebody gets hurt or somebody's not pitching well, we're not going to be afraid to make the move.

"We're going to need these girls in years to come too. Julie is graduating this year, so these girls are our future."

While pitching is primarily the four ladies' main contribution, the nice thing for Schell is that these Bulldogs aren't restricted to one spot on the diamond. All four of them can play other positions.

When Wagaman isn't pitching, she's patrolling centerfield. As for Lear, she's handling the hot corner at third base when she's not standing in the circle. Stubits also can play in the outfield while the youngster of the bunch, Habereren, has handled the Bulldogs' designated player position since opening day.

"They're just not pitchers, they're excellent athletes," Schell said. "They're very talented and that's a good thing. That's why it hasn't been a problem because the four of them have been in the lineup one way or another.

"The four of them are going to be in the lineup somewhere all year - it's just a matter of where."

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NO-HIT HURLERS ... Five local baseball and softball teams were able to record no-hitters so far this season, including one perfect game. The first no-no of the year came from Ashley Tillou and the Jim Thorpe softball team. Tillou allowed zero hits in a 15-0, four-inning win over Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg on March 28.

Three days later, Northern Lehigh's Julie Wagaman and Lauren Haberern combined to no-hit Bangor in four innings. Wagaman fanned three in three innings, while Haberern struck out two in one. Haberern would go on to throw another no-hitter of her own on April 10 in a game against Jim Thorpe. She finished with eight K's - all in a row from the first through the third - and won 22-0.

The lone perfect game came from the Northern Lehigh baseball team. On April 1, Eric Snyder, Joe Seremula and Chad Mazepa combined to allow no baserunners in five innings versus Wilson. Seremula fanned three, while Snyder and Mazepa sat down two. The Bulldogs went on to win 11-0.

Marian had the fifth no-hitter on April 12. Jim Stavinski and Ryan Gimbi blanked Lourdes through six innings and led their Colts to a 10-0 win. Gimbi had six K's, while Stavinski had two.

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NO LOSSES FOR LUX ... Jim Thorpe's Sam Lux is the only area tennis player to have an undefeated singles record up to this point in the season.

Not only does Lux have a 10-0 record, but he hasn't dropped a set all season. In seven of his 10 matches, Lux hasn't allowed his opponent to win more than two games in either set.

For the season, he has won 120 games and lost just 29.

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SHOWING NO MERCY... The Marian baseball team has been on quite a run lately. The Colts have defeated four teams in a row via the mercy rule. They started things off last Wednesday with a 16-1 win over Weatherly in four innings. Two days later they topped Minersville 10-0 in five. This past Monday, the Colts knocked off Lourdes in six, 10-0. Jeff Nietz's squad then topped Shenandoah Valley 12-2 on Wednesday. Marian improved to 5-1 (4-0) on the year with the victories.

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SCORING SPREES... Six locals teams had some big-run innings over the first few weeks of the season. As one would come to think, all six teams won their respective ball games.

The biggest offensive out-burst came from the Panther Valley baseball team. The Panthers put up 16 runs in the fifth inning against CMVT on April 8. They would go on to win 26-0.

Second on the list was Pleasant Valley, who tallied 13 runs in the first inning versus Eastburg North. The Bears went on to score two more runs and won 15-0 in three.

Leading the way for the softball teams was Northern Lehigh. The Lady Bulldogs plated 12 and 10 runs in back-to-back innings in their 22-0 victory over Jim Thorpe on April 10. Two days later they would score nine in the second against Catty and won 12-0.

Northwestern and Lehighton also scored major runs. The Lady Tigers ran across nine in the third inning in their 25-15 victory over Tamaqua on April 1.

Lastly, the Indians drove in nine runs in the sixth against Tamaqua on April 10. They went on to win 14-0.