Northeast Is Best Team In The State


But Arundel's Squad Not School'sgreatest

May 29, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

The Arundel and Northeast high school baseball teams each took theirplaces in state public school history last weekend.

Under Bernie Walter, Arundel is the first school to notch five state baseball championships, while Northeast under Harry Lentz is the first public school team to go 24-0.

No question the Eagles of Northeast were the best in the Pasadenaschool's history and the 24-year run of Coach Lentz.

At Arundel, Walter says this year's edition -- with eight hitters at .326 or better, two outstanding pitchers in Zach Collins and Jeff Beard and a defense that boasted a state record 21 double plays -- was his "most complete team."

So the obvious questions: Did Northeast prove it was the best in the county and state this year?

Was this year's Arundel club the best in that school's history?

This is not one of those"questions without answers" column, sports fans. I've got the answers, or at least my opinions, to those two big "Q's."

The answer to No. 1 is an emphatic yes, while the answer to the second one is no.

No doubt Northeast was the county and state's best in 1991. In a normal year, a Class 4A team winning a state championship would be the clear choice over a Class 2A champion. Toughness of schedule and justbetter overall talent would be the factors in making the 4A team thebest no matter what the records.

But when you become the first togo 24-0 and you do it by beating up on the 4A schools, you deserve to be called the best. That's what Northeast did.

The Eagles defeated all nine county 4A schools, including Arundel. Northeast hammered Arundel, 14-4, and Walter is quick to give the Eagles their due.

"They were definitely the best," said the 18-year Wildcat coach. "Theybeat everybody, all the 4A schools they played including us. Northeast had a really good hitting club."

The numbers attest to that, with the Eagles outscoring the opposition in their incredible 24-game run, 326-59, including 65-7 in the four playoff victories.

Before this season, a host of state public school teams had gone 22-0, with Bowie of Prince George's County accomplishing the feat in 1981 and 1982. The Bulldogs of Coach Bill "Bumps" Vaughan extended that streak 10games into the '83 campaign to set the state record of 54 wins in a row.

This year Northeast and Class 3A Thomas Stone of Charles County became the first teams to go 23-0, but Stone lost its state final to Paint Branch, 1-0, while Northeast ripped Hammond of Howard County, 15-3.

Baseball scouts and veteran observers agree that this Northeast team probably could have won the 4A, 8A, 10A, whatever -- the Eagles were that good. In fact, Northeast was the best high school baseball team in Maryland, bar none, including Calvert Hall, the Maryland Scholastic Association champ in Baltimore, and Paint Branch.

It would be pretty interesting to see what Northeast would do against sophomore sensation Ryan Lambert and Paint Branch. I think the Eagles would smoke the guy. Lambert is an outstanding high school pitcher, ashis 20-1 record over two years indicates, but I don't think his basic two-pitch (fastball and change) repertoire would work over seven innings against Northeast.

I really believe that facing the likes ofDonnie Shump (season and career record RBI totals of 45 and 81 and six home runs), Craig Everett (four homers, 30 RBI), Rich Spiegel (four homers, 35 RBI), Russ Curry (two homers, 38 RBI) and Derek Dolch (three homers, 28 RBI), Lambert would get ripped.

If nobody in Anne Arundel County could get those guys out (they averaged 13.5 runs a game), then how would some 10th-grader from what was not that strong a league in Montgomery County?

As for the Arundel team, it was a great one that surprised a lot of people by sweeping preseason favorite Old Mill in three straight, including the Region IV title game by 7-0. That was no small task, considering the Patriots won it all in 1989and were state semifinalists last year with several key players returning for this year.

Early in the season, it was Walter who so adeptly pointed out that Old Mill had a lot of underclassmen playing andthat it just might be overrated. He was right, and his Wildcats proved it.

Arundel went 20-4, including the 8-1 triumph over Perry Hall in the state finale Saturday night at McCurdy Field in Frederick, and Walter said it was "the best defensive team we've had."

When reminded of the seven errors committed in the Northeast game and the five in a 5-2 loss at Calvert Hall in Towson, Walter quickly answered, "Oh, when they had a bad game, they had a bad

game, but if you take the whole season into consideration, this was a great defensive team."

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