It's early but the first "big" high school baseball game is set for 3:45 p.m. today at Arundel High, where the Wildcats are host to the Northeast Eagles. Northeast was ranked No. 2 by The Baltimore Sun in apreseason poll, while Arundel was No. 4.
Both are defending statechampions in their respective classes, Northeast in 2A and Arundel in 4A. Each opened the season last week with a victory in wintry weather that had the fans thinking November instead of spring.
On Monday, Arundel opened in Harwood by thumping Southern, 11-1, behind the batting and pitching of Brian Rolocutt. The senior fashioned a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and went 3-for-4 at the plate witha dinger and five RBI.
Wednesday, Northeast christened its renovated ball park (it now has lights, dugouts and is fenced) with a 10-9 comeback victory over the North County Knights. Freshman right-handerMike Wooden took the Knights into the bottom of the fifth inning with a 6-2 lead before running into control problems.
Wooden walked two and gave up a hit to load the bases before giving way to two relief pitchers, as the defending mythical national champs exploded for seven runs to take a 9-6 lead. K.C. Murphy's grand slam highlighted theEagles' big inning.
North County tied the game, 9-9, with three runs in the sixth, but the Eagles, coached by Harry Lentz, pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh to win it.
Senior right-hander Derek Dolch had a disappointing start for the Eagles. Dolch couldn't find the plate and his control problems resulted in just one-thirdof an inning's work. Jason Hohman replaced Dolch in the first and went the final 6 2/3 innings for the Eagles.
There is no question that the Eagles need Dolch in order to make a run at the state 2A titleagain. The stocky hurler was 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA as a junior in the Eagles' banner 24-0 national championship season.
Lentz has tabbedDolch as his ace and is not worried about the opener. He does not expect Dolch to have control problems on a consistent basis. Certainly,if he goes today, Dolch would do well to throw strikes because the Wildcats can swing the bat.
Arundel unloaded a 13-hit attack on Southern a week ago and that was in only six innings, because Dawgs coach Chuck Crandell took his team off the field in the top of the seventh. More on that in a moment.
Coach Bernie Walter's Wildcats are going to score runs. And, when they get good pitching, they are going to be tough to beat. Unfortunately for Arundel, they were unable to play the rest of the week because of the inclement weather.
On the other hand, Rolocutt will be well rested for today's encounter.
If there are two teams that can play well under adverse weather conditions, these two teams can because they are well coached. So, regardlessof the temperature today, look for an exciting high school game.
Also, look for the bizarre to happen. These two clubs really go at itand love to engage in one-upmanship.
Speaking of bizarre, Southern's Crandell took his team off the field last Monday against Arundel after only six innings. Crandell was upset that Arundel's Walter running and stealing second in the top of the seventh despite his team's 11-1 lead. So Crandell took his bat and ball and went home.
Crandell has got away with the move last week. But it will be interesting to see whether he is reprimanded by the county for his actions. I say his behavior was inexcusable, because 11-1 is not really running up the score and it was the season opener for both.
This time of the year with the weather so unpredictable, clubs have to take advantage of every possible chance to work on fundamentals, which sometimes means stealing a base late in a game already settled. Also, there are times when kids miss signs and mistakingly run on their own.
Crandelldidn't bother to find out. He just quit. That can't be allowed, and the county will be making a big mistake if it allows him to get away with it.
We can't have coaches pulling their teams off the field when things don't go their way.
I checked with acting county coordinator of physical education Rick Wiles last week about the penalty for coaches pulling their teams, and he is looking into it.
There isa rule devised several years ago by former coordinator Paul Rusko that would suspend coaches for such behavior. However, it's not certainwhether it is in writing or one of those unwritten rules that are enforceable.
It's interesting to note that the rule was adopted because Walter deemed it necessary to take his team off the field at Severna Park a few years ago. That day Walter felt that the Severna Park fans were going too far harassing him and his players.
Walter was called on the carpet and county baseball coaches were warned by Rusko's office that any future early exits would be severely dealt with. It had not happened again until a week ago.