Streaking Falcons Look To Crack National Rankings

SIDELINES

Short Of Veterans And Void Of Lefties, Team Is 5-0

April 10, 1992|By Pat O'Malley

Jim Pitt never has had a team quite like the one he has this season at Severna Park High.

Off to a 5-0 start, including an impressive 3-0 thriller Tuesday at Calvert Hall, The Baltimore Sun's top-ranked team, the Falcons may show up among the nation's elite high school teams next week.

When the polls published by the USA Today and Collegiate Baseballare published, it is likely that Severna Park will be ranked nationally for the first time in school history.

The Falcons, who play host to Glen Burnie (3-3) at 3:45 p.m. today, should receive the recognition while fielding arguably the most unusual baseball team the school has had.

"I know I will be voting for them to be in the top 20sand will be talking them up," said Arundel High coach Bernie Walter,who is on the voting committee of both national polls.

Walter's defending state Class-4A champion Wildcats dropped a five-inning 6-3 decision at Severna Park on April 1.

Some of the unique things about this Falcon team are its extraordinary strength up the middle, the fact it has only three seniors and is still deep in talent, and its lack of a left-hander.

"I don't think a left-hander tried out for the team this spring, varsity or JV," said Pitt, who has been at Severna Park for more than 20 years.

"We don't have anyone who throws left-handed in the program for the first time since I've been here. I don't know what's going on genetically in the community."

The parents in the community may not be turning out southpaws, but they have been turning out some pretty good talent the last couple of years. When you throw in an outstanding import from Florida, you've got yourself a pretty good team.

The three seniors, pitcher/shortstop Rob McCandless, center fielder Steve Neuberger and second baseman John Novak, along with junior catcher John Milisitz, form the core of this team. All of them are legitimate Division I college players and a couplemight be pro prospects.

"Good players make good coaches," said Pitt, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference outfielder at the University of Maryland who went on to play minor league baseball in the Minnesota Twins farm system before becoming a physical education teacher.

Pitt agrees with scouts who say that Neuberger and Milisitz are pro prospects. The Falcons' coach says they are two of the finest he has evercoached.

"Neuberger is the best center fielder I have ever coached," said Pitt of the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder. "Steve is an excellent outfielder with a good arm, can hit and run.

"Coming into this year,I thought the thing he had to improve on was his power and he has definitely gotten stronger. I really think he could play and do well atthe University of Maryland right now."

Neuberger has drawn the attention of several Division I schools, including Maryland, but with an athletic budget crunch on at College Park, not much money is available for scholarships.

Virginia Tech coach Chuck Hartman, who runs one of the top programs in the country, is interested in Neuberger, who also is a very good student. Pitt said Yale offered Neuberger a half-tuition scholarship.

Milisitz and his family moved from Floridato Severna Park last year and he's a junior that Pitt is already calling "a bona fide Division I prospect."

"I think Milisitz is the best catcher in the county," said Pitt.

Milisitz combines qualitiesseldom found in catchers at this level. He can hit with power and has a gun of an arm.

"He has the best arm in the county," said Pitt,who says Milisitz compares favorably with Mark Grier, possibly the finest catcher the school ever has had. Grier played in the Minnesota Twins farm system after starring at Severna Park in the mid-70s, but may not have been the hitter Milisitz is.

"Grier had the best arm,but Milisitz is close in that regard and has a quicker release. Johncan swing the bat, too."

Milisitz batted .340 with four dingers last season and already this spring has had two colossal hits. His grand slam in the bottom of the fifth with two outs on a 3-2 pitch lifted the Falcons over Arundel in a rain-shortened game.

In the victory over highly regarded Calvert Hall, a two-run single by Milisitz iced it in the eighth inning. McCandless doubled in the first run beforeMilisitz knocked in two more.

Milisitz hurts teams with his bat and his arm. Clubs that try to run on him usually end up with short-lived rallies, and that's the kind of play that attracts big-league scouts like Jim Gilbert of the Baltimore Orioles.

McCandless is the ace of the pitching staff and when not on the hill, he plays shortstop. But, as good as he is at the two positions, his chance at the Division I level or even in pro baseball probably would be at third base.

The senior catalyst, who led the county in hitting as a junior batting a county record .586 while going 6-2 on the mound, doesn't throwhard enough to be considered a pro prospect as a pitcher, nor does he run well enough to be a middle infielder.

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