Once again, county's bases are loaded with top-quality teams Arundel and Old Mill leaders of the pack

SIDELINES

April 14, 1993|By PAT O'MALLEY

If you're an Anne Arundel County baseball fan, don't the USA Today Super 25 national high school baseball rankings look strange without an Anne Arundel County team included?

But, then again, don't very successful high school sports programs run in cycles?

What's happening at Northeast this year and in the Class 4A league are great examples. The greatest coaches in the world rarely win unless they have the players.

That is more than true in highly competitive Anne Arundel County. Major-league baseball scouts have said that Anne Arundel plays the best baseball in Maryland.

Just three years ago, Northeast was the mythical national champion, and last year Severna Park was a frequent resident among the nation's elite.

Old Mill (1-0) and Arundel (2-0), ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, by The Baltimore Sun this week, have been frequent visitors in the Super 25 the past few years and could be back in coming weeks.

Those clubs appear to be clearly the top two in the county, with No. 7 upstart North County (3-0) on the horizon and No. 12 Severna Park (1-1), Broadneck (2-1) and Chesapeake (3-1) to be reckoned with.

With two lopsided wins in the Northeast Easter Tournament on Monday, Chesapeake has its sights set on Arundel. The Wildcats come calling at 3:45 p.m. today in what ranks as the game of the day in Anne Arundel County.

All those teams mentioned are Class 4A schools, teams that smaller Northeast (2-3) was competitive with or better than the past couple of years while winning two straight state 2A titles.

That has changed drastically.

Veteran Northeast coach Harry Lentz has his worst team since the 10-12 club of 1985, and he wasn't exaggerating before the season when he warned of how concerned he was about his infield.

"My big concern is that we lost our entire infield and the type of pitchers we have throw a lot of ground balls, so we have to hope the infield comes along," Lentz said in the preseason.

Unfortunately for him, the infield hasn't come along, some of his pitchers are having trouble getting the ball over the plate and routine fly balls to the outfield have become an adventure.

After getting embarrassed, 22-0, in their season and home opener by North County, Northeast was humbled, 20-8, Monday by Chesapeake in the Eagles' tournament final.

Against North County, the Eagles committed eight errors and walked 20. Against Chesapeake, Northeast committed six errors, walked eight and hit two batters.

"We just don't have a good ballclub this year, not like we have had the last few years," said Northeast assistant John Barbour. "But our JV lost a tough 4-3 game to Arundel the other day and it looks like we have some good kids down there."

Barbour is part of an outstanding coaching staff headed by Lentz and including Al Kohlhafer and Ed Gole. There are few, if any, better-run programs in the state.

But even the best coaching staffs can't win without talent.

In contrast to the Northeast situation, things are looking up at Chesapeake, where second-year coach Jim Simms has the Cougars on the move. After two losing seasons, North County's deep pitching staff and overall talent make the Knights a contender.

What's interesting is that in a year in which Chesapeake (9-11 last year) and North County (6-14 last year) are ready to step up, making the 4A playoffs is going to be tougher than ever.

Last year's fourth and final seed in 4A Region IV was Broadneck. The Bruins finished 13-9 overall, including a loss in the region final to Arundel, but in the games that counted toward the playoffs (Easter tournament games do not), Broadneck had seven losses.

During the past few years, six or seven losses usually has put a 4A club into position to take the fourth seed or maybe even third. That's not likely to happen this year.

With 15th-ranked Edmondson off to a 4-0 start and Patterson at 2-1 starting this week, the two Baltimore teams will draw most of the interest when Anne Arundel teams go scoreboard watching. Edmondson and Patterson are now part of 4A Region IV, and prospects are good that the two of them will have playoff-caliber records.

A good club or two from Anne Arundel is going to get left out this year.

Just look at the field: No. 1 Old Mill, No. 2 Arundel, No. 7 North County and No. 12 Severna Park. One could be left out, but are those four even guaranteed a shot?

No. Broadneck, Chesapeake and Glen Burnie (if its young pitching comes through) can't be counted out.

That's seven teams, and they could very well knock each other off and lessen Anne Arundel's chances of landing four 4A teams in the regional.

The way I see it, Anne Arundel clubs can't afford to lose more than four games to have enough playoff points, and that could be tough to accomplish.

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