Centennial, Glenelg rate as front-runners 1994 COUNTY BASEBALL PREVIEW

March 18, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

The Howard County baseball race shapes up as a five-team affair with Class 2A state champion Glenelg and Class 3A state finalist Centennial as front-runners.

Mount Hebron, Hammond and Atholton are also expected to be competitive.

Even though Glenelg returns most of its players from a a team that batted .370, few coaches expect the Gladiators to run away with the title because their pitching may not be as strong.

Centennial, which finished second last season, returns ace pitchers Kurt Weitzel and Dave Hudson but needs to improve its hitting to beat out the Gladiators.

Atholton Raiders

The Raiders have a solid nucleus of returning players from an 11-8 team and expect to be competitive among the top teams. They were 8-6 in league play.

A lot depends on how well senior Shane Beaver pitches. The tall right-hander throws hard but was only 2-4 last season with a 3.85 ERA in 36 1/3 innings.

He has some pop in his bat -- he hit three homers -- but hasn't hit for much of an average.

Senior Keith Schultz, an off-speed thrower, returns with impressive statistics, a 5-1 record and 2.74 ERA.

Senior Spike Altman was successful out of the bullpen last season. He also plays second base.

The Raiders also will have junior left-hander Dan Keyser, a control pitcher with a good curveball. And transfer Jonathan Edwards is a junior right-hander who throws hard.

Offensively, the Raiders rely upon the Schneider brothers. Derrek, a center fielder, batted .338 with eight doubles and two ++ triples last season. Ryan, a catcher, batted .346 with 12 RBIs. Both are seniors.

Pete Yoder, a junior first baseman who played 11 games last season and batted .308, also will contribute.

Atholton's most promising newcomer is Brandon Eiserman. The junior third baseman can hit, and do it with some power.

Junior Bill Hite plays second base and sophomore Jason Sanders will start at shortstop.

Senior Marc Lowenthal is a returning infielder.

Outfielders fighting for starting spots include juniors Jamie Burford, Chad Patterson and John Bailey.

"I'm hoping that the veterans have better years and that the junior varsity kids step up," Atholton coach Kevin Kelly said. "Our JV won 15 games."

The team will have better depth than last year but has a whole new infield and lots of question marks.

The Raiders tied for the county title in 1992.

Centennial Eagles

The Eagles are a team that was thrilled to make the state finals last season and is eager to get back.

Since they return all but one starter from a 14-8 team that $H finished second in league play at 10-4, chances for a return trip appear strong. Included among the returning players are premier pitchers Kurt Weitzel and Dave Hudson.

But Eagles coach Ron Martin thinks it will be harder this season to make the playoffs. "Poly has dropped from 4A into our region and always has a good team, and two other Baltimore City schools are likely to get in just because they play weak schedules. That probably leaves one spot left for several very good programs like Mount Hebron, Broadneck, James Bennett and us.

"In past years I've said you could lose six games and make the playoffs, but this year you'll have to do better. And that's going to be hard because our county is so tough. Nearly every team has most of their players back."

Martin knows he is fortunate to have two excellent senior pitchers such as Weitzel and Hudson, however.

Weitzel was 8-4 with a 1.10 ERA. He fanned 99 and walked only 17 in 70 innings. He allowed 49 hits. Weitzel also can hit, posting a .325 average and playing shortstop when not on the mound.

He out-dueled highly regarded Watkins Mill pitcher Jason Smithberger in the state semifinal, as fourth-seeded Centennial upset the top seed, 2-0, in extra innings. Weitzel struck out a personal-high 13 that game. He throws a curveball, forkball and fastball.

Hudson throws harder than Weitzel but doesn't have quite as much movement on his pitches. He failed to get much support last season and finished with a 4-2 record. His ERA was 2.43. In 46 innings, he struck out 53, walked 24 and allowed 25 hits.

"He was clocked at a Florida State baseball camp throwing 86 mph," Martin said.

Hudson threw a no-hitter against Carver in the regional championship game, and earned a playoff save against Watkins Mill by pitching a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning.

Although Centennial has good pitching and defense, it needs improved offensive output. The Eagles were shut out, 3-0, in the state final by Lansdowne.

Junior catcher Jason Babcock led the team in hitting with a .343 average.

Senior Joe Mellendick, a middle infielder who missed some of last season with a broken hand, and before that was hampered by a sore wrist, is expected to add some offense. He also can pitch.

Junior outfielder and first baseman Kevin O'Connor batted only .242 but led the team with 15 RBIs.

Martin is looking for someone to fill the third-base spot. Senior Dan Christine and junior Ryan Marks are candidates.

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