Quality pitching abounds in 4A East Region 1994 COUNTY BASEBALL PREVIEW

March 18, 1994|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Sun Staff Writer

They say pitching is the name of the game, but in the Class 4A East Region, where county teams will be vying for playoff berths, that's an understatement.

There is no other region in the state with as much quality pitching as the East, and only four teams will qualify for postseason play. A couple of pretty good Anne Arundel teams stand to be left out, but it's hard to say which ones.

With the state playoffs to be held at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans for the first time (May 27-28, state finals), Anne Arundel County hopes to have a team there to play host to the event. The possibility is good but not guaranteed.

CLASS 4A LEAGUE

Annapolis Panthers

It has been awhile since the Panthers basked in the glow of a winning club, but veteran coach Larry Brogden sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

Brogden, who begins his 20th season at the helm of the Panthers, last had a winning season in 1988 (17-6), when they won the school's only state title in baseball.

A new stadium is on the way at Annapolis thanks to the efforts of the boosters club, and with it Brogden hopes for a new era. A crop of outstanding young players who are products of the Annapolis legion and Annapolis city programs that have blossomed in recent years has Brogden's hopes high.

"I don't want to say we are rebuilding for the future, because I'm very high on this group for right now even though they are young," says Brogden, whose Panthers were 3-15 last spring. "They've played a lot of summer baseball and we are just as deep with this young group as we were with older kids the last couple years."

Brogden is counting on his four seniors, and primarily catcher Chris Johnson, to lead the youthful club. Johnson was injured most of last season after starting as a sophomore and has a lot of athletic ability (All-County defensive back in football) and a strong arm.

Other 12th-graders Brogden will be leaning on are second baseman/pitcher Jeff Kapusta, outfielder Darnell Ravenell and utility man Chris Barrett.

While the school's new baseball stadium is being built (on the old site) and is expected to be ready by 1995, the Panthers will play their home games at a new Crownsville Athletic Association facility.

Arundel Wildcats

Winning and earning state titles have become a habit in Gambrills, although one that coach Bernie Walter doesn't take for granted.

"It's not easy to repeat," says Walter, The Baltimore Sun's County and Metro Coach of the Year last spring after leading his Wildcats to an unprecedented sixth state championship and Collegiate Baseball's mythical national title.

Only once in his 21 years at Arundel has Walter (323-89) led his team to back-to-back state titles, the first two in 1976 and 1977. The other Arundel state championships came in 1981, '87, '91 and '93.

Walter returns several key players, including All-Metro pitcher Brandon Agamennone and All-County shortstop Jeff Hedrick, from last year's 21-1 state 4A champion, but is guardedly optimistic. The team is reloading, and the coach expects another great season, but one that might take a little patience because of inexperience in a couple places.

Arundel is counting on even bigger things from two players who had great junior seasons in Agamennone and Hedrick.

Agamennone and Hedrick also led the Mayo Legion team (made up of Arundel and Old Mill players) to a state title last summer and again will be two main cogs in any success the Wildcats have in '94.

As the ace of the pitching staff, Agamennone was 8-0 with four saves and a county-leading 0.71 ERA. He also played some first base when Giles pitched, but may move over to the other corner at third this year when not on the mound.

Agamennone pitched for the Oriolelanders in the fall and is being recruited by Maryland, Clemson, N.C. State and Minnesota.

Hedrick, The Baltimore Sun's Athlete of the Year for Anne Arundel County last year, anchors the Wildcats' infield. He batted a solid .421 with 26 runs scored last year and is considered to be one of the top three hitters in the county.

Hedrick guided what was Walter's best defensive team (.966 fielding percentage, 20 double plays) last season and is expected to solidify a rebuilt infield.

Junior Casey Trout and senior Jamie Stoddard, used primarily as reserves and courtesy runners last spring, will see action at second and third, respectively. Junior Brandon Sands also plays third.

Stoddard is currently battling sophomore left-hander Andy Vermillion (who also plays first base) for the important No. 2 pitching slot behind Agamennone.

Junior Sean Fairbanks is expected to be the catcher who would free up slugger J. P. Noon to play first base. Noon was the team's DH last year.

The outfield is where the Wildcats have a wealth of experience with seniors Wade Rolocut, Tony Costanza and Kevyn Dodson.

Chesapeake Cougars

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