Will North Carroll step up in wide-open race? 1994 COUNTY BASEBALL PREVIEW

March 18, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

Who has the best high school baseball team in Carroll County this season?

That is a very tough call.

The defending champion Westminster Owls have lost eight starters, and always tough South Carroll still is facing some uncertainty in the pitching department.

That would seem to put last season's runner-up, North Carroll, in the best position to win it this season since the Panthers have settled on three strong pitchers, are strong on defense and have good speed.

But North Carroll might not have enough hitting to carry it to a first-place finish.

Making the whole situation more clouded is the fact that the best team in the county just might be Francis Scott Key, and it doesn't play enough games against county teams to qualify for the title.

Carroll Christian

The Carroll Christian Academy Patriots will have a new look this season in more ways than one.

They not only will have new red, white and blue uniforms, but will be playing a tough independent schedule after dropping out of the Mason-Dixon Christian Conference.

"It was just too far for us to travel to play Mason-Dixon teams," said Randy Peterson, Carroll Christian athletic director and baseball coach. "That league was spread out to towns farther west than Cumberland. Now we hope to get in a baseball league closer to home."

In the meantime, the Patriots have been forced to play such renowned Christian powers as Riverdale Baptist of Upper Marlboro and Chapelgate, which is located south of Frederick.

Also, the Carroll Christian baseball team will take on Cumberland Valley (Pa.), the defending Mason-Dixon Christian Conference champions, and Arlington Baptist.

The Patriots will look to improve on a 7-5 record, though they have lost last season's most valuable player, Kevin Ash, a shortstop and pitcher, and power-hitting first baseman Shiloh Mitchell.

Peterson said Carroll Christian will play a different brand of baseball.

"We won't have as much power [Mitchell hit five home runs last season] but we have a lot of good contact hitters and team speed," he said. "We'll run. I think almost everybody on the team is capable of stealing."

Junior shortstop and pitcher Matt Good and sophomore catcher Chip Leonard will be the top players.

Good hit .400 as a sophomore and is called the best all-around player on the team by Peterson. "He's a good athlete. He was a starter on the basketball team and is the kind of player you like to have around."

Leonard already has won the catcher's job, replacing Matt Greenstreet who has graduated. Greenstreet, Ash, Mitchell and

third baseman Danny Grove are the four starters gone from last season.

One of the top newcomers is senior Josh Brethauer, a transfer from North Carroll who will start at second or third base. Another transfer is sophomore infielder Jason Cain, who comes from Westminster High.

Peterson is also high on freshman pitcher Casey Davis, who was a standout in Little League and Babe Ruth competition. "Casey is a good contact hitter and sprays the ball around in addition to being a good pitching prospect," said the coach.

Senior Ryan Martin returns as the team's center fielder after hitting .315 last season, and junior Ben Lieb again will be in left field with his outstanding defensive ability and strong arm.

Three freshmen (Matt Arnold, Greg Koontz, Austin Lankford) and three sophomores (Steve Rill, Chris Darling, Tim Abbott) comprise the rest of the team.

Arnold hit .350 in junior high last season, and Rill has the kind of speed the Patriots will feature.

"Our goal is to play .500 baseball or better," said Peterson. "With our tough schedule, that is a lofty goal."

Francis Scott Key

This is a team on the move, and the roadblock to the state 1A

tournament continues to be Brunswick.

Last season, Francis Scott Key overcame a carnival atmosphere in the semifinals to get a shot at Brunswick in the 1A region final at Dundalk Community College.

The Railroaders ousted the Eagles, 5-1, to advance to the states, but Key believes it has caught up to Brunswick in talent and desperately wants another chance.

To help ensure that opportunity to meet Brunswick in the region final, Key wants the home-field advantage in the semifinals. The Eagles don't want to risk traveling to another site such as Clifton Park, where they played Dunbar last season and were fortunate to escape with a 7-4 victory.

Key and Dunbar had to contend with distractions in center field, youngsters riding bikes across the field and a few unruly spectators.

"It was a challenge to play there," said Key coach Bob Caples. "This year our goal is to win 12-13 games and have the home seed for the regionals. That is an attainable goal for us. Winning the Monocacy Valley League title would be nice, but it is one of the best high school baseball leagues in the state and it would be tough to win that championship."

The main reason for all the optimism around Key is the return of six starters from last season's 10-10 squad.

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