Defending state 4A champion Arundel puts its lofty status and reputation on the line this week with two important road games.
Coming off of a 3-1 loss to top-ranked Calvert Hall Saturday in the final of the Arundel Tournament, coach Bernie Walter's No. 3 Wildcats (2-1) visit No. 10 North County (2-1) this afternoon and No. 5 Chesapeake (2-0) on Friday.
North County and Chesapeake both are coming off of Easter tournament victories, the Knights at North Caroline on the Eastern Shore and the Cougars at Thomas Stone in Charles County. Both teams have outstanding pitching and one of them has to beat Arundel this week.
As early as it is, it is almost imperative that North County or Chesapeake knock off the Wildcats. A sweep over the two Class 4A East region contenders would put the Wildcats in position to go on a long winning streak and subsequently run away from the pack.
After the two big games this week, the Wildcats play six straight games against teams they should beat in Annapolis (twice), Northeast, Southern, South River and Meade before playing host to No. 4 Old Mill.
A lot could happen in between with the top teams knocking each other off and allowing Arundel to stake a foothold on first place.
If Arundel was to drop both games this week, things could get really wild in May when most of the 4A contenders will be playing each other.
One thing is sure, the Wildcats, who have worn the title of "most wanted" many times before, will earn it if they take two this week.
Mike Wooden, coming off of a loss to Severna Park and a save in the Easter Tournament, is likely to get the call for the Knights today.
If Wooden needs help, coach Don Usewick will have lefty Bob Christopher and right-hander Tweety Barton, both winners in the holiday event, waiting in the wings.
There is no question that Chesapeake coach Jim Simms will hand his ace left-hander Jason White the ball on Friday. White lost two one-run, extra-inning battles to the Wildcats last season and is champing at the bit for this one.
Simms also has gotten outstanding pitching thus far from right-handers Jeremy Pellegrini, Randy Clifford and Chris Kintop.
White has turned pitching out of jams into an art the last couple of years, but the key for him to win is to throw strikes and check the Wildcats on the base paths. Arundel is about as aggressive )) as a team can be on the bases and thinks nothing of taking chances.
Broadneck baseball coach Mark Stover and his Bruins got their wish when the pollsters jumped his Bruins (3-0) from No. 20 in The Baltimore Sun rankings to No. 7 on Monday.
"This should gain us some respect," said Stover after his Bruins upset then No. 2 Old Mill, 2-1, in eight innings to win their own 10th annual Bruin Holiday Tournament.
The Bruins knocked off Loyola, 4-3, in eight innings in the first round of the tourney with junior Dan Gerbasi getting the winning hit in both games.
"We knew if we won this tournament, we could gain some respect around the area," said Gerbasi.
"We keep hearing about how great the Old Mill pitching is and they have one of the best pitching staffs in the entire metro area, and they're ranked No. 2 [No. 4 now]. That's why we needed to beat a team of that caliber to gain some respect."
In going 8-10 a year ago as a Class 4A school (for only the second losing season in Stover's 10-year run), the Bruins hit only .215 as a team. Stover promised a "much better" hitting club this spring and it looks like it is.
While the Bruins only scored two runs to nip the Patriots, they got clutch hits from Sean Ryan, Adam Simonsen and Gerbasi in the last inning. Clutch hitting was non-existent for Broadneck a year ago.
And most importantly, Old Mill pitchers Jeff Haynie and Tim McGurk had only one strikeout between them. Haynie got it in the fourth inning, and in high school baseball if you can put the ball in play, you have a good chance to win.
A year ago, Haynie struck out 13 Bruins before leaving with one out in the 10th inning of a 3-2 victory for Old Mill. Haynie is a better pitcher a year later and Broadneck is a better hitting team.
The Bruins are not striking out and that's why they are going to be a much better hitting club.