Rivals in spring, Rangers unite for summer success

June 30, 1994|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff Writer

In the spring, many of the Carroll County Rangers go up against one another for their high school teams.

When summer rolls around, they come together to comprise one of the most talented 16-under baseball teams in the metro area.

Around 60 games will have been played through the summer heat, some as far away as Knoxville, Tenn.

"It's a big commitment," said Rangers 16-under Blue coach Steve Brezler.

"They have to know what they want out of their summer. For these players, baseball is their primary sport, and they want to go on and play it in college."

The Rangers program was started four years ago by Brezler, who saw a number of quality county players going elsewhere to play summer ball.

There are five teams in the Rangers program -- 14-under Blue and White teams; 16-under Blue and White teams and a 17-18 team.

In the 14-under and 16-under divisions, the Blue teams have the older and more experienced players, and the White team members are younger players looking to gain experience and possibly move up to the Blue team the next summer.

The Rangers 16-under Blue squad went into last night's game against Reisterstown with a 24-1 record atop the West Division of the Baltimore Metro League.

Some familiar names in high school baseball circles have gotten them to this point. Outfielder Jon Barnowski (Liberty High) is hitting .368 with 27 RBIs and four doubles.

Left-hander Mike Huller (North Carroll), one of the top pitchers in the county this spring for the Panthers, is in his fourth year with the Rangers program. He is 6-1 with a 1.35 ERA. Chris Cash, a junior at Westminster High, has emerged as the Rangers ace with a 6-0 record and a 2.10 ERA.

Outfielder Greg Mihalko, who elected not to play for South Carroll this spring, is hitting .424 as the Rangers leadoff hitter with 30 runs scored.

One of the mainstays in the infield is third baseman Ryan Starliper, a regular on the Westminster varsity the past couple of years.

"They've blended in together real well. They all understand their roles and are playing solid baseball," Brezler said.

Putting together such a collection of blue-chip players begins in the fall. That's when the first of two tryouts take place. A player must try out for the team every year, even if he was on the roster the previous year. A second tryout takes place in the spring.

"The recruiting takes place just about all year long," Brezler said. "We scout players, get references from high school and recreation coaches and go from there. Every year, a player has to try out again even if he was in the program the year before."

The Baltimore Metro League consists of two divisions with 16 teams from Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel counties. The Rangers were breezing through their schedule until they ran up against an Emmorton team from Harford County on June 12.

Emmorton took a 6-0 lead, and the Rangers found themselves in an unfamiliar position, trailing early.

"We were a little tired and came out flat, and before you knew it, we were down 6-0 by the third inning," Brezler said.

"I was kinda glad because we could find out what we were made of, and we came back and won the ballgame, 8-6."

The Rangers will travel to Knoxville July 13-17 to compete in the Smoky Mountain Invitational. The Rangers won the invitational last year, which featured around 50 teams from throughout the Southeast.

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