Carroll County teams at a glance CARROLL COUNTY BASEBALL PREVIEW

March 21, 1997|By Glenn P. Graham

Carroll Christian Patriots

1996 record: 6-5

Coach: Matt Brethauer

Top players: Casey Davis, Sr., SS/P; Josh Belcher, Sr., SS/2B/P; Paul Albaugh, Jr., OF; Matt Arnold, Sr., 1B; Todd Comstock, Jr., C; Mark Elban, Jr., IF.

Outlook: Brethauer said errors cost the Patriots four games last season, so the emphasis in practice this year is improving on defense. The Patriots' middle infielders, Davis and Belcher, are also the team's top pitchers, so often a lot of shuffling occurs. Comstock takes charge behind the plate and Albaugh returns to center field. Scoring wasn't a problem last year. The Patriots batted .285, and Brethauer will count on familiar bats again this year. Davis leads off with Albaugh to follow and Belcher hitting third. All three are fast and can hit with power. Comstock will hit fourth with freshman Rusty Evans, who also will do some pitching, behind him. Aside from Elban, who provides a patient bat hitting ninth, the Patriots bottom of the order is young. "Last year, we got hitting from everyone," Brethauer said. "This year, we have some young guys hitting six-seven-eight, so there's some questions. The potential and capability is there. I'm real optimistic."

Francis Scott Key Eagles

1996 record: 10-9

Coach: Bob Reese

Top players: Ben Garver, Sr., C; Ryan Landy, Sr., P; Mike Patterson, Sr., 2B; Jason Diehl, Sr., C,OF; Vince Stonesifer, Jr., 1B; Joby McCrobie, Jr., DH/IF; Larry Naill, Jr., CF, Nick Smith, Jr., SS/P.

Outlook: Reese is looking for his Eagles to play textbook baseball. Defensively, the strength is up the middle with Garver catching, Patterson and Smith very reliable in the infield and Naill smart and speedy in center. The pitching staff, with the left-hander Landy, Stonesifer and senior Lenny Miller, will not be overpowering but always will be around the plate. Reese said he has six throwers to give him innings. "The defense is going to carry us. The physical mistakes will happen, but we can't have the mental mistakes," Reese said. "My philosophy is it's nine against one -- the batter -- so I want my pitcher to throw strikes, and we have to be able to make the plays." Offensively, the Eagles should score a number of ways. The top of the order, with Naill leading off, will be aggressive on the bases. Stonesifer, likely to hit third, is the team's best contact hitter with Garver and McCrobie, a left-handed pull hitter, supplying some power in the middle.

Liberty Lions

1996 record: 7-7

Coach: Steve Insley

Top players: Matt Sargent, Sr., OF; Ryan Renehan, Sr., SS; Jon Felmey, Sr., 2B; Jon Hill, Sr., P/3B; Justin Barnowski, Jr., OF; Brock Shaeffer, Sr., P; Frank Campanella, Sr., P; Shaun Rausch, Jr., C.

Outlook: No county team can match the experienced talent the Lions have. They're particularly strong up the middle with Renehan and Felmey three-years starters at short and second. Renehan's offense caught up with his fine fielding skills last season as he hit .364 with 17 RBIs to earn first-team All-County honors. Barnowski covers a lot of ground in center, and Rausch, smart behind the plate, led the team in hitting with a .467 average last year. "We're very solid defensively, deep at every position," Insley said. "Renehan and Felmey do a real nice job, and with Justin in center, we're as strong as anyone in the county in the middle." Scoring shouldn't be a problem, led by Sargent, who hit .367 with 10 RBIs to earn first-team All-County honors last season. Left-handers Shaeffer and Campanella join Hill to give the Lions a versatile pitching staff that can go five or six deep. The senior class is without one valuable member, Tim Shifflett. The Lions' top pitcher from last season died last July in a car accident on his way to a summer league game with the Carroll County Rangers.

North Carroll Panthers

1996 record: 8-6

Coach: Denny Snyder

Top players: Fred Aguilar, Sr., P/OF; David Burton, Sr., OF/DH; Chad Crowl, Sr., C/OF; Guy Sheetz, Jr., SS; Todd Asplen, Jr., 1B; Eric Ford, Jr., OF.

Outlook: No county team was hit harder by graduation than the Panthers, who will have new faces at almost every position. Crowl is the only regular back. "It's one of those years where I feel I'm surrounded by good people. There's a lot of young talent, and it's just a matter of getting experience and playing together," said Snyder. Most of the team had success on the JV, and it's just a question of how soon they respond to the next level. Aguilar will be the pitching leader. Ford anchors the outfield in center and will provide speed at the top of the order. Sheetz has a reliable glove at short with Justin Raynor likely to start at second to give the Panters a solid middle infield to go along with Crowl behind the plate. "If I had to pick two strengths, one would be our ability to field the ball -- we're pretty sound -- and the other is, no doubt, speed," Snyder said. "Our lineup from top to bottom is very quick. The question will be who steps up and gets the timely hitting. I think it can be a different person each game."

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