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Baseball

March 20, 2000

Preseason Top 15

1. Mount St. Joseph

Last season: 20-7, ranked No. 3

Skinny: With probably the two most important positions on the field manned by arguably the best two at those spots in the metro area in RHP Gavin Floyd and SS Allen Strick, the Gaels are the team to beat. St. Joe has plenty of other quality players as well.

2. Calvert Hall

Last season: 22-9, No. 7

Skinny: Year in and year out, coach Snooky Binder's Cardinals are among the elite. They almost always boast good pitching, don't beat themselves defensively and they swing the bat. Ditto for 2000.

3. Severna Park

Last season: 17-5, No. 6

Skinny: An apparent, solid three-man pitching staff led by Florida International-bound Josh Banks and a pretty good hitting club make the Falcons the team to beat in Class 4A.

4. Fallston

Last season: 17-3, No. 10

Skinny: Despite losing second-team All-Metro pitcher John Caslin, the Cougars probably won't miss a beat with pro prospect Phil Aikens as their ace. Look for Fallston to be the team to beat in Harford County and the Class 3A North region.

5. Arundel

Last season: 17-6, No. 5

Skinny: Despite the most underclassmen in recent memory, the Wildcats will be still be one of the contenders in 4A because of the coaching of Bernie Walter (444-123, 26 years). In years when they've been counted out, they Wildcats have won.

6. Perry Hall

Last season: 12-12, No. 14

Skinny: The Gators arrived a year early last spring as the 4A state runners-up to Glen Burnie with a truckload of outstanding juniors and sophomores. The slew of returnees, including standout junior CF Shawn Warner, make the Gators the team to beat in the 4A North.

7. Old Mill

Last season: 15-7, No. 18

Skinny: The normally strong Patriots were up and down last season, but appear to have enough pitching and hitting to compete in the 4A East region.

8. Centennial

Last season: 20-6, No. 11

Skinny: If three promising pitchers come through for first-year coach Mike Lerner, the Eagles will have the edge over Howard and Hammond in the 2A South playoffs.

9. Howard

Last season: 18-5, No. 15

Skinny: The Lions return the county's top pitcher in lefty Tommy King, who was 10-1 as a junior and gives them an edge in the big games.

10. Patapsco

Last season: 18-3, unranked

Skinny: The returning 1-2 right-left pitching duo of Joe Eckert and Tony Wisniewski, plus several experienced hitters, make the Patriots a contender in the 3A North.

11. Archbishop Curley

Last season: 24-9, No. 1

Skinny: After relying on an offense that produced a state team record 49 homers and a state second-best most runs (312) in a season, the Friars will turn to pitching and defense.

12. Hammond

Last season: 13-9, unranked

Skinny: The Bears figure to outscore a lot of opponents, especially at their band box with junior catcher Jason Maxey (11 HRs) leading a potent lineup.

13. Cardinal Gibbons

Last season: 18-10, No. 20

Skinny: Coach Lou Holcomb has the defending MIAA B Conference champion Crusaders on the move with a return to the A Conference in their future.

14. Southern-AA

Last season: 11-10, No. 19

Skinny: With a host of returnees and a lineup that should score a lot of runs, the Bulldogs' tough Anne Arundel County schedule (eight 4A teams, three 3A teams) will toughen them for a run in the 2A South.

15. Westminster

Last season: 12-8, unranked

Skinny: The Owls have eight returning seniors, including experienced pitching and up-the-middle strength.

Players to watch

Phil Aikens, RHP, Fallston

Baseball America has tapped this 6-foot-6, 215-pound flame thrower as No. 86 on its top 100 high school prospects list. Headed to Indian River (Fla.) Community College, Aikens is a likely high draft choice in June and makes the Cougars a potential Class 3A state champion.

Derek Dixon, OF, Severna Park

Here is the area's most complete position player. The chiseled, switch-hitting outfielder has power (seven HRs, 29 RBIs as junior) and runs very well. He has major-league arm strength and tremendous work ethic. The 5-10, 185-pounder has a scholarship to UNC-Charlotte.

Travis Ezi, OF, Southwestern

Ezi, a 6-1, 180-pound outfielder who committed to East Carolina this week, might be the metro area's best kept secret. A pro prospect, the Sabres senior can flat out fly. He was clocked at 6.2 in the 60 indoors, and 6.38 outside at Jerry Wargo's High School Camp at Arundel High this winter. Scouts love his personal make-up and attitude.

Gavin Floyd, RHP, Mount St. Joseph

A returning All-Metro pick, Floyd, who is 6-5, 195 with a legitimate 90-plus MPH fastball, is the only junior pitcher named to the Baseball America preseason All-America second team. As a sophomore, Floyd was an overpowering 10-1 with a 1.92 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 65 innings. He is considered one of the top pro prospects in the nation.

Ryan Kyle, LHP, Calvert Hall

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