One constant that prevails: balance

Lack of clear-cut talent makes for wide-open field

Preseason notebook

March 20, 2000|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Last baseball season was so competitive that it ended in a three-way tie for first place with Centennial, Glenelg and Howard sharing the title -- a first for Howard County.

This season promises to be equally as competitive with five or six teams having shots at winning the title.

Nine of the 12 first-team All-County players graduated, leaving a huge void in proven talent and creating openings for future standouts.

The only first-team All-County returnees are Tony King of Howard, Jason Maxey of Hammond and Mike Burke of Howard.

Given that fact, Howard probably should earn the designation as preseason favorite, with Hammond next.

But River Hill returns two second-team All-County players, Arin Gelletly and Chris Becraft, both of whom were first-team picks as sophomores and have already signed with Division I schools.

FOR THE RECORD - It was reported Monday in the spring preview section that three Howard County baseball players who hit .500 or better last season were returning this year. In fact, a fourth, Mike Burke of Howard High, hit .579 last season as a sophomore and is also a returnee. The Sun regrets the error.

Glenelg, Wilde Lake and Mount Hebron each have one returning second-team All-County player.

Power rankings

The most fearsome batting lineup apparently belongs to River Hill. The Hawks will bat Miguel Montanez (.423 average, one home run) second, Chris Becraft (.483, six HRs) third, Arin Gelletly (.486, five HRs) fourth, Jesse Pickett (eight HRs) fifth and Doug Dieringer (13 HRs for Loyola's JV) sixth.

That adds up to 20 varsity home runs among Montanez, Becraft, Gelletly and Pickett.

But Hammond was tougher last year in this category.

The Bears have Jason Harriman (.405, two HRs), Brian Brewer (.530, six HRs), Pat Fields (.446, three HRs) and Jason Maxey (.550, 11 HRs).

They combined to hit 22 home runs.

Transfers

The most noteworthy transfers were Centennial's Brad Loveless , River Hill's Doug Dieringer and Chapelgate's Ryan Smith.

Loveless, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore, went 7-0 for Calvert Hall's JV team last season and throws in the low 80s.

Dieringer, a junior, slugged 13 home runs for Loyola's JV team last season.

Smith came from Montrose and is expected to be Chapelgate's top player.

New coaches

Mike Lerner takes over the Centennial job after being an assistant coach at Howard.

Lerner pitched on Hammond's only county championship team, in 1991.

Al Poklemba, who coached baseball for 16 years at McDonogh, is Glenelg Country School's first baseball coach, as that school embarks on a baseball program.

Jim Mowder, one of the area's best pitching coaches, returns from a season at Catonsville Community College to become assistant coach at Atholton.

Hardest throwers

King of Howard, Gelletly and Pickett of River Hill, Brewer, Jeff Miller and Kevin Schwartz of Hammond, Anthony Spearman and Chris Davis of Long Reach and Loveless of Centennial are all throwing at least 80 mph.

Returning .500 hitters

Three players batted .500 or better last season including Maxey (.550) and Brewer (.530) of Hammond and Jason Weszka (.527) of Glenelg.

Where are they now?

Many of last season's graduates are playing in college.

Last season's leading hitter, Chris Yetter (.600) of Wilde Lake is at UMBC.

The third-leading hitter, Anthony Aceves of Howard, is at Dundalk Community College after being drafted professionally by the Florida Marlins.

Pete Tschiffely of Long Reach is at UMBC. Adam Beaver of Atholton is at Catonsville Community College. Matt Deuchler of Centennial is at James Madison. Dennis Jackson of Oakland Mills is playing at St. Mary's.

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