Howard County

Baseball

March 21, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg

Calling Hammond the favorite in Howard County this season is somewhat of an understatement. A big understatement. The Golden Bears have strong pitching, dominant hitting and one of the best players high school players in the country, All-America catcher Jason Maxey. But the question remains: Will it be enough?

It wasn't last year. Hammond entered the season with a similar role as the proverbial favorite, but dropped two games to eventual county champion Mount Hebron. The Bears, however, are a year wiser and better, a scary notion for the opposition. Maxey, already a three-time All-County choice, batted .579 and set a state single-season public school record for RBIs with 48, giving him 117 for his career, also a state record.

Third baseman Brian Brewer tied a single-season state record with 13 home runs, while hitting .431 with 41 RBIs. All-County selections Kevin Schwartz, who went 9-0 as a starter with a 1.91 ERA, and second baseman Pat Fields, who hit .420 and set a school record by scoring 40 runs, are both back for a senior year as well.

"It's kind of a lose-lose situation is some ways," Hammond coach Bob Maxey said. "If we win everything, we were supposed to. If we don't, people are going to say, `How did you screw this up?' We know that, and we'll be prepared."

Several teams will make sure of that, led by Glenelg and Centennial. The Gladiators return two exceptional players in pitcher Chris Bowen and out fielder Brian Hollrah, both first team All-County choices last season. Maryland is recruiting the left-hander Bowen, who went 9-4 as a junior with a 3.18 ERA. Hollrah hit .429 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs as a sophomore.

Centennial will be young but talented, and will have two quality pitchers to lean on in the early season in Brian Neidig and Brad Loveless.

Last year's county champion, Mount Hebron, might be overlooked considering the Vikings lost a number of talented players to graduation. But they have a quality catcher in Joe Michalski to carry the load. Michalski hit .417 last season and will play baseball at George Washington next year. Coach Matt Forsyth will also expect big seasons from Nick Hoffner and Blake Pipps, two returning starters.

Howard and River Hill should be in the thick of the race as well. The Lions' Mike Burke returns after hitting .533 with 30 RBIs last season, as well as compiling a 5-2 pitching record with a 2.12 ERA. The Hawks have as much power as in recent years, but have two quality starters in Matt Crornelius and Brad Kimball.

Oakland Mills and Long Reach should continue to improve. The Lightning will be led by senior first baseman Chris Davis, also a quality pitcher, and the Scorpions should have a couple of good arms in senior Dave Walls and sophomore Danny Oleynik.

Wilde Lake could surprise some people as the Wildcats have most of their pitching staff back from last season. Steve Keller should lead the way for coach Don Storr.

Atholton could be the best sleeper pick, as the Raiders return a group of quality players, led by Stever Merson, a multitalented shortstop and pitcher, and Matt Revelle, a junior who tossed a no-hitter against Wilde Lake last season.

Private schools Chapelgate and Glenelg Country will continue to build programs that are relatively new to existence. The Flames had a strong season last year, and should return a solid nucleus of players, while the Dragons should also improve under the tutelage of coach Al Poklemba.

Players to watch

Jason Maxey

(Hammond, senior, catcher)

University of Maryland signee already holds the public school state record for RBIs

Brian Brewer

(Hammond, senior, third base)

Tied the single-season state record for home runs last season with 13

Chris Bowen

(Glenelg, senior, pitcher)

Howard County's Mr. Everything, Bowen aims to earn first-team All-County honors in his third, and best, sport this year

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