Baltimore City

Baseball

March 21, 2001|By BO SMOLKA

All eyes -- and radar guns -- will be on Mount St. Joseph pitcher Gavin Floyd this spring.

Gaels coach Dave Norton only hopes the scrutiny that is sure to accompany his ace, ranked No. 3 among the nation's top 100 prospects by Baseball America, won't be too much of a distraction as the Gaels battle in the rugged Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.

Mount St. Joseph lost to Calvert Hall in the title game last year but should have the talent to contend again. Ditto for Archbishop Curley, the 1999 champ, and Cardinal Gibbons, back in the A Conference after back-to-back B Conference titles.

In the city league, Patterson has won four of the past five A Conference titles and remains the team to beat. Mervo and Poly could prove worthy challengers, and upstart Douglass has moved up from the B Conference.

Norton said his phone has been ringing off the hook with scouts trying to find out when the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Floyd (12-2, 0.88 ERA last year) will pitch. His 90-plus mph fastball certainly will be the Gaels' biggest attraction this season, but Norton knows he can't hand Floyd the ball every day.

Their success will depend on consistency from the remainder of the rotation -- Dan McGinty, Joe Peeler and Dave Centeneo. The Gaels are strong up the middle with catcher Brian Bent, second baseman Joe Peeler, shortstop Joey Sargent and center fielder Robby Burns. Sargent (.479) and Floyd (.414) lead a potent offense.

Curley coach Al Frank began the season with a bang: He recorded his 500th win in the Friars' season-opening 5-0 victory over Wallenpaupack (Pa.) on March 16. Many more wins should follow for a team that returns seven starters and a deep pitching staff led by Brooks Norris and Dan Prevatt.

Senior third baseman Craig King and 6-foot-4 pitcher D. J. Steirer (5-0 last season) return for Cardinal Gibbons (25-6), which ended last season on an 18-game winning streak. Catcher Matt Foster and infielder Jason Volker can make things happen offensively.

Gilman coach Marty Meloy echoes just about every baseball coach when he says, "We'll go as far as our pitching takes us." Senior Scott Gehring (6-2) returns as the ace, and classmates Greg Lotz, Matt Novak, John Avirett and Joe DeNardi give the Greyhounds a veteran staff. Sophomore shortstop Ambrose Wooden hit .449 last year.

In the MIAA B Conference, outfielder Phil Snyder leads a Friends team that returns seven players and relatively deep pitching.

In the city league, Patterson (15-5) appears well-positioned for another run at the title it won consecutively from 1996 to '98 and again last year. Pitcher-outfielder David Hott may be the league's best player. Junior catcher Bobby Oxendine is a quality leadoff hitter, and first baseman Eric Mason (.443) swings a big stick. Hector Cruz showed his potential with a no-hitter last season.

Patterson coach Roger Wrenn missed the Clippers' final football game last fall after suffering a stroke, but he's back for his 27th baseball season. Wrenn needs eight wins to reach 400 for his career.

Mervo (13-4) has six starters back, including the sibling battery of pitcher Jake Frankenberger, the staff ace, and his brother, Ben, the starting catcher. Theartis Battle and Ryan O'Malley are solid outfielders, and Battle and Chris Wilkins will see action on the mound.

Under new coach Chris Vaccaro, Poly looks to regain the form that earned the Engineers the 1999 city title. Vaccaro has just two seniors in pitcher-infielder Rio Tatum and outfielder Melvin Hicks. Junior Anthony Fitzgerald may typify this team: He's a talented, young player who can play several positions.

City also could contend, with 10 seniors back from a 12-5 team. Seniors Jay Lawson, William Beard and Brandon Simons form the core of the fairly deep pitching staff.

Douglass has moved to the A Conference after going 17-2 and winning the B title, the school's first baseball title since 1965. "We take it as an honor that we've moved up," said coach John Robinson, who has rejuvenated a program that had gone 4-23 over the previous two seasons. Pitcher DeShawn Brown (7-1) also hit .622 last season.

Dunbar returns eight starters, including the entire infield and veteran pitchers Craig Scott and Traron Wongus. The Poets will manufacture runs with their speed, but they are short on power.

Northern could be a favorite in the B Conference after finishing second to Douglass last year. Nine of 13 players return, including pitcher Kenneth Estep and outfielder Enzo Ferrari.

Down from the A Conference, Edmondson hopes to contend. Carver (11-6) has been hit hard by graduation. The lone returning starter is shortstop-pitcher Daymien Sheppard. Lake Clifton also fields a young team. Senior pitcher-infielder Kush Lewis and outfielder Dennis Lindsay are two of the few veterans.

Forest Park has blazing speed in outfielder Stanley Williams, and Earl Johnson is back as the No. 1 pitcher. A young Northwestern team will be led by two-year captain David Campbell (.467) and senior Corey Whitaker.

Southern will be young again. Outfielder Tremon Hopkins is the lone senior, and a group of four freshmen have shown promise.

Players to watch

Gavin Floyd

(Mount St. Joseph, senior, pitcher)

22-3 with 187 strikeouts over the last two years

Craig King

(Cardinal Gibbons, senior, third baseman)

All-State pick hit .419 last year

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