Poly returns as the A Conference champion, but with a new coach in Corey Goodwin, the former assistant to Digital Harbor's Chris Vaccaro. Digital, led by pitcher-third baseman Brandon Krochone and first baseman Jason Roper, along with Patterson and Mervo, will contend in what is always a tight race for the A Conference crown. Forest Park, last year's B Conference co-champ with Carver, has joined the A Conference.
Carver should contend in the B Conference.
After being knocked out of the Class 2A state final because of a pitching rules violation, Eastern Tech is ready to right itself and make another run at the school's first state crown.
The Mavericks (16-6) are also the favorites to win the county 2A-1A league with the 1-2 pitching of senior ace and left-hander Gerard Sokolis (8-1) and sophomore right-hander Ryan Rivers. Veteran shortstop Vince Stella will anchor the infield of the Mavericks, who look to dethrone defending 2A-1A champion Hereford.
Dulaney, a state finalist in 2000 and 2001, is ready to challenge Parkville (15-6) and Perry Hall (15-5) in the county 4A-3A league. Senior left-hander Andrew Vaught (6-0, 1.26 ERA) gives Parkville an edge.
Both defending Class 2A state champion Liberty and regional finalist South Carroll were hit hard by graduation. The Lions (20-3) will have to replace seven starters and four first-team all-county players, including top pitchers Shawn Houck and Wade Keenan. The Cavaliers also lost several starters, including county Player of the Year Ryan Harrison.
One team that could step up is Century. A .500 team last season, the Knights feature six returning pitchers, including ace Justin Mudgett, and first baseman Aaron Gabrielian, who led the county with nine home runs.
Francis Scott Key (10-8) features good pitching depth and a number of returning players, while Winters Mill should improve with its first senior class.
C.M. Wright tries to take the next step this season after losing last spring in its first state final appearance. The Mustangs - who lost to Centennial in the Class 3A title game - bring back several good players.
Senior pitcher Mike Roberts will anchor the staff while four-year outfielder Ryan Farrell also should help. Coach Bryan Linz said that this year's team already has better chemistry and more depth.
Fallston and Bel Air both should be right there with the Mustangs. For Fallston (18-6), which lost to them in the region finals, 11 players return. Seniors Scott Tolliver (SS) and Andrew Tress (OF) should lead the way. Bel Air (18-6) has a good core with seniors like Nick Repas (SS).
Usually the team with the best pitcher wins the county title, and Atholton's Ed Bach and Glenelg's Jeff Dulaney could reach the same pitching level as Centennial's All-Metro Player of the Year last year, left-hander Jonathan Dupski, who is now at Towson University.
Dulaney, a left-hander, was 5-2 with a 0.65 ERA. Bach, also a left-hander, was 6-3 with a 2.97 ERA for an extremely young team. Both are seniors. Glenelg was county runner-up to Class 3A state champion Centennial last season. Atholton went 11-13.
Expect Centennial to remain a prominent contender with Maryland-bound catcher Dan Shillingburg and sophomore outfielder-pitcher Alex Bechta. Mount Hebron also should compete.
After winning its first A Conference title since 1987, Mount St. Joseph has the pitching depth to retain its crown, but Calvert Hall, St. Paul's and McDonogh loom as serious contenders.
The Gaels (28-6) have five left-handers among 11 pitchers with Delaware-bound Brad Miller, a right-hander, the ace. Coach Dave Norton is also excited about his position players, mainly the left side of his infield with Bryan Hamilton (3B) and Nick Natoli (SS).
Once again Calvert Hall's lineup will be potent, and if junior left-hander Bobby Lucas and senior right-hander Tim Sexton come on to lead the pitching staff, the Cardinals will be hard to beat. St. Paul's returns three outstanding pitchers in three-time All-Metro Steve Johnson, Nathan Curd and Trey Crabill.