Baseball

Varsity Spring Preview

March 14, 2007

THE POLL

1. Arundel

Last season: 23-3, ranked No. 1

The Wildcats have the pitching with Tyler Hibbs, Shawn Pleffner and the emergence of senior left-hander Eric Potter. Hitting, experience and defense are also assets for a run at an 11th state title.

2. Calvert Hall

Last season: 27-8, No. 2

The Cardinals, who are seeking their third straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title, have at least four players who will be playing college baseball.

3. Arch. Spalding

Last season: 19-9, No. 3

Led by shortstop Jeff Kemp, pitchers Paul DeVito and Jason Patten and second baseman Cody Hines, the Cavaliers look to challenge Calvert Hall in the MIAA A Conference.

4. Centennial

Last season: 22-1, No. 4

The Eagles graduated ace Scott Swinson, but the defending Howard County champions look to stay on top with pitcher-outfielder Alex Bechta, third baseman-pitcher Austin Harclerode and outfielder-pitcher Ben Winter.

5. Eastern Tech

Last season: 18-6, No. 8

The Mavericks seek their second Class 2A state title in three years behind pitchers Ryan Rivers and Mike Sokolis and outfielder Josh Kempa.

6. Mount St. Joseph

Last season: 20-6, No. 6

The Gaels return five starters and coach Dave Norton is excited about junior right-hander Ryan Kemp, a Division I prospect, and outfielders Mitch Perez and Tommy Bowles.

7. Parkville

Last season: 16-6, unranked

Seven starters return for the Knights, including ace right-hander Kevin Jacob, third baseman Zack Samios-Uy and outfielders Brandon Stevenson and Eddie Mikula.

8. Franklin

Last season: 18-4, No. 7

Pitching is a strength as usual, with senior ace Mark Petersen back along with pitcher Dan Chaconas and several other key players.

9. St. Paul's

Last season: 15-15, unranked

After a rare down season, the Crusaders are ready to rise up again in the MIAA A Conference with the pitching of Louey Mari and Glenelg junior transfer Hunter Kitchens, who was All-Howard County as a freshman.

10. Severna Park

Last season: 17-5, No. 9

Coach Jim McCandless always finds a way to keep his Falcons in the county and Class 3A races He will be counting on right-hander Britton Quayle and the hitting of Ryan Joy, Cory Jensen and Brandon Bolander to lead a senior laden team.

11. Catonsville

Last season: 17-5, No. 12

Adam Kolarek is ready to step in as the ace for the Comets after the graduation of Neal Davis.

12. Chesapeake-AA

Last season: 18-6, No. 11

Graduation took a couple of key players, but senior ace Chris Moore returns with outfielder Glen Shreve and second baseman Dorsey Willey.

13. Perry Hall

Last season: 13-10, unranked

The Gators return all four starting pitchers, including Jason Mattison, who emerged late last season after catching, as well as six position players.

14. Westminster

Last season: 19-2, No. 5

Led by ace Brett Harman, the Owls should challenge defending Carroll County champion North Carroll.

15 . Atholton

Last season: 14-8, unranked

If the young pitchers mature, the Raiders will be a contender in Howard County.

Others considered -- Broadneck (16-6, No. 13), C. Milton Wright (17-9, No. 10), North Harford (16-6, No. 15), North Carroll (15-8, unranked), McDonogh (5-17, unranked), River Hill (12-10, unranked).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brett Harman

Westminster, pitcher-infield

The senior right-hander went 8-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 42 innings last season. A second-team All-Metro pick, he also batted .444 with five homers and 33 RBIs.

Alex Bechta

Centennial, pitcher-outfield

The second-team All-Metro senior batted .373 with 25 runs, 19 RBIs and 14 stolen bases last season. The left-hander also went 7-0 with a 1.20 ERA.

Austin Harclerode

Centennial, third base

The second-team All-Metro senior batted .353 last season with a county-leading 36 RBIs, five homers and four triples. The team's closer, he had three saves and an 0.00 ERA.

Tyler Hibbs

Arundel, pitcher-shortstop

The returning All-Metro Player of the Year is coming off an oustanding sophomore season, when he led the Wildcats to a record 10th state title by going 13-1 with a 1.20 ERA and batting .424 with 17 doubles and 28 RBIs.

Kevin Jacob

Parkville, pitcher-first base

The Georgia Tech-bound, hard-throwing right-hander struck out 103 in 62 innings last year while walking just 14. He went 6-3 with a 1.02 ERA to earn second-team All-Metro honors.

Adam Kolarek

Catonsville, pitcher-outfield

A first-team All-Metro outfielder as a junior last year, he hit .480 with 10 doubles, three homers and 23 RBIs. The left-hander becomes the Comets' top pitcher after going 5-2 with an 0.87 ERA as the No. 2 pitcher last season.

Steve Lombardozzi

Atholton, shortstop

A slick fielder with soft hands and a good arm, the second-team All-Metro senior batted .537 with 14 runs, 18 RBIs and 14 stolen bases last season.

Shawn Pleffner

Arundel, pitcher-first base

A second-team All-Metro first baseman last year as a junior, Pleffner batted .406 with eight doubles, six triples and 37 RBIs. Shut down as a pitcher most of last season with an injury, the right-hander will be No. 2 on the team behind Tyler Hibbs.

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