Baseball: The poll

Compiled by Sandra McKee after consulting with area coaches

March 16, 2012

1. Westminster

Coach: Mark Winebrunner

Last season: 23-0, ranked No. 1

Postseason: Class 4A state champion

Outlook: Coming off conference, region and state titles, the Owls have a new coach. But a strong defense and six starting pitchers, led by Chad Diehl (7-0, 3.65 ERA), create expectations for a repeat.

2. Archbishop Spalding

Coach: Jeff Palumbo

Last season: 28-5, No. 2

Postseason: MIAA A Conference champion

Outlook: With four preseason All-State seniors — pitcher Austin Clark (committed to La Salle), outfielder Jamal Clarke (.450 batting average), first baseman Nick Freeberger (.880 slugging percentage) and shortstop Sean Miller (.455 batting) — the Cavaliers are fearsome.

3. Calvert Hall

Coach: Lou Eckerl

Last season: 28-9, No. 3

Postseason: MIAA A Conference runner-up

Outlook: The Cardinals' core field players and complete pitching staff return. Led by their top hitter, junior catcher Alex Murphy (.417), and No. 1 pitcher senior Garrett Walther (6-2, 4.88 ERA), they are loaded and will test themselves with a tough schedule.

4. Severna Park

Coach: Bob Felts

Last season: 20-6, No. 4

Postseason: Class 4A state runner-up

Outlook: A longtime assistant, Felts stepped in after the death of Jim McCandless in January. Felts says the Falcons will play in McCandless' honor, and they come in with strong pitching and a competitive lineup led by senior catcher Brandon Cavil (.393).

5. North Harford

Coach: Tim Larrimore

Last season: 16-5, No. 8

Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist

Outlook: Seven starters return, including senior pitcher Kevin Mooney (7-1, 0.75 ERA), an All-Metro selection signed by Maryland, and senior pitcher-shortstop Cody Brittain (7-2, 1.73 ERA; .449 batting, 27 RBIs). Previously a designated hitter, senior Jon Hammer (.313) will start at catcher.

6. Gilman

Coach: Larry Sheets

Last season: 17-15, unranked

Postseason: None

Outlook: The Greyhounds had a 2011 to forget, so a positive outlook and limiting mistakes are key. But Gilman has four quality pitchers and a lineup anchored by first baseman-pitcher Ryan Ripken (.353), outfielder-pitcher Gavin Sheets (.366), outfielder-pitcher Matt Tilley (.355) and shortstop Tom O'Neill (.295).

7. Atholton

Coach: Jon Dupski

Last season: 19-3, No. 5

Postseason: Class 3A East regional finalist

Outlook: The Raiders' pitching corps was hit by graduation, but senior Josh Martin (6-0, 2.00 ERA; .426 batting average) returns. Atholton will depend on defense but get offensive help from junior Paul Burmester (.382) and sophomore Brady Acker (.333, 18 stolen bases).

8. Northeast-AA

Coach: AJ Bolling

Last season: 12-7, unranked

Postseason: Class 3A East regional quarterfinalist

Outlook: Powerhouse senior pitchers Jon Powell and Brandon O'Malley bring heat. Senior TJ Johns (.375) and juniors Eric Grantland and Matt Bougourd will contribute at the plate for a team that returns 10 players from last year.

9. Eastern Tech

Coach: Spike McElfish

Last season: 11-6, unranked

Postseason: Class 2A North regional semifinalist

Outlook: A junior-dominated team with a returning lineup intact, the Mavericks depend on two seniors for leadership: right fielder Jimmy Szamski (.480) and first baseman-pitcher Chris Hook (6-1, 2.28 ERA).

10. South River

Coach: Ken Dunn

Last Season: 18-5, No. 13

Postseason: Class 4A East regional finalist

Outlook: Dunn sees his team transitioning from youth to experience. Seven starters return, and the coach calls them "big, athletic and baseball smart." The key will be building on the performance of sophomore pitcher Scott Mitchell (7-3).

11. Patterson Mill

Coach: Matt Roseland

Last season: 20-5, No. 7

Postseason: Class 1A state finalist

Outlook: The Huskies move up to the Chesapeake Division, which means facing tougher foes. But No. 1 pitcher and four-year-starter Matt Golczewski (6-4, 3.05 ERA) returns, as do first baseman Alex Abild and outfielder Aaron Childs (.400, 23 RBIs).

12. Liberty

Coach: Erik Barnes

Last season: 13-7, unranked

Postseason: Class 2A West regional quarterfinalist

Outlook: The Lions' pitching staff looks deeper, and if it stays healthy, Liberty could roar. Seven veterans return, including shortstop-pitcher Andrew Massey (.406, 20 RBIs; 2.60 ERA). Barnes said his team has a "fantastic work ethic and solid mindset."

13. C. Milton Wright

Coach: Joe Stetka

Last season: 17-5, No. 12

Postseason: Class 3A North regional finalist

Outlook: The new coach has identified speed, pop at the plate and strong up-the-middle defense as strengths. The Mustangs will lean on senior pitchers Stephen Rappe and Ryan Katelan, center fielder Nick Testa and pitcher-outfielder Matt Kline.

14. Reservoir

Coach: Adam Leader

Last season: 21-1, No. 6

Postseason: Class 3A East regional semfinalist

Outlook: The Gators don't expect a repeat of last season's undefeated run through the regular season. But with preseason All-State pitcher Lee Lawler (7-2, 0.43 ERA) back, they have an anchor. Third baseman Danny Klein and outfielders Bryan Davidson and Luke Schuster also return.

15. Dunbar

Coach: Travis Blackston

Last Season: 17-1, No. 15

Postseason: Class 1A state semifinalist

Outlook: The Poets face a challenging season as they move to Division I in Baltimore City. But five starters return, including seniors Terrence Williams (.553) and Charles Brown (.459) and junior pitcher Eddie Bennett (6-2, 2.10ERA). Pitching will be key.

OTHERS CONSIDERED: Arundel (13-12), Chesapeake-AA (18-3, No. 14), Dulaney (14-5), Fallston (15-5, No. 11), Loyola (16-16), Manchester Valley (12-8), Marriotts Ridge (11-7), Perry Hall (13-4)

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