By Craig Clary, email@example.com
4:29 PM EDT, March 31, 2013
Getting over the .500 mark will be the first step for all three baseball squads at Catonsville, Western Tech and Mount St. Joseph.
Pitching experience at the top of the rotation will be the key to success for the Comets and Gaels while the Wolverines will throw some young arms into the varsity fire.
Read on to see who will be your favorite diamond dandies at the three local schools.
Record last year: 9-10
Coach Rich Hambor's quote: "We are hoping to contend for a county championship and we like our chances in the region, too."
Breakdown: Strength at the top of the pitching rotation and depth throughout the lineup could create positive battles for playing time and should get the Comets over the .500-mark hump.
Catonsville's top two starting pitchers proved to be in mid-season form despite extremely chilly conditions in back-to-back wins over Lansdowne and Western Tech on March 21 and 22.
Junior right-hander John Klein shut down Lansdowne in a 9-2 season-opening victory.
In five innings, he allowed three hits and one run, while walking one.
Last year, Klein went 3-3 with one save while hurling 36 1/3 innings.
Birkmeyer started in the 10-0 win over Western Tech.
Sophomore Danny Bruno and junior Chris Jay are chomping at the bit for the third and fourth spots in the rotations, with juniors Tim Smith, Jon Brown and Spencer Singh waiting from the wings.
Starting third baseman Bruno had 13 RBIs last year and was one of three hitters who batted over .300. Others were senior second baseman Brendan McTaggart (.381) and senior center fielder Rob Wheelton (.343).
Stat-sheet stuffer Wheelton led the 2012 squad in home runs (2), RBIs (17), runs scored (21), walks (19) and on-base percentage (.525) as a leadoff hitter.
McTaggart was an All-County First Team second baseman and led the squad in hits (24) and batting average (.381). He also drove in 11 runs.
Flanking Wheelton in the outfield is junior left fielder Jake Smuck and junior right fielder Scott Beautz (.475 on base percentage in 2012).
When Bruno is on the mound, Klein takes over at third base with junior Joey Getzendanner at shortstop.
Senior Kevin Sheppard mans first base and senior Jeremy Davis returns as the starting catcher.
Junior Ryan Whittington should be the fourth outfielder with Anthony Pehr, Lyw Westrick and Mike Heaney taking over reserve duty in the outfield and junior Chris Fleming backing up behind the plate.
"It's probably the deepest team I've had since I've been here, from top to bottom."
Despite scoring 19 runs in the first two games, Hambor has even higher expectations for his offense.
"We haven't really hit well yet," he said. "We just need to get in a good grove."
Record last year: 7-7
Coach Brad Hoskin's quote: "I've got a lot of humble guys. No one thinks they are better than the other and they are just hard workers."
Breakdown: The Wolverines will have to rely on young pitchers if they hope to get above the .500 mark.
Freshmen Arbutus products Dylan Beall and Colin Tully man the top two sports in the starting rotation and Hoskin had no doubts about giving them that honor.
"It was pretty obvious they are good ball players," Hoskin said.
Beall will play right field and Tully should see first base duty when not on the mound.
Freshman Jonathan McDonal could also contribute on the hill as well as both corner positions.
"I have a nice mix of versatility in the freshmen," Hoskin said.
Last year, freshman Nygel Wilson started at shortstop, but a season-ending arm injury ended his 2013 campaign.
Senior Brandon Pryor and junior Dennis Pote are battling for second base and senior third baseman Jeremy Tunstall mans the hot corner.
Josh Wiliams (CF) and junior Matheus Desousa (LF) complete the starting outfield with seniors Devin Collins and Jerome Sheldon and junior Andrew Connelly ready for service.
Senior Tyler Smith starts at catcher and he's backed up by junior Sean Bhatia.
Mount St. Joseph
Record last year: 13-15
Coach Dave Norton's quote: "They play extremely hard. They just have to get over the fact they are young and get used to playing varsity baseball. Once they do that, they are going to be excellent."
Breakdown: With only five seniors on the roster, Norton knows if the Gaels are going to improve after back-to-back losing seasons, the 10 juniors and five sophomores on varsity are going to have to match their maturity with their natural ability.
"The thing I like is the kids we do have are natural athletes, and with the kids we have in the program, we are going to be good for years to come," said Norton, whose squad started 3-4 this season.
The ace of the pitching staff should be senior right-hander Kirk Haynes, who has committed to Fordham University.
Junior right-handers Peter Solomon (University of Notre Dame) and Joel Kenney will follow Haynes to the hill.
Kenney also plays second base and Solomon occupies right field.
Senior Josh Gardner and senior southpaw Eric Campbell and sophomore lefty Clark Clatchey could also help on the mound with junior Chris Harrison.
When Haynes is on the mound, sophomore C.J. Palting will take his spot at third base and senior Josh Beglan provides depth at third and in left field.
Senior Sam Rowan started at first base, but Catonsville resident Peter Crawford could fill in at the corner slots after already proving his worth at designated hitter with a solid offensive start.
Sophomores Andre Brown (CF) and Matt Sniezak (SS) boast a year of varsity seasoning under their belt.
Junior Connor Eagleson was slated to be the starting catcher until arm surgery ended his season, leaving the spot for either sophomore Ed Nottingham or junior Anthony Caporlette.
Juniors Mark McGinnis, Joe Kearney, Jack Clifford and Zach Smith add depth.