About a month ago, at the onset of the Howard County baseball season, Reservoir coach Adam Leader said that he didn't expect any local team to still be undefeated at the season's halfway point.
If someone had told him then, that — after 10 games — his Gators were one of two undefeated local teams along with Atholton, he might have been surprised, but he certainly wouldn't have been disappointed.
"I'm not sure if it's a surprise, but I'm pleasantly happy with the offense," said Leader, whose team has scored 103 runs in 10 games. "The experience has kicked in for us this year."
Last year, Reservoir started seven sophomores, and six of them are starting again this year alongside seniors Danny O'Hagan (C), Paul Quattrone (OF) and Joe Kearney (SS), a transfer from Mount St. Joseph.
No. 3 hitter Jack Barry (3B) and clean-up Cody Morris (1B), both juniors, have also been making the offense go.
At this point last year, Reservoir was 6-4 and had scored just 51 runs.
The Gators' closest contests have been a 2-0 win over Mt. Hebron April 9, and a 10-5 win over River Hill April 4.
With a pitching staff anchored by Morris, a University of South Carolina commit and two-time Howard County Pitcher of the Year, getting outs has not been a problem for the Gators, who have allowed only 14 runs in 2014.
"Our ERA is down which is huge and all of our guys are hitting all the way down the line-up," Leader said. "As a whole, things are clicking right now."
With Barry, Jon Mierzwa (1B) and Tony Grabow (OF) slotting in behind Morris in a deep rotation of juniors, Leader can rest easy at night knowing that he has more than enough guys who can pitch strikes and keep opposing hitters off balance this spring and next.
"One thing we definitely have is pitching depth," Leader said. "I feel very comfortable pitching seven guys. It's a great thing for us going into the later part of the season...we're not beating their arms down."
Reservoir was scheduled to play at John Carroll on April 16, too late for this edition, followed by the 32nd annual Jack Conley Tournament at Mount St. Joseph on April 19.
And while the Gators are focused on winning those games, Leader admits that in the back of their heads, his players are gearing up for an April 22 game at defending county champion Atholton (9-0), the only league team Reservoir has yet to play.
While Atholton has gotten strong pitching from seniors Michael Slayton (2-0, 2.80 ERA, 18 K, 3 BB), Nick Raulin (2-0, 2.17 ERA) and Dan McCann (2-0, 2.33 ERA), the Raiders have earned a reputation as an offensive juggernaut this spring.
Atholton is batting .410 as a team, led by senior center fielder Brady Acker, who is batting an absurd .679 (19-28) with 21 runs, 15 RBIs, six doubles, two home runs, a triple, nine walks and six stolen bases. The leadoff man, who has committed to play for George Mason next year, has struck out only once in 38 plate appearances, and is getting on base 76.3 percent of the time.
"I know Acker really well, and you can't find a better kid," Leader said. "He's dangerous. We've got to keep him off of the base paths and we can't hit it near him."
Atholton has had a few close calls this season, coming back to beat Marriotts Ridge, 8-7; Wilde Lake, 8-5; and Centennial, 13-12.
"The resilience of this team is incredible," coach Jon Dupski said. "It shows that we can come back. It speaks to their personalities."
Along with Acker, Raulin (.567 AVG, 11 RBI), Slayton (.440, 10 RBI), Matthew Gross (.391, 10 R, 3 SB), James Bagley (.364, 6 RBI, 6 BB), Dan McCann (.360, 11 R, 10 RBI, 4 BB), Blake James (.350, 4 2B, 5 BB), Jordan Patterson (.333, 6 R, 8 RBI, 5 BB) and Phil Frazier (.290, 12 R, 10 RBI, 6 BB) have paced the scorching Raiders attack.
"I'm not surprised that Reservoir is undefeated. They're a very strong team with great pitching and defense," Dupski said. "Our offense has definitely been a bit of a surprise, but I'm just hoping that we can keep it going in the second half."
While Atholton had a spring break game scheduled with Laurel on April 16, and the Franklin Tournament this weekend, Dupski makes no bones about where his teams' priorities lie.
"I can definitely get a lot of guys (into the spring break games), but those (tournament) games don't count toward the state playoffs," he said. "We're focused on next week, and I know it's on the players minds ... we need to score runs. Our No. 1 focus is somehow scoring off of Cody (Morris)."