Player of the Year: Alex Vitale, Severna Park
In the final season of an outstanding three-year varsity career, Vitale reached the pinnacle he and his teammates coveted.
Vitale led Severna Park to the school's first state championship in the 29 years of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association baseball tournament.
The senior first baseman and occasional relief pitcher accumulated unprecedented numbers in advancing the No. 3 Falcons to their first state final, where they defeated Patuxent of Calvert County, 7-1, for the Class 3A crown.
A two-time All-Anne Arundel County first baseman and a second team All-Metro selection last year, Vitale, the first Severna Park baseball player named The Sun's Player of the Year, led the Falcons in batting with a .533 average and is believed to be the first area player to post totals of 30 or more in four offensive categories.
Vitale, a 5-foot-11, 195-pounder who has exceptional upper body strength, led the Falcons in hits (40), RBIs (38), runs scored (33) and stolen bases (32). In addition, Vitale was the team leader in doubles (12), triples (two), homers (six), slugging percentage (.987) and on-base percentage (.620).
His career numbers include a .497 (94-for-189) batting average, 57 runs, 74 RBIs, 40 stolen bases, 23 doubles and nine homers.
Vitale, who will play at Salisbury University, also is a standout defensive player. He was able to scoop throws out of the dirt and was adept at turning the 3-6-3 double play.
Coach of the Year: Jim McCandless, Severna Park
Under McCandless, No. 3 Severna Park (21-4) capped its season with the Class 3A state championship by defeating Patuxent, 7-1, in the school's first appearance in the final. McCandless had led the Falcons to their first regional title and state semifinal appearance in 2002.
The Falcons had just three returning starters this season, but McCandless, in his fourth season as coach of his alma mater, filled the six holes by inserting four sophomores and two seniors who had never started, one of them pitcher Tom Howell, who emerged as the ace.
In addition, the no-nonsense McCandless, the first Severna Park baseball coach named The Sun's Coach of the Year, changed his philosophy of playing for the big inning to playing for one run at a time. Taking advantage of the most overall team speed he has had, McCandless ordered more bunts and steals, and the Falcons set a county team record for stolen bases with 155.
David Beach, St. Paul's
Each time coach Paul Bernstorf filled out his lineup card over the past four years, he would start by penciling in Beach's name in the cleanup spot. The third baseman averaged 30 hits and 30 RBIs in four varsity seasons.
Solidly built at 6 feet, 200 pounds, he finished with school career records in hits (118), RBIs (122) and doubles (31).
Beach, who has a baseball scholarship to Division II Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, N.C., led the metro area this spring in homers (10) and RBIs (43), both school single-season records. He batted .410 and scored 27 runs.
Brian Bent, Mount St. Joseph
Catcher is his natural position, but Bent thrived on the mound when the Gaels' needed a starting pitcher.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander began his high school career as a catcher, and pitched sporadically as a junior. This spring, he went 7-1 with an 0.84 ERA as the Gaels' ace.
In 58 1/3 innings, Bent struck out 29 by mixing his fastball, curve and changeup. He posted wins over nationally ranked Riverdale Baptist, Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion St. Paul's and runner-up Calvert Hall twice as the No. 5 Gaels (25-5) won the conference's regular-season title.
Bent, who plans to decide on a college after the June 15 Crown All-Star Game, also led the Gaels in RBIs (31) and homers (five) while batting .326 with six doubles and two triples.
Nick Bowen, Chesapeake
The speed and athleticism that made Bowen his school's all-time leading rusher and earned him second team All-Metro honors in football, also was on display this spring.
Possessing speed and power, the Cougars' three-year starting center fielder batted .486 with 24 RBIs and an Anne Arundel County-leading nine home runs giving him a school career record 20 homers. He also had five doubles, three triples and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Bowen, who was caught only once in 24 stolen-base attempts, has been clocked at 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
Nick Couzantino, Old Mill
Couzantino doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but he knows how to pitch. The No. 1-ranked Patriots' ace went 8-0 with a 1.20 ERA, with his best outing coming in the 4A state final.
Throwing three pitches - fastball, curve and changeup - with excellent location, he two-hit then-No. 7 Perry Hall and struck out 11 on the way to a 7-0 victory for the 4A state title.
Pitching much the way he did in shutting down eventual 3A state champion Severna Park in the Anne Arundel County championship game, Couzantino set up the Gators with superb location of his fastball in the state final. Finishing them off with a nasty curveball, he often had the Gators swinging at the air.
Couzantino, who was 13-1 over two years and will try to make the baseball team at Maryland as a walk-on, finished with 46 strikeouts and 10 walks in 63 2/3 innings.
Nick Deaner, Calvert Hall
Hitting leadoff or No. 2 in the order, the senior second baseman was a rally igniter for the No. 4 Cardinals (21-7), who played in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference final for the second consecutive season. The pesky Deaner batted .386 and had a .530 on-base percentage.
Deaner, who had four doubles and 12 RBIs, tied for the team lead in runs with 28 and led in stolen bases with 16.
St. Paul's, the MIAA A Conference champion, had the most trouble with the 5-foot-6, 130-pound Deaner, a smooth fielder with good hands. In Calvert Hall's two regular-season wins over the Crusaders, Deaner went 6-for-7 with four runs and three RBIs.
Chad Durakis, St. Paul's
It was a breakout season for Durakis as he matured behind the plate and with the bat in leading the Crusaders to a second straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship.
The junior catcher instilled confidence in the Crusaders' pitching staff with his ability to call a game, consistently block pitches in the dirt and cut down runners attempting to steal with his strong arm and quick release.
Durakis, who batted third, hit .408 with four home runs, seven doubles, 26 RBIs and 21 walks. He led the team in runs with 30.
Ryan Frey, Calvert Hall
Possessing good hands, range and an accurate arm, Frey anchored the Cardinals' infield at shortstop while serving as an excellent No. 2 or 3 hitter in the lineup with his ability to go with the pitch and drive the ball to all fields.
Injured much of his junior season, Frey came back strong his senior year to lead the No. 4 Cardinals (21-7) to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference finals a second straight season.
Headed to Navy, Frey led A Conference runner-up to St. Paul's in hitting (.440) and on-base percentage (.558).
Frey, a line-drive, gap hitter, led the metro area in triples with seven. He tied for the team lead in runs with 28.
Bernie Harvey, Old Mill
Harvey was the vocal leader of the Class 4A state champion and No. 1 Patriots (20-3), and he usually was able to back up anything he said.
Harvey went from being a .315 hitter with two homers and 17 RBIs last season to hitting .418 with team-leading totals of seven homers and 35 RBIs. The cleanup hitter also had seven doubles and a triple.
The senior catcher had a .993 fielding percentage and excelled at calling a game and handling the pitching staff. Harvey will play at CCBC-Catonsville.
Tom Herrmann, St. Paul's
The Crusaders' shortstop for four years was known as a "good-field, no-hit player" until this season, when he hit .388, scored 28 runs and drove in 12.
In leading the Crusaders to back-to-back Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference titles, Herrmann committed just one error in 29 games. Making that statistic more impressive is the fact that he played aggressively, sometimes throwing behind the runner in order to make a play.
Herrmann, who will play at Ursinus, had soft hands and a fine arm. He was an outstanding defensive shortstop and he worked hard to become a better hitter.
Steve Johnson, St. Paul's
A sophomore, Johnson once again pitched the Crusaders to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship by winning all three games in the four-team, double-elimination tournament.
Johnson, also a first-team selection last season, finished with an 8-1 record and one save, making him 15-2 with four saves over two seasons. In 60 1/3 innings, Johnson, who developed an outstanding cutter to go with his fastball, curve and changeup, struck out 57, walked 18, gave up 48 hits and had a 1.74 ERA.
His only loss was to Riverdale Baptist in a game in which he threw just one inning, as coach Paul Bernstorf used several pitchers by design.
Johnson stopped Calvert Hall, 7-3, in the first round and again in the final, 5-1, on a five-hitter. Sandwiched in between was a 1-0 win in relief over top-seeded Mount St. Joseph. Calvert Hall had knocked off St. Paul's twice in the regular season, but did not face Johnson in either of those games.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-hander also played the infield and batted .363 with nine doubles, two homers, 36 runs and 21 RBIs.
Jeff Poff, Mount St. Joseph
A second-team All-Metro outfielder as a sophomore last year, Poff raised his game to a higher level as the Gaels' leadoff batter, center fielder and part-time pitcher.
The speedy right-hander led his team in batting (.443) and runs (30).Poff also had four doubles, three triples and three homers.
Poff was outstanding defensively, getting a good jump on fly balls and tracking down long drives in routine fashion. His strong arm kept opponents from taking the extra base and made him an important pitcher (5-0, 1.50 ERA) in the Gaels' run to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference regular-season title and top seed in the playoffs.
Dan Przybylski, Fallston
Considering that he was the Cougars' leadoff batter, the junior shortstop put up some amazing numbers as Harford County's Player of the Year.
Przybylski led the Class 3A state semifinalists and Harford County champions with a .459 average, five homers and 28 RBIs. He also scored 36 runs, hit six triples and stole 13 bases.
Nicknamed "The Beast" by his teammates, Przybylski has a lot of pop in his bat despite his 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame.
Przybylski, a clutch hitter for the No. 10 Cougars (16-4), hit a 415-foot homer onto the roof of the firehouse in right field at Fallston in the second game of the season. His dramatic, game-tying homer with two outs in the 3A North region final that led to a 5-4 upset of then-No. 8 Franklin in 10 innings, also hit the firehouse.
Vyt Rivers, Atholton
Rivers, who bats right and throws left, excelled at the plate and on the mound for the second straight season. An All-Metro first baseman as a junior, Rivers hit .470 this season with five homers and 35 RBIs. With five doubles and two triples, he had an .833 slugging percentage and scored 19 runs.
In what was somewhat of a down year for the Raiders (12-8), Rivers went 7-3 with 3.05 ERA. Rivers, who struck out 62 in 62 innings, was 11-5 over the past two seasons.
A.J. Tinnirella, Centennial
Threatening to break the state record for batting average in a season of .711, set in 2001 by Southwestern's Travis Ezi, Tinnirella finished with an area-leading .672 mark.
A second team All-Metro shortstop as a junior when he batted .446, Tinnerella went 39-for-58 this season and was named the Howard County Player of the Year.
The 5-foot-6 Tinnirella had four triples, scored 26 runs and was 21-for-21 on stolen-base attempts.
Quick, with good range and hands, Tinnirella committed only four errors. Tinnirella does not have a scholarship but he hopes to play at Towson University.
Tyler Young, Old Mill
Young has a quick bat, good size at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, runs the 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds and has a strong arm.
The senior center fielder, who was drafted in the 46th round by the Orioles and is a two-time All-Anne Arundel County pick, raised his batting average eight points this season to .467.
Moving from leadoff to No. 3 in the lineup, he helped the Patriots win the Class 4A state championship. Rarely seeing a fastball in a steady diet of breaking pitches, he drew over 20 walks.
Young, who is headed to Shoals (Ala.) Community College, totaled six doubles, three triples, a homer, 17 RBIs, 22 runs and 22 stolen bases.
Name School Class Position
Mike Anton River Hill Senior Pitcher
Steve Evans Chapelgate Senior Pitcher
Tom Howell Severna Park Senior Pitcher
Ryan Prenger St. Paul's Senior Pitcher
Jarrett Smith Perry Hall Senior Pitcher
Preston Pehrson Broadneck Senior Catcher
Brian Summerlin Owings Mills Senior Catcher
Joe Davenport Eastern Tech Senior First base
Brad Mayr South Carroll Junior Second base
Matt Buchholz Old Mill Senior Third base
Joe Pietropaoli McDonogh Senior Third base
Steve Clevenger Mount St. Joseph Junior Shortstop
Danny Brown Parkville Senior Outfield
Corey Greene South Carroll Senior Outfield
Sandy Welsch Fallston Senior Outfield
Matt Parks Calvert Hall Senior DH
Note: Teams selected by Pat O'Malley after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.