Coach: Larry Sheets
Last season: 27-5, No. 2
Postseason: A Conference champion
Outlook: Second-year coach Sheets has much to live up to. The Greyhounds won their first A Conference title since 1996 and beat five-time defending champion Calvert Hall in the final to do it. Nine juniors return this season. The Greyhounds have depth on the mound, with Brandon Cassas, Matt Collins, Mike Dunbar and Ryan Ripken returning. The squad will attempt to prove for a second year that discipline and confidence can work miracles.
2. C. Milton Wright
Coach: Tony Blackburn
Last season: 23-0, No. 1
Postseason: Class 3A state champion
Outlook: Blackburn says his team will be inexperienced, with just four starters back. But three of them are talented seniors: catcher Andrew Clow, who caught 12 shutouts; left-handed pitcher Jon Cobo, who was undefeated and threw a one-hitter and a shutout; and right-hander Bobby Ruse, who had five shutouts.
3. Severna Park
Coach: Jim McCandless
Last season: 19-4, No. 4
Playoffs: Class 4A regional semifinalist
Outlook: The Falcons have a competitive squad with a mix of senior leadership to go with a group of underclassmen from the highly successful junior varsity team. The overall pitching depth is improved, but the team will need underclassmen to adjust to the varsity level quickly to fill the offensive void left from the loss of 13 seniors. Senior third baseman Brent Jones, a preseason All-State selection, will be the unquestioned team leader.
4. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Jeff Palumbo
Last season: 25-9, No. 7
Postseason: MIAA A Conference semifinalist
Outlook: The Cavaliers did a lot with a young team last season, and there's a good chance they'll do more this season. Palumbo, in his first year with the Cavs, points to senior third baseman Austin Neary and senior second baseman Ryan Metzler, and three returning starting pitchers (Ryan Wagner, Austin Clark and Joe Benitez) as key contributors.
5. Calvert Hall
Coach: Lou Eckerl
Last season: 23-11, No. 6
Postseason: A Conference finalist
Outlook: After last season's runner-up finish to Gilman, the Cardinals are rededicated. Eckerl said he has not seen his team work this hard in the past nine years. The Cardinals will be led by third-year outfield starters Matt Bosse, Justin Fratantuono and Alex Pastorius.
6. John Carroll
Coach: Joe Stetka
Last season: 12-16, unranked
Outlook: The 12 returning seniors, including K.J. Hockaday (Maryland), Brendan Butler (Towson), Trent Shaw (North Carolina-Asheville) and David McGee (York), will bring experience and talent. Stetka believes they will pack the Patriots lineup with solid hitting. If the pitching holds up, he said, his squad could make the MIAA A Conference playoffs for the first time in more than 10 years.
7. Mount St. Joseph
Coach: Dave Norton
Last season: 19-12, No. 9
Playoffs: A Conference quarterfinalist
Outlook: A mixture of veterans and newcomers, the Gaels will depend on senior left-hander Thomas Solomon and senior right-hander Gehrig McCracken on the mound, along with junior catcher Nick Payne, senior second baseman Patrick Rogers and senior shortstop Ryan Jurney for defense and hitting.
Coach: Kevin Kelly
Last season: 20-4, No. 5
Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist
Outlook: All fingers in Howard County are pointing at Atholton as the team to watch. The Raiders have a strong nucleus with senior shortstop and pitcher Kory Britton (.448 batting average; 6-1, 2.66 ERA) and senior catcher and pitcher Paul Beers (.390; 4-1, 1.17) anchoring the lineup.
Coach: Timothy Gordon
Last season: 14-7, unranked
Postseason: Class 3A regional semifinalist
Outlook: The Indians have nine starters back and will be led by preseason All-State selection Joey Dorsey, who has signed with La Salle. Franklin's strengths will be outfield defense, hitting and a pitching rotation anchored by senior Josh Sherer.
Coach: Ken King
Last season: 18-8, No. 10
Postseason: Class 4A state finalist
Outlook: King, new this season, inherits a veteran squad that includes 10 seniors, including starters Brian Musgrove (left fielder-pitcher), A.J. McKenzie (center fielder) and Jordan Myers (first baseman) — the team's returning leading hitter at .394. The No. 1 pitcher will be 6-foot-5 Jake Bram.
Coach: Joe Connolly
Last season: 15-7, No. 12
Postseason: Class 2A regional semifinalist
Outlook: With six returning seniors, led by center fielder Brandon Del Pilar (.395) and pitchers John Hetterman and Justin Sommer, the team plans to take advantage of competitive, smart, focused play.
Coach: Brian Harmon
Last season: 17-5, No. 8
Postseason: Class 4A regional semifinalist
Outlook: The Owls return five starters, including two left-handed pitchers — Brandon Taylor (5-2, 1.16 ERA) and Chad Diehl (4-0, 0.58 ERA). Catcher Cody Harman (.466), second baseman Mitch McVerry and infielder Brandon Nelson also are back.
Coach: Pete Sykes
Last season: 11-9, unranked
Postseason: Class 4A regional quarterfinalist
Outlook: Five starters return, including senior pitchers Eric Upton and Ethan Clasing. Upton also plays first base and had a .444 batting average. Junior second baseman Sheridan Doan (.382) will also provide power hitting.
14. Digital Harbor
Coach: Dave Verdi
Last season: 13-3, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A regional semifinalist
Outlook: Eight starters return from last year's squad. Verdi, who calls this the most talented team he has coached, has depth at every position, including an abundance of pitchers. The team is anchored by infielder Nathan Pitts (.513).
Coach: Hal Sparks
Last season: 17-8, unranked
Playoffs: MIAA B Conference semifinalist
Outlook: The Admirals return eight starters, including first-team All-Anne Arundel County pitcher Joe Kotler. They will depend on team captain Sam Wachs at shortstop or third for power hitting. A key addition is Keenan Schlegel, a transfer student from France who played on the national Under-15 team.
OTHERS CONSIDERED: Arundel (10-8, unranked); Eastern Tech (14-8, unranked); Hammond (21-3, No. 3); Parkville (16-5,
No. 11); Old Mill (16-5, No. 13); River Hill (14-8, unranked); Towson (16-10, unranked)Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun