For Century baseball coach Mike Marrale, the accent is on juniors.
There are 11 of them on the 15-player roster. A lot of teams would be in a rebuilding mode because of the dearth of seniors.
But not the Knights.
"Our goal every year is to win a state championship," Marrale said. "If we are going to do it, it would be this year or next year."
Marrale isn't exaggerating. Century just might be able to pull it off.
The Knights boast a 7-1 record heading into its weekend holiday tournament, along with a perfect 6-0 mark in the county.
The Knights' team chemistry is what comes often when the Century coaching staff and players talk about the reason for their success. Eight team members play summer baseball on the American League Post 223, and six others compete for the Maryland Cardinals, a travel showcase team.
"We have this core that has been established," said Century senior Brandon Knorr, who pitches in relief, plays third base and the outfield. "A lot of these guys have been playing together for years. And we are always hanging out and going out together."
With the Knights playing so well, has the time finally arrived when they can win their first county championship in school history?
That's not Century's biggest priority, Marrale said.
"I think there are quite a few people who have picked us to win the county," Marrale said. "That's OK, but our goal is to go as deep as we can in the playoffs."
If the Knights are to capture a county title, they will likely have to go through reigning champion Westminster (6-2, 5-0 county). Century hosts the Owls on April 24 and travels to Westminster nine days later.
"They have had a very good program for many, many years," Marrale said. "I think both games are going to be very good games and I think they are going to be one-run games."
Marrale, a sixth-year coach, will continue to rely as his well-armed pitching staff to win. He simply won't have this much depth and quality every season.
"It's the best pitching I've had since I have been at Century," Marrale said. "I have 11 pitchers. With the new pitching rules, it doesn't affect our team at all, but it does other teams."
Marrale doesn't like to loosely throw around the label "ace" but he will make an exception for junior right-hander Jeremy Lapp.
Lapp is 3-0 with 23 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. He gave up one hit and struck out 11 in a 10-0 five-inning victory over Franklin on March 29. Five days later, Lapp yielded just one hit and fanned nine in a 16-0 rout of Manchester Valley.
Marrale said Lapp didn't pitch much last year on the JV because of a knee injury.
"He is unreal from last year to this year," Marrale said. "He changes his mechanics and has matured considerably. He looks so confident and relaxed out there."
Junior Ethan Kiple works as the No. 2 starter. He's 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA and struck out 16 batters in 16 2/3 innings.
Sophomore Jeremy Lamb and senior Adam Rolfes also make up the starting staff and the Knights are getting contributions from three relievers: Knorr and juniors Gabe Hindle and Robert Martin.
Whoever stands on the mound will likely get plenty of run support. The Knights were batting .404 as a team and had outscored opponents 88-16 as of the weekend.
Junior shortstop Nathanael Hibbs (.407, 12 runs scored), Michael Marrale, the coach's son, (.407, three home runs, 11 RBIs), a junior catcher, Lapp (.368) and Kiple (.417) rank among the team's leading hitters.
The offense may seem scary to some opponents — Century has 15 homers to date.
"I have been coaching for 10 years and [we] did something I have never seen before," said Century assistant coach Brian Pardoe, noting the Knights' 10-5 county win over Winters Mill on April 5. "We sent up 11 or 12 straight batters with two outs."