and the late-week forecast looks pretty good as of now -- spring arrives for the county's high school athletes tomorrow.
Though last week's snowfall and the recent rainy weather have kept many of the teams practicing inside, sunny weather and temperatures in the 50s and 60s are expected for the first two days of the spring season.
It's hard to call any early season games crucial, but with the Maryland spring season barely seven weeks long, all games are important, especially when inclement weather may strike.
Here's a look at one or two top events in each sport over the next few days:
* SouthCarroll visits Westminster at 4 p.m. tomorrow in the baseball seasonopener for both teams. The game will count in the county standings, but because the two teams meet three times during the season, the game won't count toward the Central Maryland Conference standings.
The South Carroll team was the surprise of the county last year, finishing tied with Liberty for first with a 6-2 record. Outside the county, though, the Cavs struggled. The Cavs do return a pair of strong pitchers this year in Rob Myers and Mike Downs, but need to worry aboutconsistent offense.
The Owls face a different problem. Their offensive lineup looks strong from top to bottom, but their pitching may be a question mark.
Liberty, meanwhile, will see how much it has left from last year, when it shared the county title with South Carroll and finished tied for third in the county. Liberty visits Linganoreof Frederick County, second in the CMC last spring, at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
The Lions return the two top hitters in the county last year -- Jeff Wagner and Brian Schroeder -- who both hit for power and average. Wagner also was one of the top pitchers in the county
Since the two schools meet only twice during the regular season, the game will count toward the CMC standings and could be an important early-season test for both teams.
* With North Carroll a prohibitive favorite to win nearly every softball title in sight, the South Carroll at Westminster game (tomorrow, 4 p.m.) should give an early season indication of the probable second-place finisher. Liberty, of course, will play a role, too, and they open tomorrow at Linganore, also at 4 p.m.
The South Carroll-Westminster game is a matchup of squads in search of starting pitching. Both are pinning their hopes on hurlers without varsity experience, and tomorrow's game could be an indicator of pitching strength for both.
* Western Maryland, meanwhile, travelsto Harrisonburg, Va., to take part in the eight-team Eastern Mennonite College Tournament. The Green Terrors are in a bracket with Salisbury State (Wicomico County), Bridgewater (Va.) College and Christopher Newport (Va.) College.
The tourney starts with two bracket gameson Friday and continues with another bracket game on Saturday, with the top two teams in each bracket advancing to the championship round.
* North Carroll's boys will try to start the season by ending a 19-game losing streak (dating back to the third game of the 1989 season) when the Panthers open the season Thursday afternoon (4 p.m. varsity, jayvee to follow) at home against Hereford.
The Bulls are a perennial contender for top honors among the smaller Baltimore County schools and have appeared in several state/regional tournament finalsover the years. Chris Kraft takes over as the Panthers' third coach in four years and says he'd like to add some stability to the squad.
North Carroll comes back again Friday for a night game in Hampstead against Glenelg of Howard County. That JV game starts at 6, with the varsity to follow about 7:30.
* In girls lacrosse action, Westminster takes on one of Harford County's better teams, Fallston, on theroad Friday night. The JV game starts at 5:30; the varsity follows at about 7.
The Owls will be trying to rebound from last year's dismal 2-10 season and return to the top of the county hill, where they reigned during the first two year's of the sports existence in Carroll.
* Westminster and South Carroll again share the tennis spotlight in their season opener at Westminster at 4 p.m. tomorrow. The girl Cavs were top dog in the county last year, while Westminster led the way in the boys action.
* County track teams will get a pretty good gauge of how well they look during two weekend invitationals.
North Carroll and Westminster visit the Linganore Relays at 10 a.m. Saturday in Frederick County. Linganore won the state Class 3A indoor title, and many of the schools at the meet will have the advantage of having indoor programs. Carroll, which has no indoor program, starts from scratch.
Liberty, meanwhile, heads to Howard County for the Glenelg Relays, also at 10.
* The Western Maryland golf team makes astop in Annapolis for the Naval Academy Invitational on the way homefrom its spring break practice trip to North Carolina. The invitational runs Saturday and Sunday.
That tourney features several eastern NCAA Division I teams, including some powers from the Atlantic Coast Conference. That tournament should toughen the Terrors for the Middle Atlantic Conference Tournament and other primarily NCAA Division III tournaments in which they compete.