It's that time of year, once described by the late Hall of Famer Bill Veeck as "the true harbinger of spring -- not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball," beckoningthe Prophet back to his crystal ball.
After a week off while the high schoolers moved from the gyms outside to play baseball, softball, tennis and that game with the crab net, lacrosse, the rage of a sage is back to bring in the third high school sports season of the year.
It's no secret to most of you who have followed the Prophet for the last 13 years that baseball is his favorite sport. Everybody has afavorite, including the Prophet, but it's still early to get a read on those county baseball teams, so the sage is going to open with a bunch of lacrosse games.
Prophet Pat begins the spring campaign with an overall record of 130-60 (.684 percentage) through the fall and winter sports seasons. To say that the sage is anxious to get at it, is an understatement.
Let's start with a very early crucial game in Class 4A Region IV in boys lacrosse.
(Last year's records in parentheses)
Arundel (8-6) at Annapolis (12-5), 7:30 p.m. Friday.
It's only the season opener for both teams, but a very important contest nonetheless because this one matches two teams thatfigure to be contenders in the Class 4A Region IV playoffs.
Both teams start the '91 campaign with deep midfields and coaches who knoweach other as well as they know themselves. Annapolis coach Dan Hartpreviously coached for about a decade at Meade while Arundel coach Clint Gosnell begins his 16th season at the helm of the Wildcats.
Last season, host Annapolis went 12-5 overall, advancing to the state final where the Panthers lost to powerful Dulaney of Baltimore County. Returning to the championship game is a Panther goal and not an unrealistic one as Hart begins his third season with a strong returning nucleus, especially in the midfield.
Hart has eight middies back from last year's squad, including senior star Christian Boone. Anothersenior, Chris Turner, who scored 17 goals and assisted on 21 others, is back to anchor the attack.
Gosnell, the Anne Arundel County Sun Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1989 has a comparably deep midfield.Senior Jeff Farr, who had 19 goals and 15 assists last spring, leadsthe Wildcat middies.
Annapolis appears to have the edge on attackwith more experience, but Arundel may have the edge in the net with senior Travis Loving who rejected 149 shots last spring. Hart is not sure yet who his starting goalie will be but senior Chris Stauder might get the nod.
Yes, it's two evenly matched teams in a very important game. So in keeping with his proven theory that the edge should go to the home team in such games, the Prophet says . . .
Annapolis plus 1 over Arundel.
John Carroll (12-4) vs. St. Mary's (12-4), 3:45 p.m. Friday at Weems Whelan Field in Annapolis.
It's hello tothe Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference and the big leaguesfor defending MSA BB Conference finalist John Carroll of Harford County.
John Carroll had a fine season last year but that was in the BB Conference, which is like night and day in comparison to the best league on the East Coast -- the MSA A Conference. And year in and year out, Coach Jim Moorhead's Saints of St. Mary's are right there among the elite in the A Conference.
Last year, the Saints went 12-4 overall in the rugged league and return three of the nation's top highschool players in seniors Rob Chomo, David Jones and Chris Brown. All three are headed to Division I schools on stick scholarships.
Chomo, who tallied 42 goals with 21 assists last year, may be the metroarea's best attackman and is headed for the University of Maryland.
Jones may very well be the best defenseman in the area and is another in a long list of big sticks honed by Moorhead, the former Johns Hopkins All-American who is in his 12th season as head coach at St. Mary's. The University of Virginia has landed Jones.
In the cage, the Saints have a stellar performer in Brown who will take his gear toNorth Carolina next fall.
After that trio, Moorhead tries to givethe impression that he lacks experience, but we all know that at St.Mary's the boys had sticks in their cradles from birth. And when youstart practicing in January, as the Saints do, forget that inexperience stuff.
St. Mary's will be typical St. Mary's -- among the top five teams in the metro area and probably the best in the county.
The Prophet is afraid that it's going to be a long afternoon for the northern visitors on the Saints' cozy Weems Whelan Field where the home team knows the location of every divot and hole.
St. Mary's plus 4 over John Carroll.
Old Mill (2-10) at Severna Park (15-0), 5 p.m. Friday.
Chalk up No. 51 in succession for thosehome-team Falcons who will pick up where they left off.
Severna Park may have lost a lot to graduation -- coupled with a heartbreakingloss of senior star midfielder Tami Riley to an apparent season-ending knee injury just a week ago -- but it's still loaded.
Tami's twin, Tina, is back and will be a swing player, filling the needs of second-year head coach Carin Peterson, the 1990 Anne Arundel County SunGirls Lacrosse Coach of the Year.
Severna Park's girls are similar to the St. Mary's boys -- the players just keep on coming.
In addition to Tina Riley, other key senior leadership will come from versatile Holly Roessler, Hillary Kuker and three-year net minder Sonia Muhly.
You can look for Old Mill to be much improved from last year's 2-10 campaign under the school's highly successful girls soccer coach Bruce Sponsler who succeeds Jan Arnold.
The Prophet is sure that with Sponsler's coaching along with the prolific scoring of four-year starter Alison Zaetz, the Patriots will be considerably improved by midseason. It's just a shame that they have to meet the big gun the first game and not later.
Severna Park plus 4 over Old Mill.
Broadneck (13-2) at Archbishop Spalding (6-8), 3:45 p.m. Friday.
With new head coach Mary Hart, the former All-County Severna Park and later Loyola College star, coaching in Cape St. Claire, watching the Bruins might be like watching the Falcons.
Hart and her twin sister, Katie, also of Severna Park and Loyola fame, will coach the Bruins, who lost in last year's state championship game to the Falcons, 12-10. The twins hope to take the Bruins one step farther in '91 and intend to serve notice beginning tomorrow against an inexperienced Spalding.
Broadneck appears loaded, with the likes of returning seniorsDevere Keen and Krissy Borradaile, and junior star Becca Fink and will open with a romp over the young Cavaliers.
Broadneck plus 5 over Spalding.
Meade (5-7) at Chesapeake (7-4-1), 3:45 p.m. Friday.
The home team in this game is the team to watch in the girls 4A Region IV race, the dark horse Cougars if you will.
Coach Jim Buchan has 17 players back, including senior scoring machine Diane McBee (36goals and 13 assists), from a squad that finished strong, missing postseason play by a game. Chesapeake is going to be a bona-fide playoff contender this spring and will show that tomorrow.
The Cougars should roll in their home and season opener over a very inexperienced Meade team under first-year coach Patti Sinnen.
Chesapeake plus 6 over Meade.
Old Mill (19-4) at Randallstown (7-11), 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.
While last season was a down year for perennial Baltimore County contender Randallstown, it makes little difference in this one.
Whether Randallstown had a typical playoff year or down year, the Rams wouldn't stand much of a chance Tuesday against still another Mel Montgomery-coached Old Mill powerhouse.
After winning the state 4A championship in 1989 (20-1), the Patriots lost in the state semis last year to High Point, 7-4. The Pats return a host of outstanding players from that 19-4 club, including left-handed pitching ace Doug Stockman (9-2), shortstop-pitcher Eric Scott and second baseman John Bussey, all of whom played last summer with the national American Legion champion Mayo Post No. 226.
Scott hit .429 with three dingers and 33 RBI for Old Mill last spring in addition to going 4-1 on the mound. Bussey hit .376 with 20 RBI.
That trio, along with center fielder William Beverly (.367, 21 RBI), gives the always-strong Patriots a powerful nucleus that explains their No. 19 ranking in theUSA Today's preseason high school baseball Top 25.
Watch 'em go on Tuesday because the first game might be an indication of how good this Old Mill is going to be in 1991.
Old Mill plus 3 over Randallstown.
The Prophet to date
Right .. .. Wrong .. ..Pct.
130 .... ..60 .. .. .684