If Panthers coach Larry Brogden can get some help from four guys he's counting on, Annapolis should improve on its 5-15 record of a year ago.
Brogden, in his 19th season in Annapolis, hasn't had a winning campaign since his state championship year of 1988.
"I'm really depending on those guys and hope that we find a few other good players to go with them," said Brogden.
Hartman hit .366 and led the Panthers in RBI (18) last spring while pitching and playing the middle-infield positions.
A slick fielder, Hartman had a good summer with the Annapolis American Legion Post No. 7 and played in the 13th annual Oriolelanders All-Star Game as an infielder. He is expected to be the Panthers' shortstop this spring when not pitching.
Coron Johnson will pitch and play third with junior Donnell Ravenell swinging from short to third depending on who's pitching.
Brogden said he feels he has "a complete player in Chris Johnson" behind the plate. Johnson possesses a strong arm and is expected to bat third.
Criscimagna, who led the club in batting last year at .424, will patrol center field with the same great hands he displayed in football as an All-County and second-team All-Metro tight end.
"We should be strong up the middle with our pitching, Chris catching, in the infield and with Matt in center field," said Brogden.
Two other pitchers on the all-righty staff will be senior Mike Graf and junior Jake Chew, up from the junior varsity.
Sophomore left-hander Pat Donlin will share first base with Chew and senior Mike Myers and junior Jeff Kapusta will battle for the second-base job. Senior Jim Norris is another infielder who should see a lot of time.
Flanking Criscimagna in the outfield will be junior Eric Stuller in left and senior John Hollander in right. Hollander played JV two years ago and was cut from varsity as a junior, but Brogden says he "is a lot stronger."
Junior Sean Cowan is expected to be the fourth outfielder.
While it's their goal to make the playoffs, it appears to be easier said than done for veteran coach Tom Lind and his Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers were 12-11 overall last year, made the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference playoffs for the first time in school history and Lind was named Anne Arundel County Coach of the Year. The team had gone 2-12 the year before, Lind's rookie year.
Back to that? "I hope not, but it could be a tough year," said Lind.
"If our pitchers can throw the ball over the plate, we catch the ball and manufacture some runs, we can win some games," he said.
Much of the burden falls on the shoulders of senior Jeff Paxson, an All-County second baseman last year who batted .422 with had a school-record 36 RBI.
This year, the Towson State-bound Paxson will be the No. 1 pitcher and play shortstop when not on the mound. The Cavs lost All-County shortstop/pitcher Pat Calabrese (.508, 20 RBI) and second-team All-County DH/pitcher John Hall (23 RBI, three home runs) to graduation.
Paxson, who had a successful shoulder operation in the off-season, will be the staff workhorse and will be backed by sophomores Dominic Lascola and Brad Mosher.
Seniors Fabian Diliamey (C), Jamie Garvin (1B) and Chris Lucas (2B) give the Cavs experience in the infield. Sophomore Andy Canterna also will play first.
"Lucas hit the hell out of the ball for us last year before he got hurt about midway through the season and didn't play again," said Lind.
Lascola, who will play short when Paxson pitches, also will play third with junior Mark Shires, who is the other catcher.
The outfield is thin in numbers, but Lind says "they should be very good defensively."
Senior Jamie Nelson and juniors Brent Pollard and Leo Zerheusen are expected to start and Lind is considering keeping freshman Matt Brady, who runs well and is an excellent bunter.
Arundel returns 14 players including Mizuno-Baseball America Preseason Honorable Mention All-Americans Tim Giles and Jeff Hedrick from its Class 4A, Region IV championship team.
Coach Bernie Walter, who has won a county-record five state championships and has a 302-88 career record, led his team to a 17-6 record (ranked fifth in The Baltimore Sun's final top 15) last spring, including a 4-1 loss to Gaithersburg of Montgomery in the state 4A semifinals.
"Our pitching should be pretty good, we should be solid defensively and we have more overall speed," said Walter, who is in his 20th season.
Walter will be looking to replace 11 wins from graduated All-Metro right-hander Brian Rolocut, the Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year who is now at Miami Dade (Fla.) Community College.
Junior Brandon Agamennone (5-2 with one save and a 2.39 ERA as a sophomore) is expected to be the ace and will be complemented by seniors Giles and Brian Sands.
Giles, an All-County first baseman as a junior (.400, 29 RBI, 12 extra-base hits), was expected to pitch last year but had a sore arm. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder pitched for Mayo Post No. 226 in the summer and in the fall with the Oriolelanders, the hand-picked team of Orioles scouting supervisor Jim Gilbert.
Freshman Andy Vermillion is the only left-hander on the staff but is not expected to see a lot of innings.
Senior Mike Cozzone, used previously as an infielder, has been moved behind the plate. Walter said the 5-10, 195-pound Cozzone "has found his position, but he's no stranger there."
Cozzone caught batting practice at Arundel last year and saw some game action behind the plate with the Mayo legion team. Junior J. P. Noon will back up Cozzone and see action at first when Giles is pitching and DH. Sophomore Sean Fairbanks gives the Cats' a third catcher.
Hedrick, one of the best athletes in the county (All-Metro defensive back in football, point guard on the basketball team), will anchor the infield at shortstop. Injured most of last season, Hedrick batted .454 with 10 RBI.
"Jeff is one of the best we have ever had here," said Walter. "He has an excellent arm, great hands, and hits with power. He's also a super leader who knows how to win and is a true three-sport athlete."
Hedrick's partner at second base will be either sophomore Russ Allen, who sparkled as a freshman when Hedrick got hurt, or senior Jimmy Taylor. Taylor also will play center field.
Junior Jamie Stoddard, up from JV, leads a crowd vying for the third-base job.
Joining Taylor in the outfield will be juniors Kevin Dodson and Wade Rolocut, and seniors Mike Fairbanks and Joe DeLisi. Reserves Tony Costanzo, a junior, Matt Sakal and Ladrelle Stevens, both seniors, give Walter a lot of speed off the bench.
"We have a lot of good athletes and a good, positive attitude despite the weather," said Walter.
For the first time in three years, Broadneck coach Mark Stover won't have Jeff Vincent to find a way to win a game, and instead is faced with bringing along a team that has only four seniors.
Vincent, the Baltimore Sun's All-Metro shortstop, was the Bruins' catalyst and will be missed. Now on a baseball scholarship at UMBC where he was named as pre-season Freshman of the Year by Baseball America for the Big South Conference, he rewrote the Bruins' record book.
While batting .437 with a school-record four homers and going 4-2 as a pitcher, Vincent led the Bruins to a 13-9 season and the 4A Region IV final.
"You just don't replace kids like Vincent," said Stover, who is in his ninth year as head coach.
Vincent formed quite a duo with Matt Wiemer, now at the University of Pennsylvania. Weimer hit .300 with 20 RBI and also had four wins on the mound.
Stover is confident that a trio of junior right-handers -- Sean Ryan, Dan Lynch and Matt Slater -- will do the job on the mound. Senior right-hander Chris Sutch, who would have been the ace of the staff, is not with the team for undisclosed reasons.
Ryan is the only one of the three who got quality varsity time last season, and the 6-5 basketball star is being counted on heavily.
"We've got some real good arms and our pitching could be our strength," said Stover.
Senior Todd Bramble was last year's backup catcher, but Stover said he got significant playing time in the outfield and as DH. Junior Steve DePaul is the other catcher.
Adam Simonsen, a junior, will play first base, but the rest of the infield could be like musical chairs.
Senior Dan Ford is the incumbent at second base, but is being pushed by junior Yancy Quigley, who was brought up from JV for his bat during last year's playoffs. Quigley also could end up in the outfield.
Another senior, Scotty Seyfferth, will split time between short and third where Ryan and Slater will play as well.
Junior Brian Zimmerman and senior Kevin Barry have settled in left and center field, respectively, with Quigley likely to be the right fielder.
"Yancy will have to be in there somewhere for his bat," said Stover. "If these kids can hold their own early in the season, we could make some noise at the end."
Second-year head coach Jim Simms is excited about the prospects for this year's team after going 9-11 a year ago and missing the 4A playoffs by a game.
Simms welcomes back three senior pitchers, including John Young, an All-County infielder, a speedy outfield and a group up from the county co-champion JV team.
Young, who batted .492 with 19 RBI and led the team in hits (31) and extra-base hits (14), is the ace of the pitching staff and the club's best hitter.
"This kid has power that has me and my coaches shaking our heads," Simms said of the 5-8, 175-pound senior. "He really swings the bat and is throwing the ball hard, too."
With Young in the middle of the offensive attack, Simms expects his club to score runs, but he has been pleasantly surprised by his pitching depth.
"Our pitching should be stronger and much more consistent," said Simms.
The other two senior right-handers, each of whom will play in the infield with Young, are Jerry Scheff and Chris Ryder. Scheff will play second and short and Ryder will play third. Jeremy Pellegrini, John Klug and the Skorobatch twins, Nick and Leo, will be backing up the infield.
Simms also can call on two impressive junior lefties, Jason White and Norm Stevenson. White who pitched for the Arundel Suns in the Oriolelanders game in September, also has impressed Simms with the bat.
"Jason has been hitting really well and will be our first baseman," said Simms.
The catching duties fall to senior Kenny Moore, who was last year's backup, and junior Brian Grieb.
Anything hit into the air beyond the infield should be caught by what Simms calls "the fastest outfield I've ever been associated with."
Junior Paul Day will be in center. He will be flanked by senior Brandon Steinheim in left and junior Brian Doyle in right. Reserve outfielders are juniors Justin Wilde and Steve Fowler.
After going 11-9 overall and missing the Class 4A, Region IV playoffs by a game, coach Bruce Sider is hoping his pitching can take the Gophers to the postseason this year.
"Pitching should be our strength, and even though it is unproven with no varsity experience except for [Jay] Sponaugle, I'm real pleased," said Sider, who is in his 14th season.
Sponaugle, a hard-throwing right-hander, is the bellwether of a staff that has only one senior. Sponaugle was 3-2 as a freshman and went 9-0 with one save and a 2.44 ERA with the Little Orioles last summer.
Right-hander Mike Barankoski (1-1) and lefty Keith Volkman (0-1) are returning juniors with some varsity experience, but Barankoski is a question mark after dislocating a finger on his throwing hand attempting to catch a pop fly.
Senior David Brewster (did not play last year), juniors Larry Burkindine and Ken Baker and freshman Jimmy Mabe, all right-handers, complete the staff.
Sider is also deep in catching with senior Matt Griffith, a 6-4 All-Metro defensive lineman in football; junior Shawn Mahaney, a key member of the basketball team after transferring from DuVall in Prince George's; and sophomore Jason Hittle, who sparkled with the Glen Burnie Patriots' summer team.
Griffith also will see action at first base with Volkman and Barankoski, and sophomore Brad Emge has the edge over junior Brad Brady at second base. Emge sparkled last summer with Gambrills in the county Babe Ruth League.
The left side of the infield features outstanding sophomore Tony Hynson at third and either Sponaugle or Tony Tully at short.
Senior Todd Locklear, who batted over .300, knocked in 16 runs and stole seven bases last spring, is back to anchor the outfield. Seniors Jerry Poist (10 steals) and Brian Pierce join Locklear in the outfield.
Sophomores Mike Ackerman and Rocky Newton, and junior Robert Lingner are also available for the outfield.
"We expect to be in the thick of things for the playoffs, but our big question mark is whether we can score enough runs," said Sider.
A new approach in coaching baseball is what the Mustangs hope will get them back on track. Meade has co-coaches in athletic director Ralph Beachley and ex- JV coach Rick Terry.
"We're sharing responsibilities and more or less coaching by committee with our assistant coaches," said Beachley.
The assistants are Bob Powell and Bill Sheppard, who worked under Elliott Harvey last season. Harvey's contract was not renewed at the end of last season, his sixth at the helm.
After going 11-7 in 1991 and just missing the Class 4A playoffs, Harvey's team had only five wins last spring.
"We don't have much varsity experience, especially on our pitching staff," said Beachley.
Senior right-hander Philip Hilton is the only returning hurler with a varsity win -- one. Other staff members will be seniors David Winterling (LHP), David Asbury (RHP), and Brian Moberly (RHP) and junior Jorge Cruz (RHP).
Behind the plate, the co-coaches have a trio of 11th-graders in Mark Cruz (no relation to Jorge), Dave Mier and Eric Campion.
There are three seniors with little varsity experience -- first baseman Darrell Shifflett, second baseman Steve Lieeb, and third baseman Danny Sancomb. Junior Mike Bell has the edge over Lieeb at second, for now.
Asbury did get a lot of playing time at shortstop.
Seniors Mike Aguilar and Shawn Diggs will join juniors in Dennis Jenks and Kenny Harriford in the outfield.
"We have some very fine athletes," said Beachley, referring to Sancomb, Jenks and Jorge Cruz, all members of the state 4A runner-up basketball team.
"Danny [Sancomb] played some shortstop last year, but looks better at third. He could play short when Asbury pitches," Beachley said.
Beachley and Terry are hoping that Sancomb's positive attitude that had a lot to do with the success of the Stangs' hoop team will carry over to the baseball team.
"Most of our kids played JV last year but I think they have real potential," said Beachley.