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Francis Scott Key Eagles

1994 record: 8-11. Coach: Bob Caples.

Top players: Dave Johnson, Sr., 2B; Dan Stephenson, Sr., OF; Joey Brooks, Sr., 1B; Greg Bowers, Sr., C; Jason Dykes, Sr., P/OF; Topher Casserly, Sr., OF; Mike Crawmer, Jr., P/OF; Robbie Green, P/2B; Larry Airing, Jr., OF.

Outlook: The Eagles seem to have a little bit of everything this season, as Caples seeks a return trip to the state Class 1A South Regionals, where Key was beaten by Boonsboro, 10-3, last season in the semis. This team has experience, talent, good hitters and a lot of pitchers.

"If our pitching holds up to the varsity level, we should be a real good team," said Caples. "Offensively we're going to put runs on the board."

Brooks, Johnson and Dan Stephenson are expected to provide the power hitting, and Casserly, Crawmer, Green, Airing and Dykes are considered good contact hitters. Johnson, an All-Carroll County first team selection last season, hit .390 with two home runs and 17 RBIs. Dan Stephenson, also a first-team All-County pick, batted .355.

Boonsboro and Walkersville are the teams to beat in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League, and South Hagerstown and North Hagerstown can't be counted out, according to Caples.

Other players being counted on to help the Eagles are juniors Ryan Lawrence (P), Billy Suter (P/OF), Gabe Stephenson (OF), Shawn Diehl (Inf), Darrell Smith (P/3B), Billy Baker (Inf/3B) and Will Linthicum (OF).

Liberty Lions

1994 record: 6-10. Coach: Steve Insley.

Top players: Eric Eldridge, Sr., P/OF; Chris Devins, Sr., P; Jon Barnowski, Sr., SS; Dave Tumblin, Sr., 3B; Cory Sheeler, Sr., C; Daryl Knight, Jr., P/1B.

Outlook: The strong point of this team is pitching and most high school coaches say pitching is the most important thing at this level.

The Lions will have two outstanding right-handers, Eldridge and Devins, and a good left-hander, Knight, to send to the mound against the likes of Thomas Johnson, South Carroll, Westminster and North Carroll this season in what shapes up as a strong Central Maryland Conference and Carroll County League. Eldridge threw a shutout against Thomas Johnson, the eventual 3A West Regional champ, last season.

Barnowski, who hit .310 last season, and Knight, who batted over .300 the second half of the season after being called up from the junior varsity, also should hit for power this season. Barnowski, Knight and Eldridge also have good speed and should help the team on the bases.

"We'll surprise some people this year," said Insley. "We hope to be more than competitive. We're capable of hitting the ball better than we did last year. Our defense is solid and we're two weeks ahead of last year as far as workouts go. We didn't get outside until March 19 last year. If we hit, we'll win games."

Two sophomores, Ryan Renehan and Jon Felmey, also are expected to help Liberty this season. Renehan is a relief pitcher and infielder, and Felmey will play the infield.

North Carroll Panthers

1994 record: 5-12. Coach: Denny Snyder.

Top players: Mike Huller, Sr., P; Jason Bresler, Jr., 3B; Jason Tawney, Sr., 2B/P; Jason Hann, Sr., SS; Justin Eckard, Jr.,

1B/DH; Matt Martingdale, Sr., P; Barrett Gugliotta, Jr., P; Drew Dean, Sr., C.

Outlook: Huller, a gifted left-handed pitcher, is drawing a lot of attention to North Carroll this season after an outstanding fall of pitching with the Oriolelanders that attracted the eyes of several major-league scouts.

"I think Mike has all the tools to be a dominating pitcher," said Snyder. "He gained a lot of experience and matured a lot over the summer. We'll be tough to beat when he is on the mound."

Huller and right-handers Martingdale and Gugliotta will be the top three pitchers for the Panthers, with right-hander Tawney being used as a closer.

"If the scrimmage with Francis Scott Key was any indication, I like our chances to win the county title," said Snyder. "We only hit .220 last year as a team and you have to figure we'll hit a lot better than that. We've improved defensively and have eight pitchers we can run through. If we get the timely hits, we should win a lot of games."

Other outstanding players for the Panthers are junior Jon Plunkert (P/3B/OF), senior Chris Bonner (OF), sophomore Todd Collins (OF) and junior Todd Schaeffer (OF).

South Carroll Cavaliers

1994 record: 15-7. Coach: Bradley Collins.

Top players: Kile Maxcy, Sr., P/1B/OF; Jeremy Hancock, Sr., C; Ronnie White, Sr., OF; Bryan Herche, Sr., SS; Zach Hollman, Sr., P/1B/OF; Jason Petroski, Sr., 3B; Todd Henry, Sr. OF; Wes Gibson, Sr., OF/P; David Fogle, Jr., SS; Tommy Lewis, Jr., DH.

Outlook: The Cavaliers came within one run of going to the 3A state championships last season and they only lost two key players (Brad Schulze and Tim Beck) from that team.

On paper, South Carroll looks like the team to beat in the county this season after sharing the Carroll title with Westminster last season. The Cavaliers have four three-year starters back who are all superb hitters. They are Maxcy (.415 last season), Hancock (.394), White (.390) and Herche (.328).

Four other seniors also bring a lot of experience and talent to this team. They are Henry, Hollman, Petroski and Gibson.

Petroski will replace Schulze, the Carroll County Player of the Year last season, at third base.

South Carroll, under first-year coach Bradley Collins, will have good speed with Herche and Petroski being capable of stealing a lot of bases. According to Collins, no one on the team is "really slow."

Maxcy, a left-hander, is also the team's top pitcher and was a first-team All-Carroll pick last season. He had a 5-3 record with two saves, a 2.90 ERA, struck out 36 and walked 23.

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