Arlington Baptist's Tim Hurlburt can't help but think about the old days.
He's taken to the baseball diamond as coach and athletic director on four occasions, and each time Hurlburt makes comparisons to the teams he played on in the 1980s.
Back then, the school's student body -- "around 1,000 in population, K through 12" -- was twice as large as today's. Hurlburt and his teammates competed in the Maryland Scholastic Association's B and C conferences, once winning a title. "We were bigger, physically," he said, than the players he now coaches.
"The school's a lot smaller now, I'm the fifth athletic director in eight years, and as a result, I think the school spirit has probably dropped a bit," said Hurlburt, 26, an assistant coach at the Park School his three previous seasons.
"In a lot of the sports, there's been a different coach almost every year, but I'm trying to reach some of the alumni with similar philosophies as mine to get them back here and establish some consistency."
Hurlburt, who cooched soccer in the fall, spent last Thursday refining the baseball diamond as well as his team, whose 2-2 record includes a 6-5 setback against No. 15 Gilman of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's A Conference, and Friday's 10-9 loss to Mount Carmel.
The Eagles went 10-2 last year, finishing second in the Christian School Athletic Association. This year, they want to win it. And next year, they will join the MIAA's B Conference.
"I don't rule out moving up to the A Conference after a couple of years, but I'd have to say that right now, with 15 kids, we're a B Conference-level team," said Hurlburt, who credits principal Tom Ryder for his support.
"We've cracked down on academic and behavioral standards, which I think were kind of loose in the past. Kids respond better when the standards are more strict."
The Eagles' Nos. 1, 3 and 4 batters -- Jarrett Watson (.300), David Barlock (.500) and Andy Booker (.500) -- combined for seven RBIs and 12 steals in three games. Barlock, one of four seniors, has two triples, Watson has a triple and Booker a double.
"I think all three of those guys are college prospects. They've carried us offensively," said Hurlburt, whose other seniors are left fielder Ernie Atkinson, who has a home run, and second baseman Paul Britton.
"Our No. 2 hitter's a good contact guy, and our next two hit with power," said the speedy Watson, who has scored four times. "I just try to get on base, maybe steal a couple. Once I do that, I know I'm coming home."
Hurlburt tabs Barlock (0-2) as the ace on his five-man pitching rotation of right-handers, but Booker has a 2-0 record with a 9-2 win over Park and a 9-1 hammering of Elkton Christian. A junior, Booker's ERA is 0.70. He has walked just three batters while striking out 14.
"The two teams I beat really weren't hitting the ball," said Booker. "It's early, but I've pretty much been ahead in the count and not throwing many balls."
Barlock, Booker and freshman John Jones share catching and pitching duties.
The other pitchers are sophomore Mark Darnell and freshman Brent Gordon, the No. 2 hitter. Starting sophomore Jonathan Shaw (right field), and sometime starters Tim Hines (third base, right field), and Mike Britton (first base) form a solid foundation for the future.
The Eagles have responded. Against Gilman, Barlock struck out nine. And, although he yielded 10 hits, Barlock had the Eagles clinging to a 5-4 lead entering the bottom of the sixth inning.
"The Gilman game was a confidence builder for us. We thought we were just an error or two away from winning that one," said Booker. "We've had some solid defensive efforts so far, but we don't want to get overconfident."