Liberty (16-3 last season) gets the nod as the Carroll County baseball favorite, returning five starters from a county title team that also finished second in the Central Maryland Conference.
Outfielder Jim Miller batted .373 and posted a 4-2 pitching record. Outfielder Alex Moore batted .467 but is out until midseason with a knee injury. Shortstop Kevin Magaw is a three-year starter. Outfielder John Bruce batted .383. Anthony DeSimone is a 6-foot-4 senior pitcher with promise.
Westminster (11-7) has the talent to challenge Liberty. Senior outfielder Rafe Bridges batted .370 with a 4-1 pitching record, and coach Jimmy Rodriguez considers him a Division I prospect.
He also thinks senior shortstop Jesse Alvarez is a standout.
A strong junior class is led by pitchers Sean Brewer and Eddie Ashwell; second baseman Scott Evelius; first baseman Howard Ward; and catcher Walt Weise.
South Carroll hopes to rebound from a disappointing (5-14) season with four returning starters, more pitching depth and more athleticism on the bases.
Junior Bo Sauter recorded three of the Cavs victories. Junior Brian Lowry has matured at shortstop, coach George Richardson said. Pitcher-first baseman Jim Dahlgren is another strong junior. Senior catcher Ted Daniels is still recovering from a shoulder separated during football season. Second baseman Nick Kraus is out 14 days with a separated shoulder.
Francis Scott Key (3-17) pins its hopes for its first winning season since 1996 on a talented junior class, some of which has played baseball together since they were 7.
Junior pitchers Tyler Klein, Matt Rabette and Chad Shildt will all start. Outfielder Jordan Ricketts, shortstop Brad Stonesifer, catcher-third baseman Joe Morningstar all contributed significantly after being brought up for the last seven games.
Seniors Justin Bullock (second baseman) and Eddie Maloney (catcher) are returning starters for coach Jamie Hitchner.
North Carroll returns six starters, including catcher Bryant Mann; shortstop Jeff Yingling; outfielders Dustin Nash and David Dornberger; and pitchers Shawn Hampt and Chris Painter. Two junior pitchers, Ryan Myers and Matt Myers (not related), will help. Coach Denny Snyder likes his defense and speed in the outfielder.
Players to watch
(South Carroll, junior, pitcher)
In a no-hitter last season, he struck out 18 in 87 pitches
(Liberty, junior, outfielder/pitcher) Runs well, hits with power