Anne Arundel County
Arundel may not be a factor in the Anne Arundel County baseball race for the first time in coach Bernie Walter's 30 years at the Gambrills school.
Defending county champion Severna Park (19-6) and runner-up Old Mill (16-6) appear to be the teams to beat once again.
Broadneck (14-7) and Southern of Harwood (10-15), the county's only 2A team that was a state finalist last spring, also figure to be in the county race.
Chesapeake (13-9), Glen Burnie (13-9) and Northeast (14-9) have a lot of question marks, but should be competitive as usual.
North County (10-11) and South River (4-16) are teams to keep an eye on.
Defending A Division champ Poly returns second-team All-Metro pitcher/outfielder Corey Cascio, all-around player Brandon Roanes (.417 batting average) and center fielder Alexander Leight-Pappas (.300) from a team that went 18-1.
Fourth-year starting pitcher/third baseman Chris Wilkins and outfielder Leon Walker are among five seniors back for Mervo, which went 15-6. For Patterson (15-4 last year), Jason Sharnas, Matt Steele and David Evans are leaders for a team that should be near the top of the eight-team conference.
Carver, Douglass, Forest Park, Lake Clifton, Southern and Northwestern make up the B Division.
The balance that has defined Baltimore County baseball should continue again this year. Parkville and defending 4A-3A county champion Eastern Tech should be the strongest teams in the 4A-3A, but Dulaney, Franklin and Kenwood also will be contenders.
At Eastern Tech, the Mavericks return a strong hitting team. Parkville has seven of nine starters back, including pitcher Justin Griffith. Franklin lost most of its power hitters from last year, but pitcher Matt Ridgely and shortstop Kyle Campbell return. Dulaney returns most of its pitching from last year.
In the 2A-1A, Catonsville and Overlea should be the teams to beat, followed by Hereford and Towson.
South Carroll lost some key players from last year's surprise Class 3A state champions, but coach George Richardson still has plenty of talent.
Richardson lost his top three starting pitchers and will need Ryan Harrison (0-1 last year) to anchor his mound corps.
Center fielder Corey Greene (.333) and infielder Brad Mayr (.366) will anchor the offense.
Westminster lost several key players, but coach Bryan Harman still has plenty of talent.
North Carroll also lost key players, but has sophomore Dave Dixon and other solid contributors.
Jason Green, who played for Francis Scott Key in the mid-1980s, takes over as the Eagles' coach.
In his first year back at Fallston last season, Mark Puckett guided the Cougars to a county title. The consensus is that Fallston is a prime contender again, though it should see plenty of competition.
The Cougars return 10 players, led by left-handed pitcher Adam Canning and infielder Phil Vornadore. Fallston should be strong at the plate, but has inexperienced arms behind Canning.
C. Milton Wright, coached by Bryan Linz, may be the deepest team, especially on the mound, where the Mustangs have eight players who could contribute. After a year at military school, Mark Flaherty returns and will go behind the plate, moving Caleb Cole to second.
Pro scouts are expected to follow River Hill intently this season because the Hawks have two pitchers, Kevin Marrie and Mike Anton, who could be drafted in June.
Marrie, a 6-foot-5, 212-pound right-hander, has signed with Coastal Carolina and throws 90 mph. Anton, a 6-3, 175-pound left-hander, has signed with VMI and throws in the high 80s.
The Hawks, 9-12 last season, also have Steve Cornelius, a third-year, three-pitch pitcher whose ERA was 3.40. This trio of pitchers makes River Hill the team to beat. Long Reach, 15-7 last season, also should be a contender even without a pitching ace. The Lightning returns six impressive hitters.
St. Paul's (25-7) has the big guns back to defend its Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title.
Mount St. Joseph (21-7) and Calvert Hall (16-14), the A Conference runner-up, also have a wealth of returnees to challenge the Crusaders along with Cardinal Gibbons (13-12) and McDonogh (13-11).
John Carroll, Archbishop Curley, Gilman and Archbishop Spalding are all rebuilding and have a lot of question marks. John Carroll (12-10) started strong last spring, but was hit hard by graduation.
Chapelgate (14-7) is expected to challenge defending B Conference champion Severn School (18-3) and runner-up St. Mary's (14-9) for the title.