Brian Ellis won't soon forget "the look of disappointment" on his teammates' faces after last year's Class 2A North regional baseball playoff loss to Eastern Tech.
"I especially felt bad for the seniors because they all worked so hard and they would never be able to wear the Poly uniform again," said Ellis, 17, who is now a senior. "The attitude of this year's team is one of more focus and seriousness. We have a great combination of experience and youth. I believe that we have the offense, defense and pitching to get it done this season."
By get it done, Ellis doesn't mean that the Engineers simply want to win their ninth consecutive Baltimore City League title. With an unbeaten record in their first five games against city opponents, Poly appears to be well on its way toward accomplishing that.
But with six returning starters from last year's regional runner-up, the Engineers have their sights set not only on dethroning Eastern Tech as regional champion, but also on winning the state title.
"Since I've been at Poly, we've been the class of the city, and I can't see why things will be any different. But winning the city title is not enough for our team. We have the same goals as many other teams in Maryland, and that's to win states," said Ellis, a right-handed pitcher who is headed for Salisbury University.
"We believe that, outside of the city, we get little to no respect," Ellis added. "This year, we've set out to gain the respect of everyone."
Poly certainly gained the respect of Parkville. Ellis pitched a complete game and struck out nine as the Engineers routed the then-No. 4 and previously unbeaten Knights, 9-2, on Saturday.
The Engineers are in their third season under coach Corey Goodwin, whose career record improved to 40-6 after the win at Parkville.
"Even though all of my starters are returning players, my bench is full of new guys," said Goodwin, a 1995 graduate of Lake Clifton. "We have two freshmen, four sophomores, five juniors and six seniors. But our pitching is our strong point, and we're looking forward to another special season."
Ellis, 5 feet 9, 165 pounds, is a returning first-team All-Baltimore City selection.
"Brian's small stature gets dismissed by opponents until the minute he throws that first pitch - but he's a bulldog on the mound," Goodwin said.
"Brian throws in the mid-80s, has command of four pitches and led the team in strikeouts last season," Goodwin said. "Brian has an enormous amount of heart and pride and refuses to be taken lightly. When Brian is on the mound, his teammates feel that they can't lose."
Ellis, who carries a 3.2 grade point average, was batting .625 with four RBIs, a home run and six runs in five games.
"Brian's always had the respect of his teammates, but he really came [into his own] as a junior being named team captain," Goodwin said. "Brian's role and his designation as the team's leader forced him to become a more well-rounded overall player."
Although Goodwin considers Ellis to be the staff's ace, Ellis is getting plenty of support from senior Brian White. White, 5-11, 180, struck out 14 on the way to defeating Edmondson.
Goodwin considers junior pitcher-center fielder Troy King to be "flat out our best all-around player and our No. 3 starter." Senior Ryan Divan also pitches.
Goodwin added that King has a "knack for the game that few players in the city have."
"Troy led our team in home runs last year from the leadoff spot. He remains the team's spark plug, batting from the No. 3 position," Goodwin said. "Kids in the city often get overlooked because of the competition. But if anyone overlooks this kid, it's a huge mistake."
King, 17, has a .750 batting average, eight RBIs, two doubles and a triple and is 7-for-8 on stolen-base attempts. Against Parkville, King had three hits, including a triple, and two steals.
"Even as an underclassman, I believe that my abilities and my [aggressive] play also make me a leader. I work hard and try to help my teammates become better players, and I have a passion for the game," said King, a B-average student.
"Even though this Poly team has a greater number of younger players, I believe we can advance further than we did last year because we're much stronger and confident offensively and defensively," King added. "We were one or two mistakes away from a regional title, so the memories of last year's game against Eastern Tech are terrible. The guys on our team don't want to have the same feelings as we did at the end of last season."