2014 Maryland high school baseball playoff preview


Poolesville ace Robbie Metz (left) and Arundel shortstop Michael Hinley hope to lead their respective teams on deep postseason runs. (Ricky Carioti/Doug Kapustin/The Washington Post)
May 8

The Maryland state baseball playoffs begin on Friday, and this year, some of the tournament’s best games might be played not in the state championship, or state semifinals, or even the region finals.

This year, the wealth of the state tournament intrigue is in the section finals.

The tournament, like other sports, is divided into four classifications, each with four regions. Each region has two sections, which were predetermined before the start of the season. The top two teams in each section received the top two seeds, with the remaining teams seeded by a blind draw.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, this has created a series of power sections, each with unavoidable marquee matchups before the region final. Teams that in the past might have met in the region final are now meeting one round earlier, adding an extra level of excitement — and, for some teams, an undeservedly early exit.

With that in mind, here’s everything that you need to know about this season’s Maryland baseball playoffs.

Maryland 4A

(2013 final: South River defeated Catonsville, 6-0)

4A North Region

No. 1 seeds: Paint Branch (11-6), Perry Hall (11-5)

Contenders: Sherwood (11-7), Howard (11-7)

Upset potential: Catonsville (7-9)

Potential games to watch:

■ Howard at Sherwood, region quarterfinal

■ Sherwood at Paint Branch, region semifinal

Breakdown:

There’s not much of a gap between Paint Branch and Sherwood, at least on paper. They were neck-and-neck in the Montgomery County standings for much of the regular season, and their only head-to-head meeting resulted in a 2-1 win for Sherwood on April 9. While Sherwood likely has the best player in this part of the bracket, All-Met and UMBC commit Matt Chanin, the Warriors also have one of the area’s toughest first games. To even get the chance to face Paint Branch in the region semis, they have to get past Howard, which has won seven of its past eight. The other section of the bracket features Baltimore-area stalwarts Perry Hall and Dulaney (12-6). Last year’s state finalist, Catonsville, is a No. 4 seed.

4A South Region

No. 1 seeds: Bowie (18-2), DuVal (13-2)

Contenders: Eleanor Roosevelt (14-3)

Upset potential: C.H. Flowers (8-5)

Potential games to watch:

■ Eleanor Roosevelt at Bowie, region semifinal

■ Eleanor Roosevelt or Bowie at DuVal, region final

Breakdown:

The 4A South has historically come down to Bowie and Eleanor Roosevelt, and that will likely be the case again this year. One of those two teams has reached the state semifinals in nine of the past 10 years and 17 of the past 20. The only difference this season is that their highly touted matchup will occur one round earlier, in the section final as opposed to the region final. The Bulldogs will have the upper hand in terms of both home-field advantage and confidence after winning the only regular-season matchup between the two teams in convincing fashion, 12-4, on April 10.

4A East Region

No. 1 seeds: Chesapeake (18-1), North Point (12-5)

Contenders: Arundel (16-2)

Upset potential: Broadneck (10-10), North County (11-9)

Potential games to watch:

■ North County at Arundel, first round

■ Arundel at Chesapeake, region semifinal

●North Point at Arundel or Chesapeake, region final

Breakdown:

Fans in Anne Arundel County are already circling a potential rematch between Arundel and Chesapeake on their calendars, but getting to that point is no sure thing. As the No. 1 seed, the Cougars have the benefit of a first-round bye while the Wildcats will be tested right away against North County, which received the No. 7 seed in the blind draw despite its solid regular-season record. The other half of the bracket could be equally exciting, with defending champion South River looking at a potential meeting with Kevin Hodgson (George Washington signee) and North Point. Still, look for this bracket to ultimately come down to two of the best 4A teams in the state: Chesapeake and Arundel. The winner of that game has the best chance to reach the state semifinals, and potentially continue the county’s winning baseball tradition at Ripken Stadium.

4A West Region

No. 1 seeds: Gaithersburg (17-2), Blair (12-4)

Contenders: Whitman (11-5), Wootton (13-4)

Upset potential: Quince Orchard (10-7), Clarksburg (11-4)

Potential games to watch:

■ Quince Orchard at Gaithersburg, region quarterfinal

■ Whitman at Blair, region semifinal

●Gaithersburg at Blair, region final

Breakdown:

The only all-Montgomery County bracket in the tournament will not disappoint, as some of region quarterfinal matchups could just as easily be region title games. Whitman and Bethesda-Chevy Chase (14-6), for example, could meet in a Battle of Bethesda in the region quarterfinal. Gaithersburg will open its tournament against Quince Orchard, as long as the Cougars can get past Northwest. And a pair of teams with only four losses apiece, Clarksburg and Wootton, could face off as early as Monday. Even if the seedings hold up, there will still be no shortage of drama as No. 1 seed Gaithersburg would face one of two teams that beat it all season, Blair, with a trip to the state tournament on the line.

Maryland 3A

(2013 final: Bel Air defeated La Plata, 3-2)

3A South Region

No. 1 seeds: La Plata (16-3), Stephen Decatur (13-1)

Contenders: Chopticon (12-4), Huntingtown (15-3)

Upset potential: Northeast (8-11), Thomas Stone (9-8)

Potential games to watch:

■ Chopticon at La Plata, region semifinal

■ La Plata at Stephen Decatur, region final

Breakdown:

Defending state finalist La Plata has been the class of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference all season, never allowing more than five runs in a SMAC game and suffering only two one-run losses in the conference. Yet if the Warriors win their region quarterfinal game, they will likely face one of those two teams that beat them this season: Chopticon or Thomas Stone. A third meeting with the Braves would be particularly interesting, especially if junior right-hander Ljay Newsome is on the mound. And a win there would likely set the stage for a rematch against Stephen Decatur — which La Plata edged, 5-4, in the state semifinals last year — in the region championship game.

3A East Region

No. 1 seeds: Atholton (18-1), Poly

Contenders: Reservoir (17-2)

Upset potential: River Hill (11-8)

Potential games to watch:

■ Reservoir at Atholton, region semifinal

■ Atholton or Reservoir at Poly, region final

Breakdown:

In a region largely populated by Howard County teams, it will be difficult for Atholton and Reservoir to not look past their respective region quarterfinal games to a potential meeting in the semifinals. That game, should it occur, could be the highlight of the entire East/West half of the 3A bracket, with the winner taking the inside track to the state championship game at Ripken Field. When the Raiders and Gators last met, Atholton’s Michael Slayton pitched a gem and Dan McCann hit a walk-off single off South Carolina commit Cody Morris. But with a fastball in the low 90s and a maturity beyond his years, Morris has the ability to silence an opponent on any given day. And he’ll have a little added motivation should he take the mound against Atholton again.

3A West Region

No. 1 seeds: Linganore (17-1), Seneca Valley (6-9)

Contenders: North Hagerstown (11-7)

Upset potential: Damascus (5-12), Rockville (6-12)

Potential games to watch:

■ Damascus at Seneca Valley, region semifinal

■ North Hagerstown at Linganore, region semifinal

Breakdown:

This region will likely be won by one of several tough Frederick County teams, including North Hagerstown, which has reached the state semifinals in three of the past four years. Montgomery County’s best hopes lie with Seneca Valley, which has won four of five and nearly knocked off Poolesville on April 24, and Rockville. Damascus could also make a run to the region semifinals after a favorable draw.

3A North Region

No. 1 seeds: Franklin (15-2), North Harford (17-1)

Maryland 2A

(2013 final: Catoctin defeated North Caroline, 4-2)

2A South Region

No. 1 seeds: Gwynn Park (9-5), Marriotts Ridge (11-6)

Contenders: Southern (11-8)

Upset potential: Patuxent (5-11)

Potential games to watch:

■ Southern at Gwynn Park, region semifinal

■ Southern or Gwynn Park at Marriotts Ridge, region final

Breakdown:

Despite their respective records, Marriotts Ridge, Gwynn Park and Southern have each shown an ability to compete with their county’s top teams this season. The Bulldogs have been among the top five teams in Anne Arundel County, even as a 2A school, while the Mustangs pushed two-time county champion Atholton to the brink last week in a 2-0 loss. Gwynn Park has struggled in low-scoring contests, and Southern is in the midst of a late-season skid, so look for Marriotts Ridge to emerge from this region.

2A West Region

No. 1 seeds: Poolesville (17-1), Middletown (14-4)

Contenders: Williamsport (14-4), South Carroll (13-3)

Upset potential: Winters Mill (11-5)

Potential games to watch:

■ South Carroll at Poolesville, region semifinal

■ Poolesville at Middletown or Williamsport, region final

Breakdown:

Poolesville is the only local team in this region, and also one of the favorites to reach Ripken Stadium. The Falcons have never advanced to the state semifinals, but they have a strong chance this season. Aided by a strong slate of scrimmages, they rolled through Montgomery County, picking up 16 consecutive wins against larger 3A and 4A schools. Poolesville has one of the state’s best pitchers in George Washington commit Robbie Metz, and one of its most consistent lineups, led by Thayer Seely and Chris Convers. But against Frederick County teams, the Falcons do not have the benefit of familiarity like their Montgomery County counterparts. How will that affect them?

2A North Region

No. 1 seeds: Randallstown (9-5), Loch Raven (8-10)

2A East Region

No. 1 seeds: Parkside (16-3), Rising Sun (15-2)

Maryland 1A

(2013 final: Cambridge/South Dorchester defeated Allegany, 15-0)

1A North Region

No. 1 seeds: Sparrows Point (10-5), Fairmont Heights (4-8)

Contenders: Surrattsville (5-5)

Potential games to watch:

■ Surrattsville at Fairmont Heights, region semifinal

Breakdown:

Of the four Prince George’s County teams in this bracket, Surrattsville probably has the best chance to advance. The Hornets managed to keep pace with some of the county’s larger schools and beat Fairmont Heights, 10-0, on April 23.

1A South Region

No. 1 seeds: Douglass, KASA

1A East Region

No. 1 seeds: Havre de Grace, Cambridge/South Dorchester

1A West Region

No. 1 seeds: Allegany, Brunswick

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