No, the Interstate Athletic Conference baseball season isn't a foregone conclusion. It just seems that way sometimes.
For the last seven years, St. Albans has won the league title. Six of those years, Georgetown Prep has finished second. The trend may continue this spring, much to the frustration of the other quality teams, like Bullis, Sidwell Friends and Landon.
St. Albans has several all-IAC candidates back to defend the title again and Georgetown Prep is confident of its speed and defense. But if one of those teams falters just a step or two, there are some other teams that are plenty hungry for a title. And plenty tired of chasing the same clubs year after year.
St. Albans would has its entire infield back, including all-IAC first baseman Tony Silard. Second baseman Jesse Levine could win all-league honors.
Junior left-hander Terry Williams struck out 128 last year, but lost several one-run games and finished with a 7-6 record. Freshman Jonah Edelman will start in center field, but his ability has made Coach Bob Brown forget about his age.
"He may be our leadoff hitter," Brown said. "He made the team during walk-on tryouts. He's only about 5-foot-4, 120 pounds but he's real quick and he's everything we're looking for right now."
Georgetown Prep will try one more year to shake the bridesmaid role it has shouldered for so many years. Prep again finished second to St. Albans last year when the Little Hoyas went 13-5.
"I certainly expect to be in it again, since we have a lot of premier players back," said Coach Peter White. "Every year we seem to be chasing St. Alban's, but I think we can catch them this year if all goes well."
Part of the reason for that optimism is all-IAC outfielder Scott Farr, who batted .395 last season. Shortstop Brian Cashman led the league with 26 stolen bases (in 26 attempts) and the Little Hoyas may have quality pitchers in senior Keith Marino and junior Bill Sullivan.
Sullivan was 5-2 last year. Marino was an outfielder last season, but White thinks his strong arm will adapt well on the mound.
The Little Hoyas increased their team speed with the addition of Brendon Walsh, the captain of the track team last year. Walsh hit close to .600 early this spring and will probably be used as a designated hitter.
Team defense is another strong point, White said. He has John Schobb back, one of the league's best defensive first basemen.
"Team speed and defense can carry us a long way, and if our pitching gets better, we could be really good," White said. "I hope we can get past second place this year, because we're certainly capable of it."
Landon has a new head coach, Jerry Vanesse, but plenty of returning players he hopes can reverse last year's record of 6-10.
"That's my objective this season -- get that record turned around," Vanesse said. "I think we're capable of it. We have a lot of guys back."
Seniors Todd Rolapp and Mike Stevens will carry the bulk of the pitching chores, but Vanesse is still looking for an equally effective third starter and some bullpen people.
He has his best hitter back in first baseman-outfielder Neil Phillips, who batted close to .400 last year.
"Neil's a real good boy," Vanesse said. "He has good power; he can hit it anywhere. He's about 6-4 and a real good athlete."
Catcher Don Young will play behind the plate full time after platooning there last year. Vanesse hopes for a .400-type year from him, too.
"We start five seniors, so we're talking about some considerable experience," Vanesse said. "The IAC may not be the best baseball conference in the world, but we play pretty well here and we're going to have to do our best to compete successfully."