Atholton Raiders

Coach: Kevin Kelly (13th season).

Last year: 20-5 overall, 13-5 Howard County.

Last state semifinal: 2002.

Last state title: 2002.

Last year in playoffs: Beat Southern of Anne Arundel County, 10-0, in Maryland 2A championship.

Outlook: The Raiders finished last year on a roll, as Steve Merson's game-ending home run secured their first state championship, but much of the nucleus of that team is in college. Senior Vyt Rivers is the lone remaining all-county selection and will be counted on at the plate and from the mound. He batted .434 with 5 home runs, 11 doubles and 36 RBI. The Raiders have other hitters, including senior shortstop James Conrad (.372, 17 RBI, 16 stolen bases, 3 home runs) and senior center fielder Joel Krueger (.292, 18 RBI). Pitching is lacking, with Matt Revelle now at Lafayette College and Merson at Towson University. Rivers, a hard-throwing left-hander, should pick up much of the slack, as his 4-2 record and 1.86 ERA from last season indicate. Sophomore right-hander David Grossman, who played last season on Wilde Lake's varsity, and junior right-hander Chris Dooley will help. Kelly said he will have trouble replacing consistent catcher Brian Trigger and is deciding between Curtis Crouse and Fred Graham.

Centennial Eagles

Coach: Denis Ahearn (first season).

Last year: 15-8 overall, 12-6 Howard County.

Last state semifinal: 2001.

Last state title: 2001.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Atholton, 7-6, in Maryland 2A West Region championship.

Outlook: Ahearn, 26, last coached two seasons of junior varsity baseball at Mamaroneck High in New York and inherits a Centennial team that had a tough time hitting last year and graduated its top two pitchers. The Eagles are only two years removed from the Maryland 2A title, and two members of that team are back as seniors. Andrew Bechta and A.J. Tinnirella were all-county selections last season and form a solid nucleus on the left side of the infield. Bechta, a sure-fielding third baseman, hit .365 last season with one home run and 17 RBI. Tinnirella has more power than any shortstop in the league and hit .446 last season with one home run, 14 RBI and 10 stolen bases. The Eagles lack pitching depth after graduation of Brad Loveless and Tom Phelan. Junior left-hander Jonathan Dupski was 3-0 as the number three pitcher last season and will top a rotation that could include junior left-hander Todd Abicht, senior right-hander Scott Middleton and senior right-hander Steve Seh. Ahearn said senior Jeff Miller will provide pop in the middle of the lineup and could play catcher or first base, while senior J.L. Feeley, an all-county football and hockey player, is likely to start in center field again.

Chapelgate Christian

Yellow Jackets

Coach: David Stokes (third season).

Last year: 12-2 MIAA B Division II, 14-6 overall.

Last conference title: 1998.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to St. Mary's, 5-2, in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference semifinal.

Outlook: The Yellow Jackets' success last season revolved around right-handed pitcher Steve Evans, and this year will be no different. He has added several miles per hour to the fastball that helped him to a 7-1 record and all-conference honors last season. Signed to play at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Evans had a 0.98 ERA in 50 innings and struck out 91 batters. He will be joined on the pitching staff by junior Brian Moran (4-1, 1.35 ERA), a right-hander who had as much success at the plate as on the mound last season. He hit six home runs from the leadoff spot and batted .438 with 25 RBI. He will move to the No. 3 spot. Infielder Robbie Spikes (.306, 13 RBI, 10 walks) becomes leadoff hitter, and junior John Hein (.365, 12 RBI) brings his big bat back at catcher. Seniors Jason Harlow (.327, 12 RBI) and Ryan Shinholt (.236, 9 RBI) will start in the outfield.

Glenelg Gladiators

Coach: Tom Thrasher (seventh season).

Last year: 13-9 overall, 10-8 Howard County.

Last state semifinal: 1999.

Last state title: 1999.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Walkersville in 2A West Region semifinal.

Outlook: Twelve Gladiators graduated, but what Glenelg lacks in experience, it hopes to make up with speed. With five state championships, the county's most successful program plans to run a lot, utilizing all-county football players Randy Gardner and Tim Siders. Siders, a junior, was Glenelg's leading junior varsity hitter last season, while Gardner, a senior, has a year of varsity experience. Senior third baseman Joe DiMarco and senior middle infielder Tim Phelps are the team's most proven hitters, and Thrasher said they will have to produce to make up for the graduation of all-county catcher Rob LaHayne and all-county outfielder Brian Hollrah. Junior right-hander Mike Corona proved himself in several big games last year, and despite a loss in the 2A West Region semifinals to Walkersville, he will be the ace. Senior right-hander Kevin Furlough, junior right-hander John Keravich and sophomore left-handers Steve Dulaney and Seth Michael will contribute to the rotation.

Glenelg Country Dragons

Coach: Al Poklemba (fourth season).

Last year: 16-3 overall, 13-1 MIAA B Conference Division I.

Last conference title: Won C Conference title in 2001.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to St. Mary's and Chapelgate in MIAA B Conference double-elimination tournament.

Outlook: The Dragons lost their first conference game last year and didn't lose again until the conference tournament. Senior Greg Koffel is one of five returning starters for a team deep in pitching but lacking in experience. Koffel was 5-1 last year, and the right-hander will be the number one pitcher. He is not overpowering but mixes pitches well and has excellent control, Poklemba said. Besides Koffel and seniors Ian Spector (shortstop), Dom Uccillini (third base), Aaron Tolentino (second base), Won Lee (center field) and Dan Kentner (pitcher), the Dragons have a unique experience gap. The team has no sophomores or juniors, and Poklemba expects at least three freshmen to start. They are Adam Lovewell (catcher/infield), Brad Crawford (outfield) and Austin Gapsis (catcher).

Hammond Golden Bears

Coach: Mike Lerner (second season).

Last year: 14-8 overall, 11-7 Howard County.

Last state semifinal: 1993.

Last state title: None.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to in Maryland 2A West Region.

Outlook: Marcus Anders may be one of the county's top pitchers, but beyond the senior right-hander, the Golden Bears are thin in pitching and inexperienced on offense. Anders, who throws in the low 80s and mixes pitches well, was 3-4 with a 3.93 ERA last season and averaged nearly a strikeout per inning (63 Ks, 64 IP). He could carry Hammond at times, but junior right-hander Brian Briggs and sophomore right-hander Kell Kulina must step up, too. In recent seasons, the Golden Bears have been known for offense, but Lerner said runs may be hard to find this season. Other than Anders, who hit three home runs and had 15 RBI while splitting time at third, senior first baseman Tim Corrick is the only returning starter. He batted .264 with nine RBI season. Lerner expects big things out of junior center fielder Nick Purdy, a late-season call-up from the junior varsity last year. He was 3 for 8 in his short stay and got a hit off Centennial's star pitcher, Brad Loveless, in his second varsity at-bat. Purdy likely will lead off, Lerner said, while junior Jay Benedetti bats third. The brother of all-county shortstop Joey Benedetti, Jay will play second base or catch.

Howard Lions

Coach: Rich Jenkins (18th season).

Last year: 9-12 overall, 8-10 Howard County.

Last state semifinal: 1999.

Last state title: None.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Centennial, 2-0, in 2A West Region quarterfinal.

Outlook: Last year, the Lions had all-county standout Matt Holley on the mound. This year, they have depth. Senior right-hander Ryan Albright stumbled last season after a solid sophomore year but could be the number one starter, although he could be challenged by sophomore right-hander Brad Miller, a solid all-around athlete. Right-hander Steve DiMarzo, a transfer from Pallotti, should round out the rotation, and left-handers Danny Fields and Alex Kapinos and right-handers Nick O'Connor and Ryan D'Antuano could be factors. Senior catcher Chris Masters (.312, 13 RBI) is the only four-year starter in Jenkins's 18 years at Howard, and Jenkins expects him to be as solid at the plate as behind it. The Lions' were dealt a blow when junior outfielder Derrick McPhearson transferred to DeMatha in August, so seniors must provide the bulk of the offense. They are Masters, third baseman Steve Siani, right-fielder Tim McNulty and shortstop Mike McDermott. Miller will play second when not pitching.

Long Reach Lightning

Coach: Tim O'Brien (seventh season).

Last year: 15-9 overall, 11-7 Howard County.

Last state semifinal appearance: None.

Last state title: None.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Severna Park, 8-7, in 3A East Region championship.

Outlook: A year removed from the best season in school history, Long Reach can still do what it did best last year -- mash the ball. The potent bats, which stung opponents last season with a .393 average and more than eight runs a game, carried the Lightning within a game of the state semifinals, and much of the core returns, including the top half of the lineup. Senior third baseman Joe Lake, who has signed with James Madison, will bring his hot bat to the third spot. An all-county selection, he hit .427 with 18 RBI and a home run. Junior Jereme Scott (.371, 13 RBI, 6 SBs) may be one of the most athletically gifted players in the county and will roam center field and bat leadoff. Junior shortstop Robbie O'Brien (.397, 13 RBI) is as reliable as they come, and senior first baseman Ryan Pope (.371, 4 HRs, 25 RBI) is the quintessential cleanup hitter -- big, strong, and capable of hitting a ball from Columbia to Clarksville. Junior right fielder Scott Peddicord (.471, 18 RBI) nearly led the county in hitting last season as a sophomore. But the Lightning may go to pitching by committee, using four to five a game, including Pope (3-1, 6.03 ERA), senior Mark Pavlosky (1-1, 3.50 ERA), and Robbie O'Brien, who may bring out his knuckleball again.

Mount Hebron Vikings

Coach: Matt Forsyth (sixth season).

Last year: 16-6 overall, 14-4 Howard County.

Last state title: None.

Last state semifinal appearance: 1980.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Long Reach, 7-6, in 3A East Region semifinal.

Outlook: Things are looking different for the Vikings. After winning a second county title in three years, Mount Hebron has a lineup that could include only one player who hit over .300 last year and a pitching rotation with no varsity experience. The lone .300 hitter, senior and sometimes pitcher Adam Grap, has been slowed by a nagging shoulder injury and will play exclusively at catcher. The Vikings' starting rotation could consist of juniors Jonathan Ragland and Jeff Carr. Neither pitched for the varsity last year, though Ragland, a lanky 6-foot-2 right-hander with good control, threw a JV no-hitter. When Carr, a right-hander, is not pitching, he will play first base and should improve on his junior campaign in which he hit around .200. The team's most consistent hitter could be junior Andrew Hoffner, whose brother, Nick, a standout, graduated. Andrew will move from left field to center, his brother's former position. Junior catcher Mike Michalski is also following in a brother's footsteps and could spell Grap behind the plate when not in right field. His brother, Joe, was an all-county catcher two years ago and had a solid freshman season at George Washington University.

Oakland Mills Scorpions

Coach: Rick Ewart (fifth season).

Last year: 0-21 overall, 0-18 Howard County.

Last state semifinal appearance: 1987.

Last state title: None.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Catoctin in 1A South Region quarterfinal.

Outlook: Oakland Mills hasn't won in more than two seasons, but Ewart is confident that the Scorpions can snap that streak. Senior left-hander Danny Oleynik has excellent control and a fastball in the low 80s, and with run support, could be one of the league's top pitchers. He received little run or defensive support last season and was 0-7. Oleynik is the top returning hitter, too, after batting .429 last year. Senior catcher Phil Grove provides pop in his third varsity season. He batted close to .300 last year, Ewart said, and can spray the ball everywhere. Ewart also expects big things from sophomore Tyler O'Neill, who hit .290 last season as a freshman on the varsity. Tyler Price, a transfer from Colorado, is a gifted athlete who should contribute in the infield, and senior Mike Surendra has a good bat and strong arm in the outfield.

River Hill Hawks

Coach: Rick Lloyd (seventh season).

Last year: 9-12 overall, 8-10 Howard County.

Last state semifinal: 2000.

Last state title: None.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Mount Hebron, 5-0, in 3A East Region quarterfinal.

Outlook: River Hill's stellar trio of starting pitchers could return the Hawks to the form that landed them in the state semifinals three years ago. Senior Kevin Marrie (3-5, 4.36 ERA) is a 6-foot-5 right-hander whose fastball that has been clocked at 92mph. He will attend Coastal Carolina next year and could be drafted. Senior left-hander Mike Anton (3-3, 7.25 ERA, 52 strikeouts) has signed with Virginia Military Institute and mixes a great curve ball with a fastball a notch below Marrie's. Senior right-hander Steve Cornelius had the best junior year at 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA. Senior Wes McCoy (.356, 3 home runs, 15 RBI) was the most consistent hitter and will move from first base to outfield. Junior Dan Konapelsky (.367, 14 RBI) will take over at first, and the Hawks will need more production from senior second baseman Bryan Bednarczyk (.255, five RBI). Senior Chris Martin, all-county defensive player of the year in football, returns to the diamond after a year of lacrosse and is expected to start in the outfield.

Wilde Lake Wildecats

Coach: Don Storr (eighth season).

Last year: 4-17 overall, 4-14 Howard County.

Last state semifinal: Never.

Last state title: None.

Last year in playoffs: Lost to Long Reach, 11-5, 3A East Region quarterfinal.

Outlook: Wilde Lake's last winning season was four years ago, and with a strong junior class and a deep pitching rotation, Storr believes the Wildecats can escape the dreaded "rebuilding stages" and reach .500. Junior Kevin Showe (3-6, 7.73 ERA) is the top returning pitcher, leading a deep staff. Junior Tim Lima's pitching was limited capacity last season, but he will be the number two starter, and senior Greg Hull was a pleasant surprise, Storr said. Junior Ryan Schultheis is better known for hitting but will be counted on to take the mound several times. As a hitter, Schultheis could be the team's most dynamic player. A hard-hitting outfielder, he slumped last year while his brother, Brandon ,exploded at the plate, and Ryan could follow in Brandon's footsteps. When Showe is not pitching, he will move to the outfield from second base. Lima (.227, 9 RBI) has been reliable at shortstop since midway through his freshman season, and junior David Marmo will start at third . Hull will play first when not pitching.

-- Todd Jacobson

Third baseman Andrew Bechta, who hit .365 last season, was an all-county selection last season for Centennial, which finished 15-8. Senior middle infielder Tim Phelps dives for the ball. He has proven to be one of most dependable hitters for the Gladiators, who graduated 12 seniors from last year's team.Senior catcher Chris Masters, who hit .312 last season, is the only four-year starter for Howard in Coach Rich Jenkins's 18 years. Long Reach's Joe Lake, an all-county pick last season who batted .427 and has signed with James Madison, jumps out of the way as Severna Park's Andrew Gosman slides into the base.