Westlake senior John Blazejewski -- a reliever with 14 innings of varsity experience -- already had a sizable challenge when he was pegged as the Wolverines' No. 2 starter this spring. After junior ace Shayne O'Dell went down with a shoulder injury before the season started, Blazejewski suddenly found himself on the mound as Westlake's opening-day hurler.

That outing -- his first varsity start -- ended poorly in a loss to McDonough. But Blazejewski rebounded with complete game victories over Great Mills and La Plata in his next two starts, keeping Westlake in the middle of the pack in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.

"I didn't do what I expected to do [against McDonough], so that worried me a little, but the game after that I was back pitching the way I'm used to pitching," Blazejewski said. "Coach [Steve Willett] just told me I need to step up, and I'm trying to do that."

In a 5-3 win over La Plata last Thursday, junior Matt Gribble and sophomore Ryan Lightfoot put the Wolverines ahead with a pair of two-run doubles. Blazejewski made the lead stand up, allowing just three hits in the game.

"We told him, 'Hey, you're a number one now,'

" said Willett, a La Plata graduate and former Warriors assistant coach. "You never know when you're going to get your chance. His chance is now, and he's making the most of it."

O'Dell is expected to miss three to four more weeks.

Higdon Throws a Gem

Patuxent junior Mike Higdon pitched well in six starts last year, although bad bounces and a lack of run support prevented him from earning his first career win. The run support didn't improve in his first start this season, but it hardly mattered; Higdon threw a complete-game three-hitter to lead the Panthers to a 2-0 win over Great Mills on Friday.

"I kept thinking something bad was going to happen in the last couple innings, because that's what had happened before," said Higdon, who struck out seven and walked one. "We just have to keep shutting people out. We can't be beat if they don't score."

First-year Patuxent coach Keith Powell was hoping to use Higdon primarily in relief, but the compressed schedule caused by postponements, along with Higdon's strong performance, likely will have him starting the rest of the year.

"He made it look easy" against Great Mills, Powell said. "I told him it was one of the best-pitched games I've ever seen."

The Panthers were 2-2 in the SMAC through Monday despite scoring just nine runs in league play. Against Great Mills, they were sparked by junior leadoff man Josh Bruce, who scored both runs. Senior outfielder Ross Davis is swinging the hottest bat, with a .538 average through Monday.

Calvert Plays Long-Ball

Calvert Coach Guy Smith was confident in his pitching and defense entering this season but was less sure about an offensive attack that produced just one home run last year.

After four games, 28 runs scored and three homers, the hitting appears to be just fine. Senior Dane Donnelly and junior Matt Payne went deep in a season-opening win over Chopticon, and Storm Griffin hit a two-run shot in a 7-6 win over Thomas Stone on Friday.

"That's very surprising; we barely hit home runs in practice," Smith said. "They shock themselves sometimes. It's good to see, and it excites them."

The Cavaliers have also been bolstered by senior reliever John Henderson, who has closed out two of their victories. Against Thomas Stone, he stranded a man on second in the sixth and allowed only a walk in the seventh.

After pitching through tough luck in a winless season last year, Patuxent junior Mike Higdon earned his first career victory with a shutout of Great Mills on Friday. "He made it look easy," said Panthers Coach Keith Powell.