The Favorite

Calvert is obviously the team to beat. The Cavaliers have only allowed four runs as they swept through the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. With nine players returning from last year's Maryland 3A finalist, Calvert has looked focused on getting back to the title game this season. The 3A South Region final could pit the Cavaliers against second-seeded Severna Park in a rematch of last year's state title game.

The Dark Horses

Many of the Anne Arundel County schools in the 4A East Region have not faced SMAC teams. Both third-seeded Thomas Stone or No. 5 Patuxent have shown some inconsistency, but if they are on their games, they could give top seeds Chesapeake and North County reason for concern.

Toughest Draw

So much for getting a first-round bye. Northern and La Plata have to face each other in the 3A South quarterfinals Monday just to get a likely semifinal matchup with top-seeded Calvert. The top two teams from Anne Arundel County -- Severna Park and Northeast -- have first-round byes in the other half of the bracket. "Whoever wins this region deserves to be the state champion," La Plata Coach Tony Jones said.

Players to Watch

Jess Balta, Great Mills, junior, pitcher: More than half the runs Balta allowed were unearned. She threw three no-hitters and could carry the Hornets into a quarterfinal meeting with top seed Chesapeake in the 4A East Region.

Jamie Bussey, La Plata, senior, outfielder: Bussey moved into the leadoff spot for the final five games of the regular season and has done very well in jump-starting the offense.

Khourtni Hester and Lynn Pronobis, McDonough, freshmen, outfielders: Hester and Pronobis were the top two hitters for the Rams in a year of transition for the program. Pronobis is batting .406, while Hester is at .400.

Alex Sita, Northern, sophomore, outfielder: Sita, the Patriots' leadoff batter, hit safely in 16 of 19 games and paced the team with a .394 average and 20 runs.

Megan Travers, Calvert, senior, first baseman: A steadying influence over the Cavaliers' infield, Travers has not committed an error in two seasons and hit better than .350 this year.

-- Alan Goldenbach

La Plata's Jamie Bussey, shown beating out the throw to first in an April 30 game against Northern, has given the Warriors a spark in the leadoff spot.