The summer baseball season is underway, and many of Southern Maryland's high school baseball players will spend the coming weeks honing their skills for next season. For many graduates, the hope is to impress scouts and play baseball at a higher level. Here's a look at the teams from the Southern Maryland area:
Coach: Jimmy Payne (Northern assistant coach).
Top returning players: P Aaron Cook; P Adam Hoyt; P Spencer Lawson; 1B A.J. Marzilli; OF Jason Seufert; OF Danny Sydnor.
Newcomers: C Robert Elliot and C Jeff Hardesty.
Outlook: Calvert's two-season search for consistent pitching may be over, given the quality of this year's pitching staff. First-team All-Extra Joe Klein (Patuxent), a pitcher and first baseman, will team with returning pitchers Cook and All-Extra Hoyt (Calvert) to help fortify the mound.
"We're young, but this is the first time in the last couple of years we've had a pitching staff that will allow us to compete in every game," Payne said.
The team will look for consistency hitting the ball, too. Klein batted .317 during the school year, and All-Extra outfielder Seufert (Northern) batted .453 and slugged .660, leading the Patriots in both categories. Northern graduate Sydnor returns to the team after a year at the Naval Academy.
Coach: Ed Glaeser (Thomas Stone head coach).
Top returning players: P-IF Justin Armiger; P John Blazejewski; 1B Justin Crowell; C Aaron Jenkins; OF Billy Maddox; 2B Danny Michael.
Newcomers: OF Averill Butler; P John Kale; P Greg Rhoades; 3B Ryan Smith; P Ben Sobocinski; IF Danny Lydon; C Matt Gribble; P Ryan Baione.
Outlook: After going 16-19 last season and finishing under .500 for the first time in team history, Chaney is looking to restore itself as a contender in the Frank Riley League through solid hitting and run production.
All-Extra pitcher Sobocinski bats third. The rising senior hit .476 with 23 RBI while playing shortstop for McDonough and provides versatility and consistent hitting. All-Extra honorable mention Smith will bat cleanup.
"Those guys fill two big holes in our lineup and provide stability on our field," Glaeser said. "They give us what we've been lacking for years: a legitimate three and four hitter."
Glaeser is making a comeback of sorts, too. He rejoins Chaney as coach after taking off last season. At the start of his 21st season, his team is in first place in the Frank Riley League (5-0).
La Plata Post 82 (Formerly Known as Design Corps)
Coach: Dan Devitis (La Plata head coach).
Top returning players: 1B-P Josh DePuy; IF-P Drew Howells; 3B T.C. Renner; OF-P Flynt Smith.
Newcomers: OF Andy Beckett; OF-P Jacen Killebrew; 1B-P Josh Matthews; C Jason Murray; C-OF Justin Rabon; 2B Ray Shontere.
Outlook: Pitching and defense have been solid, but producing runs has been a source of concern for the team. During its first four games this season, 27 runners have been stranded on base.
"If we can just drive in some runs, we'd really be able to compete," said Devitis, who is entering his 10th season as coach.
DePuy, Renner and Smith -- all La Plata graduates with four years of experience with the team -- will be counted on to help lift the struggling offense. DePuy, who batted .385 last season, is the likely catalyst to provide an offensive spark.
Tony Grimes, John Micklas, Mike Tayman and Killebrew help strengthen the pitching rotation. Tayman, a 2004 La Plata graduate, missed most of the high school season because of an injury to his throwing shoulder.
Coach: Don DeGraves.
Top returning players: OF Frank Baines; P Andy Benjes; OF Corey Jones; IF Charlie Owen; 2B Kevin Rogers; P Marshall Skudlarek.
Newcomers: C Nick Benjes; OF Andrew Carmack; P-OF Shawn Ridgeway.
Outlook: Having lost eight games by one run last season, St. Mary's looks to bolster its defense. Left-hander Benjes and right-hander Skudlarek are the focus of a pitching rotation that also includes Ridgeway, a rising senior at Chopticon.
The team is made up mainly of players from Leonardtown, which finished third in the SMAC, and Great Mills, which finished last, so DeGraves really doesn't know what to expect.
"We have a stronger offensive attack than we did last year," DeGraves said. "Defensively, fundamentally, we need to make the play. [We need to] keep our pitching staff healthy, and we'll be okay."
-- Carl Little