Until last season, area baseball teams went through the same annual scenario. They'd practice a few weeks in late February, trek south in March (losing most of their games), then return to play each other in an often futile effort to reach .500 by season's end.

In 1982, Navy returned from an 0-8-1 southern trip to win 29 of its last 35 games and advance to the NCAA Eastern regional finals, where it lost to Maine, 4-3.

The Midshipmen again are the exception to the rule that area baseball is relatively mediocre. They probably will improve more than any area team, with the possible exception of Howard.

American: Coach Dee Frady enters his 19th season with a depleted pitching staff. Senior right-hander Steve Arbogast (3-4, 2.76 ERA) and lefty Jim Sprow are the Eagles' only reliable starters, and Shaun Sutton their lone veteran reliever.

Speed and power also are not Eagle strengths. American lost Darryl Mann (.321, 14 SB), Howard Lockie (.325, 5 HR) and Neal Schultze (.314, 28 SB). Most of the offense will be supplied by junior Greg Wells (.336), American's top hitter last season, and catcher-outfielder Mike Spring (.291).

Catholic: Changes this season include a new coach (John Silk), a reduced level of competition (Division III) and a new league (Old Dominion Athletic Conference). The Cardinals are without their top seven hitters from last season's 21-14 club, including catcher Mike Tryon (.425 average), drafted by the Minnesota Twins.

Pitcher Hans Ziegler (6-1, 3.98 ERA, 3 shutouts), Catholic's lone senior, leads an untested staff that will need a strong season from freshman Tony Pinonsault and sophomores Chris Kappelmeier and Bill McDonnell. Center fielder John Giovannone (.265) will head the Cardinal offense. Catholic hit 13 home runs last year; its returning players had only two.

Georgetown: The Hoyas lost two offensive forces in left fielder Dwight Madison (.397, 48 of 49 stolen bases), drafted as a junior by the Cleveland Indians, and designated hitter Joe Niciforo (.428, 28 doubles, club-high 57 RBI). Nonetheless, Georgetown's infield defense remains tight with first baseman Chris O'Meara and third baseman Kurt Kaull (league-leading .563 last fall). Center fielder Steve Iannini is coming off a sensational freshman season (.463, 40 of 42 stolen bases).

The Hoyas will try to offset the loss of Kris Kinscherf, their top starter in 1982, with the addition of all-state freshmen Doug Starcher from Florida and Mickey McCully from Georgia. Left-handers Eddie Burke (5-2, 4.62) and Tom Bass (6-4) complete the rotation.

George Mason: The Patriots last season won 18 of 40 games mostly on the home-run swings of Don Van Steelant (club-high .410, 16 HR, 61 RBI) and Mike Esser (.340, 10 HR), both of whom graduated. This season, the long ball will be less apparent in an offense led by junior infielder Kevin Anderson (.328, 7 HR, 36 RBI) and outfielder Don Cosby (.294, 6 HR, 30 RBI as a freshman).

George Mason returns six pitchers on its nine-man staff, which may or may not be good news. Senior Leo Coates (3-2), who led the Patriots with a 5.53 ERA last season, is again joined by Dan Jankowitz (3-5) and sophomores Dan Atcheson (2-1) and Les Wright (2-2).

George Washington: The Colonials, under first-year Coach Jim Goss, return five of their starting eight from last year's 16-21 squad, but lack power and speed without all-star infielder Rod Peters (.336), outfielder Tony Tait (.373, team-leading 3 HR, 28 RBI, 14 stolen bases) and catcher Steve Doherty (.321).

George Washington's strength is its infield, where Kevin Fitzgerald, Nick Riccio and Marc Heyison return. The Colonials also have outfielder Rich Lamont, who led the team in hitting at .382. Pitching is spotty beyond senior right-hander Matt Jones (3-4, 4.10), formerly of Woodward High School, Tom Rudden (2-3, 4.37) and reliever Frank Van Zant (3-2, 4.15).

Howard: With his top hitters returning on a club loaded with underclassmen, Coach Chuck Hinton should improve on last season's 15-29 mark. Sophomore pitcher-outfielder Rozier Jordan (club-high .378, 56 hits, 35 runs) and junior third baseman Bobby Spencer (.368, 22 RBI) lead a proven Bison offense and catcher David Adams and second baseman Barry Jackson bolster a solid defense.

The pitching staff, which compiled a 7.10 earned run average last season, is again the team's sore spot. Gerald Adams (4-10) is the only returning starter with an earned run average under 7.00.

Maryland: The Terrapins lost six of their top eight hitters who keyed a .288 team batting average in 1982. Outfielders Tony Larioni (team-leading .368, 7 HR) and Steve Johnson (.342) have departed, leaving speedster Jimmy Brooks to take charge of the outfield. But the infield will suffer most, having lost second baseman Bob Zavarcik, shortstop Steve Miller and third baseman Tom Gordon.

Maryland's pitching staff, which yielded six runs per game last year, needs help to complement juniors Ken Echols (5-4, 4.30) and Mike Romanovsky (3-3, 4.55). The Terrapins lost their most effective reliever, Joe Lynch (4-1, 2.29).

Navy: The Midshipmen won a school-record 29 games last season, finishing second in the NCAA Northeast regional. This year, Coach Joe Duff, entering his 22nd season, has a bona fide chance to win 30, despite losing Bob Adrion (9-2, 3.66), EIBL pitcher of the year.

The remainder of the pitching staff is strong with starters Craig Michael (6-3, 2.39), Craig Gibson (3-1) and Steve Cochran (4-3) and reliever Scott Vogel. The lineup is solid with outfielders Andy Loferski (team-high .395, 39 RBI, 58 hits, 6 HR) and Andy Ponseigo (.363) and the infield young and capable with Tony Rodgers, Bob Dishman, Rick Wilson and Bart Rowe.