High Point, a Class 4A school located in northern Prince George's County, and Paint Branch, a Class 3A school in Montgomery County, are about a 15-minute drive apart. Since they are in different classes and play different schedules, they never meet on the athletic field. But High Point's longtime baseball coach Bill Timberlake knows of the Panthers' success and, because of their proximity, always schedules preseason scrimmages.

"When we scrimmaged, I saw all their pitchers. They must have six or seven," said Timberlake, in his 20th season at High Point. "They have some fine players."

Paint Branch Coach Paul Fahrner would undoubtedly say the same thing about the Eagles. Perhaps those scrimmages paid off as both are among the area's top teams and, for the first time ever, will represent their counties Saturday when they contend for Maryland state baseball championships.

High Point (19-2) will take on Perry Hall (19-0) for the 4A title in the last of four games at McCurdy Field in Frederick at 7 p.m. Paint Branch (19-0) will play Northern (16-5) at 4.

High Point earned its first final berth when Danny LaPointe (9-1) held power-hitting defending state champion Old Mill in check in a 7-4 semifinal victory.

"Danny did something his brother Paul couldn't do," Timberlake said. "Paul was our pitcher on our other real good team in 1984. We lost to Old Mill that day, 5-3 {in a state semifinal}. Some things you don't forget."

Timberlake and the Eagles won't forget their big victory Tuesday night but right now must find a way to solve Perry Hall.

"Pitching and defense has been our strength all season," Timberlake said. "We don't get many hits so we have to depend on our strengths. With catcher Charlie Hall, shortstop Greg Prochnow, center fielder Steve Woo, we're strong up the middle. And with Danny and Todd Murphy {10-1}, we have strong pitching. And both are juniors."

Although Ryan Lambert pitched a complete game in Tuesday's 11-3 semifinal victory over Catonsville, Fahrner said he will probably start his freshman against Northern.

"I have thought about this long and hard and, for strategic purposes, I think I will start Ryan," Fahrner said. "If something doesn't go as planned, I still have Dave {Seidel}. Both are rested and will be ready."

Seidel, a junior, is 8-0 with an ERA of 0.87. Lambert is also 8-0 with an ERA of 1.32. Seidel, who also plays third base, is one of the top hitters on the Panthers (.468). Second baseman Todd Babbit is hitting .491 with 27 RBI and shortstop-pitcher Dave Duggan is batting .474 with five home runs and 27 RBI.

Should both Lambert and Seidel run into trouble, Fahrner can also turn to Duggan, a senior who was expected to be the team's top pitcher until hurting his shoulder before the season. His injury wasn't as serious as first diagnosed.

"Ryan has been the biggest surprise," Fahrner said. "For a freshman, he has so much poise on the mound. We've done a lot better than I thought we would. I watched Northern play and {Felbert} Jones is a good pitcher. We expect to see him on Saturday."

Tonight, West Springfield (18-5) will try to end a three-year bridesmaid role when it faces defending Virginia state AAA champion W.T. Woodson for the Northern Region baseball title at Fairfax at 4 p.m.

Woodson (20-3), which beat Langley, 6-1, in a semifinal Wednesday night, will pitch ace Doug Newstrom. West Springfield, which split regular season games with the Cavaliers this season, has lost in the region final the last three seasons. But because of the new eight-team alignment, both teams will advance to the state playoffs. Tonight's West Springfield-Woodson winner will play the loser of tonight's Heritage vs. George Washington-Danville game Tuesday at Fairfax at 8. The West Springfield-Woodson loser will play at the Heritage-GW winner's site.

Chantilly (18-3) will face Oakton (19-4) for the Northern Region softball title tonight at Wakefield Park at 7. Both teams also advance to the state quarterfinals.

The era of Surrattsville All-Met Michelle Collins, the finest softball pitcher in this area the last four years, is over as her team was eliminated in the Maryland state semifinals by Elkton, 2-0. Other area schools still alive and playing today at Upton Park in Glen Burnie are Seneca Valley (12-5) vs. Chesapeake (16-3) in Class 4A at 6, Northeast (18-0) vs. North East (17-2) in 2A at 4 p.m. and Brooklyn Park (12-6) vs. Catoctin (19-0) in 1A at 4.