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   March Madness Hits Sports

Will Maryland go beyond the Final Four?:

March Madness Hits Sports

by Darrell Carter
Let's cut to the chase: who's going to be Cal Ripken's heir apparent?

All eyes will be on the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this month, as the ultimate in collegiate sports goes into high gear for its season climax. The NCAA men's basketball tournament is an unofficial month-long holiday in March.

Tournament competition has been minimal over the past few years for Baltimore area teams, except for the University of Maryland and the Naval Academy. Coach Gary Williams' teams made it to the NCAA or NIT tournaments throughout the 90's into the 21st century. Maryland's advancement this year to the "Final Four" was a first for the school. Entering the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Maryland was ranked #2 in the country. Seniors Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter will lead the Terps charge.

Coppin State College, in Baltimore City, surprised the college basketball world when the tiny college on North Avenue made it to the big dance twice in the last decade. Coppin's first trip stunned the world, when they advanced to the second round.

OriolesäIn February, we explored the pitching staff of the Baltimore Orioles. Let's take a look at the infielders and outfielders.

Infield:

The retirement of third baseman Cal Ripken has left a void in the infield that will be solidified by veterans, unknowns, and kid ballplayers. Youngsters Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons will challenge first baseman David Segui and shortstop Mike Bordick, respectively, for playing time. ibbons, a former Rule V draftee in December 2000, hit 15 homeruns in his rookie season before going on the disabled list in early August. Roberts, a draft pick in 1999, was one of seven first-round picks for the O's in the annual amateur draft selection. He was a mid-season call-up when Bordick was injured. Roberts is known for his speed, where he stole 12 bases last season.

Minor league talent Eddy Garabito and prospect Eddy Rogers (at press time, both are having visa problem' entering the US from the Dominican Republic) will compete to serve as the utility infielder for the major league club. Also benefiting from Garabito and Rogers visa problems are former Minnesota Twins utility infielder Mike Moriarty. He will get a long look in camp, though the odds of the journeyman ballplayer making the club are slim.

The heir apparent to Cal Ripken at third will be Tony Batista. He hit 25 homeruns between Baltimore and Toronto last season. Batista is the only player on the team to have hit over 40 homeruns in his career. Rounding out the infield will be second baseball Jerry Harriston, whom the club is looking to lead off.

Outfield:

The new-look outfield will be comprised of free agent Marty Cordova in left, newly acquired Chris Singleton in center, and 2001 O's MVP Jeff Conine in right. Injuries to last season starters Albert Belle and Chris Richard, coupled with the trade of Brady Anderson and a reduced role for Melvin Mora, will give the team a complete facelift from last season's opening day.

Injuries to Chris Richard will open the door for prospects Luis Matos, Larry Bigbie, and Tim Raines, Jr. All three contributed significantly to the ball club last season. In most baseball circles, executives questioned Bigbi'se and Raines, Jr.'s rapid climb to the majors, fearing potential harm to their confidence as they went up with the more established pro's.

Also entering the equation are non-roster invitee and former Minnesota Twins Chad Allen. Allen is recovering from knee surgery. His major league experience will make him a prime candidate for the fifth outfield position--or a ticket to Triple A.


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This story was published on March 2, 2002.
  
MARCH 2002
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