No. 5 Williamsport - one of four teams sitting at 1-1 in the conference through Wednesday - obviously has star Nick Adenhart (seven hits allowed in 18 1/3 innings, 40 strikeouts) to lean on, and Ben Jordan (.500) has picked up where he left off last season. Andy Taylor is a solid No. 2 starter behind Adenhart.
Remarkably, Williamsport has yet to give up an earned run in 2004. How well the Wildcats hit day in and day out will be the key.
No. 8 Smithsburg - at 1-0 the conference's only other undefeated team - is undefeated because of a remarkable rally from six runs down Tuesday against Clear Spring. The Leopards scored 15 runs in the final three innings.
Wayne Rumbaugh (.538) is off to a sizzling start and Gerry Spessard (.438) has given the Leopards exactly what was expected. If Zach Lloyd (0.68 ERA, 12 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings) continues to pitch like he has, Smithsburg will be in the hunt come May.
All three of Catoctin's losses this season have come to ranked teams (Walkersville, Frederick and North). The Cougars will lean heavily on senior Will Delawter - who has pitched in state title games each of the last two seasons - for both pitching and offense, as Delawter is one of only three returning starters.
South Hagerstown, last year's Class 1A state champion, returned seven starters from that team, yet got off to a shaky 0-3 start before winning three of its last four (including Thursday's win over Clear Spring).
As usual, David Miner will lead the way for the Rebels both on the mound and at the plate. No. 2 starter Jeremy McAfee will play a key role, as will offensive threat Phil Powell.
Clear Spring's first season in the MVAL marks a step up in competition, as the Blazers' 1-3 start shows. But this team has talent, including a quartet of arms (Cody Beard, Mike Hamby, Scott Keeney and Zeb Jacobs) to share the pitching load. Jacobs, Beard and Keeney also are batting at better than a .350 clip.
Brunswick and Boonsboro are young squads - both return only three starters. Warriors lefty Craig Henson has been through the wars and should be a solid No. 1 starter, while Jay Love's potent bat sits in the middle of the order. The Railroaders have three guys (Josh Via, Preston Tarleton and Pat Curry) batting better than .400, while pitching is a question mark.
There's a more obvious divide between the haves and have-nots here.
Three teams - Catoctin (3-0), Brunswick (2-0) and Williamsport (2-0) - were off to undefeated starts in conference play through Wednesday.
The No. 6 Cougars have one of the area's best pitchers in senior Sam Weaver, who's already spun two complete-game shutouts. She's not bad with the bat, either, as her grand slam against Boonsboro proved.
In five of seven games, Catoctin has scored 10 or more runs. The Cougars have the balance to win the conference.
No. 4 Brunswick is the conference's lone unbeaten team overall at 4-0. Seniors LeEllen Lewis and Heather Termohlen anchor the offense, and sophomore Hilary Remsburg pitched a two-hit shutout Monday against North Hagerstown.
No. 7 Williamsport, at 3-1 overall after Wednesday's 2-0 win over South Hagerstown, has been a surprise. Freshman pitcher Emily Huff handcuffed the Rebels in a five-hit shutout. Adrienne Munoz (.571) has been lights out at the plate and Courtney Hutchinson (.417), Rachel Gossard (.364) and Mandi Spickler (.333) have also contributed.
South had won three straight games before Wednesday's loss, and junior pitcher Jamie Fowler has been impressive. In her last three starts she has 36 strikeouts and allowed just six runs. The Rebels, however, must generate more offense to stay near the top of the standings.
Smithsburg, Boonsboro, Clear Spring and North Hagerstown will likely battle for above-.500 finishes.
Leopards junior Alyssa Reed held Clear Spring to one hit while striking out 10 Tuesday.
Boonsboro has Washington County's most experienced pitcher in senior Jessi Hammersla, and is experienced overall with eight returning starters.
The Blazers return seven starters but have struggled so far, allowing 12 or more runs in five of six games.
North's offense has gone missing. The Hubs have scored a total of 13 runs in six games.