The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state baseball playoffs begin Friday with three unbeaten teams among the 16 No. 1 seeds.
Only one of them, 15-0 W.E.B. DuBois in Class 1A South, is from the greater Baltimore area.
"This is the first time for me as a coach and for my seniors to be in this No. 1 position," said W.E.B. DuBois coach James Drew. "We've not had anything handed to us all season, but we've had great support from our school and our athletic director, Linda Mitchell-Holmes. She's made sure our fields have been ready to play and helped me monitor my players' work in the classroom so we didn't lose anyone from our roster all season."
Led by catcher Que Bethea (.325), pitcher Ervin Woods (8-0, 3.00 ERA) and Harold Gilchrist, who leads the team with three home runs, the Panthers will take to their field Monday against the winner of the Northwestern-Forest Park game.
"We have solid defense and great camaraderie," Drew said. "We watch each other's back. We live on the motto: When we mess up, we make up. No excuses."
Eleanor Roosevelt, 17-0 in 4A South, and J.M. Bennett, 16-0 in 3A East, are the only other undefeated teams going into the MPSSAA tournament.
Bennett's perfect run pushed 18-1 Reservoir into the No. 2 seed, a position that did not surprise the Gators.
"We know about J.M. Bennett," Reservoir coach Adam Leader said. "A similar thing happened last year. We're just going to do the best we can."
The Gators will face a familiar foe Monday when they host the winner of Friday's game between Howard County rivals Howard and Atholton.
"They're both very strong," Leader said. "But we have the District V game Thursday against Old Mill, and that will get us ready to face tough competition."