Bishop Gorman boasts balanced attack

Editor's note: The ESPN RISE FAB 50 baseball rankings are compiled by Andrew Drennen, Doug Huff, Matt Remsberg and Mark Tennis. They will be released each Tuesday throughout the season.

How many high school baseball teams in the nation have several players who've already been on the field during the World Series?

Meet Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which is a fairly easy choice to start the 2008 season as the No. 1 team in the ESPN RISE FAB 50.

The Gaels were among the best teams in the land last year at 41-3, but didn't finish on top because Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) did the almost unthinkable in baseball: finish unbeaten.

Bishop Gorman returns the bulk of the team that won its third straight Class 4A state championship. The Gaels followed that title by comprising the roster of a team representing Las Vegas that won the American Legion World Series title.

After winning the American Legion crown, members of the Bishop Gorman team were introduced on the field before Game 2 of the 2008 World Series at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Fla.

Headlining the list of returnees is first baseman-pitcher Jeff Malm. He's been a part of all three previous state title teams and would like nothing more than to make it a perfect 4-for-4 sweep for his prep career. Malm goes 4-for-4 often as a hitter as well. He led the Gaels a year ago with a .564 average and also had a team-leading 73 RBIs. When not playing first base, he pitches, and in that American Legion tournament, he posted three straight saves.

Joey Rickard is Bishop Gorman's other top standout. As a junior, he led the team with 12 homers and hit .489 with 54 RBIs. Like Malm, Rickard, an outfielder, also pitches and had a 2.08 ERA a year ago.

Two other key veterans are infielder Johnny Field, who hit .431 a year ago as a sophomore, and pitcher/infielder Stephen Manthei.

If Bishop Gorman falters at all, the reason might be pitching. While Malm and Rickard can both pitch, two top hurlers from last year -- Donn Roach and Paul Sewald -- will have to be replaced.

Nearby California usually offers the toughest competition for any top team from Las Vegas, and this year, the two best to start the season in that state will be Norco and El Toro.

Other teams that could quickly move to the top if the Gaels slip include the tandem of Coppell and Bellaire of Texas, Farragut of Tennessee or perhaps a team that gets hot from Florida. There does not appear to be an obvious preseason No. 1 this spring in the Sunshine State, but the intense competition there can produce a national rankings title contender very quickly.

Check out the preseason FAB 50 here.