The public high school baseball playoffs will get under way across Maryland later this week. Here’s a breakdown of the four regions that include teams from Montgomery County:
4A West RegionFavorites: Walt Whitman, Quince Orchard, Col. Zadok Magruder
Contenders: Walter Johnson, Northwest, Bethesda-Chevy Chase
Dark horses: Thomas S. Wootton, Winston Churchill, Gaithersburg
Propelled by one of the county’s best one-two pitching combinations in Michael Flack and Ryan McGill, Walt Whitman (14-2 through Sunday) locked up the top seed last weekend. The Vikings will be trying to win the program’s first region title.
Flack and McGill entered the final week of the regular season with identical 5-1 records and earned run averages of 0.55 and 0.56, respectively. As a staff, the Vikings had recorded a team ERA of 1.07.
“We’re still getting good pitching and good defense,” Whitman coach Joe Cassidy said. “I shuffled the lineup around [after back-to-back losses] and it seems to be a little more balanced. We’re not going to scare a team by mashing 10, 12, 15 hits, but we have good at-bats. We put the ball in play.”
Although the prohibitive favorite, the Vikings will be challenged early and often by Quince Orchard (14-4, 12-4 4A West), Magruder (10-4), Walter Johnson (11-5), Northwest (10-5) and Bethesda-Chevy Chase (10-6).
Then there’s Wootton (9-6), last year’s upset special, Winston Churchill (8-6), and Gaithersburg (7-10), which has one of its top pitchers and hitters Stephen Lee returning to the lineup following a lengthy injury.
“I don't think there is a clear-cut favorite,” said Churchill coach Scott Blackwood, whose team emerged from nowhere to upend then undefeated Sherwood a year ago. “I think there is a lot of talent in our region and any team has a good chance at winning the region. Whoever puts it together on that day is going to win. If you don't show up you are not going to win.”
Those talented players include Magruder’s Zach Lawhorn (4-2, 0.52 ERA, .455 batting average, 7 RBI), Quince Orchard’s Billy Plante (.380, 24 RBI, 5 HR) and Alex Lipman (.465, 16 RBI), B-CC’s Nico Narel-Aguilar (.486, 10 RBI, 3-2, 1.06 ERA), Richard Montgomery’s Tyler Coleman (.488, 13 runs), and Churchill’s Danny Weiss (.432, 15 RBI, 3-0, 0.55 ERA).
“Whitman and Quince Orchard have been winning close games, so I think they are the favorites,” said B-CC coach John Schmidt. “It will be very competitive this year though, because there are eight or nine teams that have playing well as of late.”
4A North Region
Favorites: Baltimore Poly, Dulaney
Contenders: Perry Hall, Westminster, Mergenthaler
Dark horses: James H. Blake, Sherwood, Paint Branch
At least in terms of records, the 4A North could be as competitive as any region in the state with 10 of the 11 teams checking in with seven or more wins through the weekend, led by Baltimore Poly (12-2) and Dulaney (10-5).
Montgomery County’s triumvirate of James H. Blake (8-6), Paint Branch (9-6) and Sherwood (8-6) should certainly be in the mix, although none of them appear headed for one of the top four seeds.
Cody Acker (.468, 18 runs, 17 RBI, 3.15 ERA) and Andy McWilliams (.469, 12 runs, 15 RBI, 3-3, 3.00 ERA) have paced the Bengals, who notched 28 shutout innings during a 31-inning stretch this season.
Speaking of pitching, the Warriors will bring a deep and talented pitching staff that is anchored by Matt Chanin (1.50 ERA), Pat Kemper (1.91 ERA) and Grant Dickey (1.12 ERA) but “if we want to compete for the regional title, we are going to need better offensive output,” Sherwood coach Sean Davis said.
3A West RegionFavorites: North Hagerstown, Linganore
Contenders: Rockville, Seneca Valley, Thomas Johnson, Urbana
Dark horses: Damascus, Frederick
North Hagerstown (14-1), Linganore (12-5) and Rockville (11-5) look to be the class of a deep 3A West Region that has 10 teams boasting six or more wins. Seven of those teams, including Seneca Valley (9-5) have nine or more victories.
Rockville owns wins against 4A squads James H. Blake, Gaithersburg and Magruder and lost by a total of three runs to Quince Orchard and Northwest.
“We’re playing fairly decent,” Rams coach Farron Riggs said. “The biggest thing for us has been our pitching. Our pitching has been very good. Sean Van Gieson and Greg Brown are basically our two leaders [and] Sam Kane coming in relief. We’ll see what happens. The bottom line is you have to go through North Hagerstown.”
Chris Heckhaus (.405), Colin Thatcher (.430) and Nick Fahs (.445, 2 HR) pace Seneca Valley, which won its one and only region crown in 2008.
Kevin Kopas (.491, 23 runs, 6 RBI) and Tyler Beckwith (.367, 27 runs, 10 RBI) lead the Linganore Lancers as a potent 1-2 combination at the plate and on the left side of the infield.
2A West RegionFavorites: Liberty, Catoctin, Walkersville, Poolesville
Contenders: Middletown, Williamsport
Poolesville (11-4) found itself in the thick of the seeding race heading into this week, battling Walkersville (12-6, 12-4 2A West) for the No. 3 seed with Middletown (14-6, 12-6 2A West) and Williamsport (9-7) not far behind.
The Falcons headed into the final week of the regular season with a stingy 2.28 team earned run average on a balanced pitching staff that has three pitchers with two wins each. Offensively, they have five players with 10 or more runs batted in and a team batting average of .341, led by Thayler Seely’s 12 RBI.
“It’s very important in our region to get that first-round bye, as strong as all the Frederick, Washington and Carroll county teams are,” Poolesville coach Ted Gardiner said. “[To win the region] it’s going to take solid pitching and for our bats to come around.”
Walkersville is paced by Devin Bell (.464 batting average, 20 runs, 15 RBI, 2 HR). Middletown is the defending region champion after the Knights upset three of the top four seeds a year ago.
“We were a low, low seed last year so that’s a prime example that anything can happen,” Middletown coach Andy Baker said. “We’re capable of competing with anybody in the region but at the same time, we’ve shown we’re capable of any team beating us. We haven’t been real consistent with our play.”
How they rank1. Walt Whitman Vikings
The Vikings, led by Michael Flack and Ryan McGill, snared the top seed in the 4A West.
2. Georgetown Prep Little Hoyas
The Little Hoyas are the clear favorites to capture the IAC title this weekend.
3. Our Lady of Good Counsel Falcons
The Falcons stumbled late in the season, will need to regroup for WCAC tournament this week.
4. Col. Zadok Magruder Colonels
Zach Lawnhorn (4-2, 0.52 ERA, 38 strikeouts) is one of the main reasons Colonels are in the hunt for a top four seed.
5. Quince Orchard Cougars
Billy Plante (.380, 24 RBI, 5 HRs) and Alex Lipman (.465, 16 RBI) provide 1-2 punch for Cougars.
Best betsTBA, Thursday, IAC semifinals at Georgetown Prep TBA, Saturday, IAC final
7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, WCAC best-of-three championship series