The 2013 baseball season will likely mirror last spring because there doesn’t appear to be a true dominant squad in the public school rankings mainly because of graduation losses. But a handful of teams should compete for division, regional and perhaps even state crowns, such as unseeded Northwest, which rode numerous upsets to its first state title last May.
The Jaguars along with pitcher-heavy Quince Orchard, Gaithersburg, Sherwood, Walt Whitman, Thomas S. Wootton and Poolesville headline that group of contenders, who begin regular season play this week.
“I think it’s another year similar to last year where if you don’t show up and play, you can lose to anyone,” Trojans coach Jeff Rabberman said. “I think there are a number of teams that are very good and could win the region. It’s going to be a fun year and I can’t wait to get rolling.”
Quince Orchard coach Jason Gasaway knows all about winning region crowns, having captured six since taking the reigns in 2005 and he said he looks to do so again behind a potent pitching staff that is anchored by Alex Thoms (4-2, 2.339 ERA) and Daniel Fishback (5-1, 1.75 ERA). “Our biggest strength this year will be our pitching [but] we will have to improve our defense from last year and manufacture runs to be successful,” Gasaway said.
The Trojans and Warriors enter the season with veteran lineups after working with youthful squads a year ago. Gaithersburg returns seven starters, including infielder-pitcher Nick DeCarlo (.323, 10 RBI, 2.92 ERA) and lefty pitcher-outfielder Jake Thomas (5-3, 2.49 ERA). Sherwood, the reigning 4A North Region champion, welcomes back nearly all of last year’s pitching staff that compiled a 1.52 ERA. That staff will be anchored by Matt Chanin (1.40 ERA, .397 BA, 17 RBI), Grant Dickey (3-2, 2.00 ERA) and Pat Kemper (2-1, 2.00 ERA).
“We are very excited about the upcoming year,” Warriors coach Sean Davis said. “We were a very young team last year and we are looking to build on last years success.”
While those squads rely heavily on their performance on the mound, Whitman employs one of the best offensive lineups in the county behind Pat Hisle (.327, 11 RBI), Andrew Castagnetti (.355, 18 RBI), Drew Aherne (.386, 15 RBI) and Dan Duffy. Vikings coach Joe Cassidy, who graduated 13 of the team’s 17 players a year ago, said, “We’re going to have to win more 5-4, 6-5 games.”
Poolesville and Wootton boast two of the state’s best players in preseason all-state selections Robbie Metz and Andrew Craig, respectively. Metz leads a strong returning pitching staff, having gone 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA a year ago. Craig batted .368 and knocked in 19 runs. The defending champions Jaguars return five key players, including middle infielders Scott Ardoin (.384 BA, 23 runs, 18 RBI) and J.J. Jan.
And don’t forget about Seneca Valley and Damascus, who return loads of veterans, especially the Screaming Eagles, who will be guided by Chris Heckhaus (.404), Nick Fahs (.409, 13 extra-base hits) and Sean Bacchus (.474). Senior captains Eric Magas, John Hanley and Alex Salem look to help Damascus regain form.
Switching to the county’s private school teams, former major leaguer Steve Lombardozzi looks to reload an Our Lady of Good Counsel program that has been one of the best in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, but the Falcons lost a lot of talent in recent years. Lombardozzi spent six seasons in Major League Baseball — four with the Minnesota Twins and two with the Houston Astros.
Bullis, Georgetown Prep and Landon look to vie for the Interstate Athletic Conference title, which the Little Hoyas won last spring largely behind the play of All-Gazette player Corey Howard (.410, 24 RBI, 7-2, 1.60 ERA). Landon looks to retool with numerous freshmen and sophomores playing key roles. The Bulldogs graduated nine seniors but expectations are riding high with the return of Josh Foreman (.330) and Jackson Stoner (.317) and the addition of transfers Connor Mitton and Ben Webster from Gaithersburg and Walter Johnson, respectively.
“Our goal is to win an IAC championship,” Bullis coach Brian Lumpkin said. “We have great leadership along with a lot of game time experience.”
The Heights look for another 20-win season in Brian Carroccio’s final campaign, but it will not be easy with non-conference games against DeMatha Catholic, Riverdale Baptist and Bishop McNamara.
Baseball Players to Watch
Montgomery Blair Blazers
Neil Gahart, Patrick Washington
James H. Blake Bengals
Pradip Ramamurti, Blaine Lowry, Stefan Sigwalt
Josh Foreman, Jackson Stoner, Connor Mitton
Winston Churchill Bulldogs
Charles DeFilippo, Michael Albers, Matt O’Lone
Damascus Swarming Hornets
Eric Magas, John Hanley, Alex Salem
Nick DeCarlo, Jake Thomas, Trey Martinez
Georgetown Prep Little Hoyas
Corey Howard, Tyler Daley, Andrew Frazier
Walter Johnson Wildcats
Gus Gill, Tyler Green, Justin Hom
Nick Murray, Vinodh Balendran, Spencer Abraham
Colonel Zadok Magruder Colonels
Gabbon Dodson, Brian Tran-Dac, John Waters
Scott Ardoin, J.J. Jan, Michael Shannon
Nick Luck, Gene Queen, Jr., Anselmo Balbuena
Paint Branch Panthers
Sam Stewart, KC Hill, Eric Ho
Robbie Metz, Hunter Pearre, Theyer Seely
Quince Orchard Cougars
Alex Thoms, Daniel Fishback, Michael Cuda
Richard Montgomery Rockets
Tyler Coleman, Jonathan Marx, Jonathan Huang
Greg Brown, Marcus Hailstock
Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles
Chris Heckhaus, Nick Fahs, Colin Thatcher
Matt Chanin, Grant Dickey, Brady Adam
Walt Whitman Vikings
Pat Hisle, Drew Aherne, Andrew Castagnetti
Watkins Mill Wolverines
Brandon Roberts, John Suarez, Francisco Lara
Alex Attia, Attila Szabo, Ruben Medina