Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

FCC keeps county talent

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There are not a lot compromises made when putting together lineups for the Frederick Community College baseball team.

It’s part of what lead to the second straight preseason ranking of No. 7 in the nation, from the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Poll. So when the signing day for the 2009 team had six Frederick County representatives onboard, it’s a noteworthy occasion.

Linganore’s Kyle Dietrich and Brian Paulhus, Thomas Johnson’s Ian Hahn and Frank Zier, Frederick’s Brent DeHaven and Brunswick’s Seth Keyser all signed letters to play for Frederick Community College.

Cougars head coach Rod Bennett has made five trips to the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XX tournament, and last year marked his second time in the NJCAA Division II World Series. He noted that the No. 7 ranking would again put a target on his 2008 team, which has only four products from Maryland high schools.

‘‘It’s one of those things where I’m not just taking kids because they’re from Frederick County,” Bennett said.

Bennett has kept the Cougars’ selection level at a rate comparable to a Division I four-year college. Because of this, 46 FCC graduates have gone on to play in the NCAA.

However, this also puts the Cougars in direct competition with NCAA schools for recruitment. And this year’s team will only have two Frederick County representatives— Walkersville graduates Ryan Kassab and Jon Patino.

Both Kassab and Patino will be part of the 2009 team, too. Along with the half-dozen recent signers, it’s one of the largest local groups playing for Bennett.

‘‘Not only signing that many kids that early, but the number of Maryland kids,” Bennett said. ‘‘This is one of the most enjoyable classes for me.”

Bennett credited the work of two American Legion coaches for helping him lock down some of the top local talent—Tom Long from Frederick FSK Post 11 and George Richardson from Gold Star Mount Airy Post 191.

Hahn, Zier, DeHaven and Keyser all played for Long, while Dietrich and Paulhus played for Richardson.

Zier and Hahn are two solid pitchers with recent injury troubles over the past two years.

‘‘Frank Zier was the very first kid we went after,” Bennett said. ‘‘He was probably on the top of a lot of lists. Not only is he a good pitcher, he’s a good hitter, too.”

He noted that Hahn finished a year of Tommy John surgery. Both should have some of their best work ahead for their senior season.

Paulhus and DeHaven are shortstops for their respective schools.

‘‘We were really high on these two shortstops,” Bennett said. ‘‘We usually get guys from out of state for the middle of the infield, but we had two guys just right here.”

Bennett called Keyser a tough baseball player. And Dietrich offers good upside, if only from his ascent over the last couple of years.

‘‘He’s a very impressive individual,” Bennett said. ‘‘He came out of nowhere to one of the best pitchers in the state.”

Bennett was named the Maryland Coach of the Year by the Maryland Coaches Association, which encompasses all college and high school skippers.