The Interhigh baseball season will have a couple of changes this spring. One involves the league's alignment, and the other is a special rule that will allow students at the School Without Walls and Bilingual, which do not have baseball teams, to play for other schools.
The Interhigh has replaced its round-robin system and adopted an East-West divisional alignment. Under the new format, Interhigh coaches got what they wanted: more games.
In the round-robin system, teams played each other once and the league had a 10-game season. With divisional play, each team will play division opponents twice and nondivision opponents once. The West teams will play 15 league games and the East 14.
"This gives us 15 games and it gives the kids more of a chance," said Wilson Coach Richard Janigian. "We are going to play more games and there will be more interest."
"The more games you play means the best team will rise to the occasion," said Coolidge Coach Leonard Farrello.
The league will use the same alignment it does for football, with Cardozo, Coolidge, Dunbar, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson in the West. Anacostia, Ballou, Eastern, Spingarn and H.D. Woodson will play in the East.
The winner of each division, and the next four overall regardless of division, earn berths in the postseason tournament. Division winners will draw first-round byes.
The other move will allow students at the School Without Walls and Bilingual to participate in the league. Many of those students are from Spanish-speaking countries such as the Dominican Republic, where baseball is the No. 1 sport.
Otto Jordan, Interhigh director of athletics, said that students at the School Without Walls and Bilingual can play for a high school if they live in that school's zone. Jordan said that Bilingual, which has a championship soccer team, doesn't have a baseball team because of its small enrollment.
H.D. Woodson is the favorite to win in the East. Wilson, the regular season co-champion and tournament winner, appears to be the best in the West.
Woodson went 1-2 in nonleague games to open the season. It defeated Potomac (Md.), 8-7, but lost to Surrattsville, 3-0, and to Carroll, 5-4.
Woodson returns shortstop Charles Thomas, catcher Lee Thomas, second basemen Troy Jordan and pitcher/catcher Craig Green. Coach Clarence (Boomer) Washington said that the Warriors need to improve on their hitting and hope the pitching staff, led by Vincent Hill, will keep opponents hitting ground balls to his infielders.
Anacostia Coach Willie Stewart describes the development of his team as "slow." He will rely on third basemen James Bolden, catcher Leo Brown and second baseman Stanley Childs, all seniors.
"I don't expect to win the championship, but I do expect to make the tournament. We will be in the top three (in the East)," said Stewart.
Ballou is expected to contend with Woodson for the East title. Coach Maceo Hutchinson is counting heavily on junior catcher Aaron McFarland.
"He will be one of my key leaders," said Hutchinson, who will rely on Hosea Freemen and Cortez West to do most of the pitching. "We will fare pretty well at pitching."
How much defensive help those pitchers will have is questionable because only shortstop William Chick is back as an infield starter.
Hutchinson said he does not have home run hitters, but he does have "a lot of line drivers."
"It's a matter of putting it together," said Hutchinson.
Stewart called Eastern the dark horse of the East, but Coach William Broadnax called his team "young and inexperienced."
He will rely on second team all-Met performer Brian Petty, who batted .400 last season. Also steady are catcher Mark Palmer and center fielder Dorren Payne. Sophomore Phil Fogle takes over at shortstop.
In the West, Wilson (0-1) will be led by all-Met Patrick Keagan. The Tigers also will have power hitters Jeremiah Cohen (.450) and Chris Landberg (.350), and solid talent in center fielder Matthew Yancy and sophomore catcher Jose Almonte, a Dominican Republic native.
"I like to try him at pitcher if we can and find another catcher," Carter said of Almonte.
The Tigers, who lost their nonleague opener, 13-4, to Georgetown Prep, may have another problem in the early going.
"We got Keagan back, and he's our No. 1 pitcher," said Carter. "But he has had a problem with his leg."
Coolidge had only 12 players on its roster as of last week, but Farrello is hoping to have three others academically eligible after the third advisory grade period. Coolidge has Terry Lewis, Bilaal Muhammad, Robert Pickett, Tyrone Spears, James Striggles and Demetrius Warren returning.
McKinley tied with Wilson for the regular season title last year (after a controversial forfeit by Wilson to Woodson), even though it lost to the Tigers, 13-4. Coach Robert Wills, brother of baseball hall of famer Maury Wills, has only two players back.
"I wish we were in the East. The West will be tough," Wills said. "Right now, we are striving for 500. If we play .500 ball, I'll be satisfied."
Wills will have pitchers Michael Bijou and Keith Robinson returning.
Roosevelt Coach Ron Carter is going to need production from a number of sophomores because several regulars he had counted on are academically ineligble and others transferred. It doesn't help that the Rough Riders will face Wilson, Dunbar and Coolidge in their first three games.
"If I can go 2-1 or 1-2, I will be looking good," Carter said. "Hopefully, we won't take too much of a beating, but I expect to take my lumps the first five games."
One key for Roosevelt is first team all-Interhigh third basemen Martin Jones. Malcolm Broadley, Lawrence Hood and Cordell Spencer also must come through.
Spingarn and Cardozo will have a long way to go.
Spingarn lost to Wilson, 39-0, early last season, and its only victory came over Cardozo, 10-6.