As the high school baseball season fully gets underway, here are several key storylines to follow on the diamond this spring.
DeMatha’s chase for a WCAC repeat
The Stags defeated McNamara, 1-0, in the decisive game of last year’s WCAC championship series to claim their first WCAC title since 2008. DeMatha returns six starters and its No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers in the rotation. Junior right-hander Jack Alkire and southpaw Andy Rozylowicz combined for 81 strikeouts last season, and senior All-Met catcher Justin Morris (Maryland) will be another tough out this season after batting .390 with 27 RBIs in 2013.
WCAC semifinalist Paul VI, led by first-team all-conference senior outfielder Andrew Page, returns just three starters and will likely challenge the Stags at the top. St. John’s finished 1-3 in an early-season trip to Florida but with outfielder Brodie Leftridge and right-hander AJ Lee, the Cadets are one of the top teams in area.
Top-notch pitching in Loudoun County
Stone Bridge right-hander JB Bukauskas has already touched 97 mph with his fastball this spring and has MLB teams scrambling to get a look at the third-year varsity player. The North Carolina signee and 6-foot-6 senior Devon Perez (Old Dominion) form a deadly combination for a Bulldogs team that is solid from top to bottom in its batting order.
Woodgrove junior Kaleb Bowman (South Carolina) and the Wolverines responded to the dismissal of 10 players last season by advancing to the Virginia AA state semifinals. Heritage senior Zack Hopeck stands at 6-foot-3 and struck out 78 batters last season as the Pride went 14-10 before losing in the region tournament.
All-around talent abounds in Montgomery County
The list of top players in Montgomery County is long, and many of them have emerged as stars in the field, at the plate and on the mound.
Sherwood All-Met first baseman Matt Chanin will look to build on a solid junior campaign in which he batted .446 while also serving as the ace of the team’s pitching staff. Poolseville’s Robbie Metz, a George Washington commit, will primarily play shortstop in college and was praised by one area coach as “one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen at the high school level.” He also pitches and struck out 12 batters en route to a no-hitter Saturday against Paint Branch.
Also look for big seasons from Bethesda-Chevy Chase catcher/pitcher Joe Feldman, Whitman center fielder Drew Aherne and Gaithersburg’s Nick DeCarlo and Evan Colon. Those four, in addition to Chanin and Metz, were pre-season all-state selections by the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches.
Rebuilding and reloading in Anne Arundel
Since 1975, public schools in Anne Arundel County have combined to win 26 state titles. Last year, it was South River’s turn. The Seahawks won their first Maryland 4A championship behind All-Met Player of the Year Scott Mitchell, who threw a two-hitter against Catonsville in the championship game. But Mitchell has since graduated and Coach Ken Dunn has retired, leaving first-year Coach Gary Gubbings to guide this year’s team into what will be a tight county race.
Arundel, which has won 10 state titles, and Chesapeake are two of the county’s most experienced teams and the preliminary favorites. Senior center fielder Syeed Mahdi and catcher Josh Gall will lead the Wildcats, who beat South River, 4-0, in Friday’s season opener. North County, led by shortstop Jesse Lee, and Northeast, which returns seven of nine starters, are also expected to contend.
Bruins looks for healthy 2014 season
Lake Braddock had an injury-plagued 2013 but still advanced to the AAA semifinals where it lost to Great Bridge. Catcher Garrett Driscoll and third baseman Alex Lewis have moved on to George Mason and Longwood, respectively, but All-Met honorable mention selection Jack Owens returns at short.
The Bruins opened the season with a 10-3 win over Conference 5 foe Oakton in an early non-conference test. With a plethora of young talent and six seniors, the Bruins have the talent to make their third consecutive state semifinal trip if they can stay healthy.
La Plata aims to break through
The Warriors have won three straight Maryland 3A South region titles and made it to the state championship game in two of the past three seasons, but they haven’t won a state championship since 2008. They lost to Bel Air, 3-2, in the title game last year.
La Plata returns its entire pitching staff from a year ago, including pitcher/infielder and South Carolina commit Alex Calvert. Meanwhile, junior first baseman Jimmy Monaghan figures to do significant damage from the middle of the order. He hit six home runs and drove in 31 runs as a sophomore and has received interest from Georgia Tech and Penn State, among others.
DeMatha closed last season as winners of 11 of its final 12 games en route to the WCAC title. The Stags’ two aces, Jack Alkire and Andy Rozylowicz, are only juniors. . . . Virginia state semifinalist Lake Braddock has a talented mix of underclassmen and six seniors, including standout shortstop and East Carolina commit Jack Owens. . . . Riverdale Baptist senior hurler Taylor Bloom is a year wiser on the mound after an 83 strikeout 2013 campaign. . . . La Plata finished last season in the Top 10 after reaching its second state title game in three years. . . . Reservoir is led by two-time Howard County pitcher of the year and South Carolina commit Cody Morris, who went 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA as a sophomore last season.
(Last year’s final record in parentheses)
1. DeMatha (25-6)
2. Lake Braddock (23-5)
3. St. John’s (22-6)
4. La Plata (21-4)
5. Poolesville (13-6)
6. Paul VI (18-11)
7. Riverdale Baptist (31-6)
8. Reservoir (16-7)
9. Stone Bridge (12-13)
10. Oakton (21-6)