Early arrival places North in position it aspired to all along

March 19, 2011|By TIM KOELBLE |
  • Washington County Preps Previews
Washington County Preps Previews

HAGERSTOWN — Heading into the 2010 baseball season, it appeared Clear Spring might be a logical choice to win a state championship.

The Blazers just missed, though, only reaching the Class 1A state semifinals. In reality, what did happen was supposed to be on tap this year.

North Hagerstown surprised everyone, including coach Steve Myers.

Myers thought the Hubs were a year away from contending in 2010. But North turned the calendar ahead by winning the Maryland Class 2A state championship.

Now, several players return for North, fueling speculation that the Hubs could make a legitimate run at a 2A repeat.

It will be a test, since there won’t be any easy pickings in the MVAL Antietam this year. South Hagerstown has plenty of returning experience and is likely to make long, loud noises in Class 3A.

Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport will contend in the Antietam Conference and it might be the one year that teams get a speck of revenge over Clear Spring, which is down after two banner years.

It’s also possible everyone in the Antietam could be chasing pitching-rich Catoctin.

Coach Ben Leonard expected to have a pair of team leaders until he lost Rodney Flora, who elected to exclusively compete in track.

Flora would have keyed the defense up the middle and given the Warriors a healthy arm on the mound.

Now, Justin Lewis becomes the focal point.

“(Lewis) needs to take ownership of the team this year,” said Leonard of the junior. “He’ll do good things for us this year.”

Dustin Gregory returns for a third year at catcher and sophomore Zach Poffenberger is expected to provide some offensive impetus.

“All we have to do is clean up simple fundamental baseball and we’ll be good,” Leonard said.

Others in supporting roles include OF/P Jared Blickenstaff and pitchers Brittan Beard and Brian Sibula.

Clear Spring
Usually Clear Spring coach Mark Shives looks for an identity for the Blazers by the end of the year. This year, with a host of sophomores, Clear Spring will have to establish itself early.

“We could have as many as seven sophomores start at one time,” said Shives. “Like we did four years ago, we’ve made a decision to put a young product on the field.”

The Blazers lost their core to graduation, including Brandon Glazer, from a unit that reached the 1A state semifinals. This year, there is mostly inexperience.

Austin Yost, Nick Hill and Kyle Franks all return.

Yost is the lone Blazer with any numbers from pitching last year as a middle reliever. Hill, a shortstop, will also pitch and Franks should be the starting first baseman.

“We’ll see how they grow,” said Shives.

The Panthers have three reasons to envision good things — Hunter McKinley, Vinny Foreman and Donnie O’Brien, all pitchers.

“For the first time I can remember, we have some pitching,” coach Brian Kerns said. “You can’t afford sore arms, but I’ll think they’ll make us decent.”

All three have experience. McKinley, a sophomore, went 2-2 with a 3.50 earned run average, while Foreman was 2-1 for the 10-8 Panthers last season.

Catcher Eli Souders, 2B Joe Lashley and OF Steven Starliper are Hancock’s three returning seniors.

“Souders (.456) is our best hitter coming back,” Kerns said. “We’ll be good defensively. I don’t know where the big guns are yet, but I expect us to play over .500 baseball.”

North Hagerstown
The Hubs won’t rest on last year’s laurels, but they’ve got the potential to add to their stock.

“You’ve got to go and do it again,” Myers said. “We’re definitely going after another (title). That’s one of our goals.”

It all starts with Aaron Stoner, one of North’s top returning stars. Stoner should be the No. 1 pitcher and one of the top bats.

Myers will have Stoner, Greencastle transfer J.T. Root, Aaron Jones and Ben Bushong on the mound. Add Andrew Yacyk (.394) and Jake Bachtell (.467) into the mix and Myers is smiling at the prospects.

Among everyday nonpitchers, there aren’t any better than Ty Benson, the fleet-footed center fielder who returns along with Charles Cvijanovich.

“Pitching and defense will be our strength but I think we’ll hit the ball pretty well,” Myers said.

Saint James
The Saints, who have had trouble winning in recent years, welcome back Mick Kerns for another stint as head coach.

However, Kerns does not know what’s in store. The Saints’ first practice is Monday, which gives him 10 days to set a roster before the season begins March 31.

Kerns expects five returning players from last year’s 1-15 team. Infielders Alex Beckel, Jeff Cook and Bobby Leatherman, along with catcher Nik Gentile and outfielder Brett Vitkun will return.

“It’s tough to tell what will happen because you haven’t had everyone together,” Kerns said. “You just hope for them to come and play hard, make plays you should and give 100 percent.”

“He’s gonna hold down the fort, got a lot of expectations on him this year,” said Smithsburg coach Trevor Cobb of shortstop Ryne Willard. “He’ll also get on the mound. We’ve seen some things in him there where he can help.”

The Leopards, coming off a subpar 10-9 season that carried more hope than its finish, must replace slugger Jack Schwartz (6 HR, 24 RBI).

“(Schwartz) is the biggest bat gone from last year but we’ve got discipline at the top of the lineup,” Cobb said.

Smithsburg will start center fielder Brock Heiston, along with Dylan Ianaro and Ben Daniels.

On the mound, Cobb looks to back up Willard with Dylan Eyler, a 6-4 senior who has converted his delivery to a sidearm motion. He’ll also look to Brad Spickler and sophomore J.R. Rinehart for quality innings.

South Hagerstown
There aren’t many shortages in the cupboard at South.

The Rebels’ strength starts behind the plate with senior Trevor Haupt and goes up the middle to center fielder Nick Stubbs. Senior Jordan Nicewarner will be at first and Luke Toms will split time between second and short.

The Rebels won’t lack pitching arms with Blake Miller and Jordan Miller returning to go with two newcomers — junior Riley Stephenson and senior Marco Cardone, who transferred from Smithsburg.

“We came on strong in the second half last year. We’ve got plenty of bodies and a good crop of juniors,” said coach Ralph Stottlemyer of the Rebels, who closed with a flurry to finish 12-9 last season.

St. Maria Goretti
As a norm, the Gaels don’t have problems scoring runs. The problem is when they’ve scored nine or 10 runs, they gave up more.

Ian Moss, Connor Grimsley and Vince Turano (.393) are the top pitchers for Goretti, which has coach Duane Myers expressing some optimism.

Jay Donoghue is gone, but Myers said freshman Case Bartholomew could even be better and could become a take-charge player who could eventually hit cleanup.

The Gaels will participate in the Old Line League. The Gaels also have enough players to field a JV team.

“I think we can win the league even though we’ve got some raw talent,” said Myers.

First-year coach David Warrenfeltz is back on the field where he spent so many games in high school for the Wildcats, who were 9-13 last year.

“It’s exciting,” said Warrenfeltz, who is anxious to turn around a program which has enjoyed success in the past.

Williamsport has junior Ryan Butts (.409) behind the plate and senior Connor Arnone, who will come in from center field this year and play shortstop. Juniors Zach Lucas and Tyler Byers will add strength in the middle and Brendon Colliflower will add support in center field. Those three will also get innings on the mound behind senior Austin Taylor, the younger brother of Williamsport grad Aerik Taylor.

“We’ve stressed doing little things right away,” said Warrenfeltz. “We have (Taylor) as a legitimate No. 1 and I think our pitching can keep us in it to win every day.”

There are plenty of veterans competing for Broadfording in the Mason Dixon Christian Conference.

After going 10-8 last year, the Lions have a good top-to-bottom lineup in store.

The Lions are likely to score runs with outfielders D.J. Blanks and Pete Cradduck and power-hitting catcher Donnie Fritz. Ryan Dominguez should shore up the defense at second base.

On the mound, Matt South and Ryan Haldeman will lead the Lions.

“We lost Zach Snodderly (.567) to graduation, but the rest return and we’ll score runs,” said coach Rick Carter.

Heritage Academy
A mix of pitching, depth and senior leadership could lead to a good mix for Heritage Academy, which finished 7-5 last season.

Right-handers Kyle Smith and Ken Sterner will take the bulk of mound duties. Junior Chad Lowry (.486) will anchor the infield along with Bryce Nigh and newcomer Jacob Barr.

Head coach Mike Lowry will look to catcher Bubba Kriner for some power, along with added support from Brian Hendershot and Dan Mowen in the outfield.

Players to watch
Connor Arnone, Williamsport
Senior catcher was an All-County First Team honoree after hitting .429 with seven doubles and 16 RBIs. One of leaders in Tri-State with runs scored (37) and hits (33).

Ty Benson, North Hagerstown
Senior outfielder was an All-County First Team honoree. He had 30 hits, scored 27 runs and had .722 slugging percentage. Had 52 total bases.

Justin Lewis, Boonsboro
Junior pitcher/infielder suffered through eight losses on the mound but will improve with a greatly enhanced defense.

Trevor Haupt, South Hagerstown
Senior catcher back for his fourth year. Hit .391 last year with 27 hits and 27 RBIs.

Zach Lucas, Williamsport
Junior pitcher was an All-County Second Team last year. Had 1-0 record with  3.63 ERA.

Jordan Nicewarner, South Hagerstown
Senior first baseman hit .340 with 11 RBIs.

Eli Souders, Hancock
Senior outfielder hit .456 for the Panthers along with 17 RBIs.

Aaron Stoner, North Hagerstown
Senior pitcher was an All-County First Team honoree. He went 4-2 with two complete games and struck out 34. At the plate he hit .412 with three homers and 26 RBIs.

Vince Turano, St. Maria Goretti
Senior infielder/pitcher hit .393 with two homers and 10 RBIs last year. Had 35 hits and drove in 28 runs.

Ryne Willard, Smithsburg
Senior shortstop was an All-County First Team honoree after batting .466 with 28 runs scored, six homers and 27 RBIs. Had seven doubles and 16 walks.

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