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Prep Baseball: Season opens with battle of heavyweights

March 21, 2013|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Preps Previews
Washington County Preps Previews

If the weather cooperates, the last two Washington County high school baseball teams standing in the 2012 season will get an early shot at one another this afternoon.

The schedule makers made an MVAL Antietam Conference showdown between Williamsport and North Hagerstown the season opener for those schools in 2013.

What a way to get the season off to a rousing start.

It was no surprise North Hagerstown reached the Maryland Class 3A state tournament. The Hubs lost to North Harford on Kevin Mooney’s perfect game.

The off-field adversity Williamsport faced just before the postseason made the Wildcats’ run to the Class 2A state title much more unexpected.

But it’s a new year, and everyone already has their eyes shifted toward the North camp and much balleyhooed senior Andrew Yacyk, the 2012 Herald-Mail All-County Hitter of the Year.

Yacyk hit .455, set a single-season state record with 51 runs batted in, had 35 hits, 35 runs, eight doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He will head to Liberty University after graduation.

“It starts with the big boy,” head coach Drew Crawford said of Yacyk. “I don’t doubt that he can outperform last year.”

Yacyk won’t just be asked to hit. When he’s not at first base or in right field, he’ll be on the mound, where he can bring some power with his pitches.

In the Williamsport camp, there are holes left from graduation, so there could be some growing pains in the early stages of the season.

“We have some lessons to learn, but it only comes in games,” Warrenfeltz said. “We need to define some starting roles, so we’ll be a different team in the beginning than at the end.”

Boonsboro

First-year coach Ronnie Stewart is looking forward to getting the Warriors into some old-school, hard-nosed baseball. Stewart, who succeeds Ben Leonard, is familiar with area prep baseball, but this is his first time on the bench as a head coach.

“We’ve got some good talent,” Stewart said. “We want to bunt, run, play good defense ... stress fundamentals.”

The Warriors, 10-11 last year, spent much of the time scoring late to win or losing in the late innings.

Senior Scott Bennett (2-2, 5.64), second-team All-County as a second baseman last year, will get plenty of work on the mound, along with seniors Chad Cowden and Ryan Ruiz, who hopes to stay healthy this year. Ruiz will split time on the mound and at second base.

“Bennett is our only shutdown pitcher and Cowden could be a sleeper on the mound,” Stewart said. “We’ve got some speed at the top of the lineup.”

Senior Zack Poffenberger is back for his third varsity season in the outfield and a healthy outfielder Gunnar Whipp will help the Warriors.

Boonsboro has not had a winning season since going 11-10 in 2008.

Broadfording Christian

Broadfording had two straight winning seasons until last year’s 0-16 record, a mark the Lions hope is long gone in the rear view mirror.

“We’re in a lot better shape this year than a year ago,” said coach Greg Haupt. “We got better at the end of the year. We had players that hadn’t played baseball before.”

Senior Trevor Snodderly, a catcher the past two years, will do a little of everything, including pitching, hoping to form a good tandem of arms along with junior Christian Kehr. Snodderly hit .395 last season with 10 RBIs.

“We want to play good fundamental baseball,” Haupt said. “Our goal is to get to .500 within the conference.”

Clear Spring

There are plenty of big boppers in the Clear Spring camp and all will be in full force once outfielder Logan Appel fully recovers from a broken hand and gets into action at the end of the month.

The Blazers have about 20 home runs in experience returning from last year, including seven each from Appel (.517, 26 RBIs), catcher Dylan Stouffer (.485, 47 RBIs) and outfielder Jared Brandt .441, 18 RBIs).

“We’ve got power returning, but we have to get healthy,” coach Mark Shives said. “Every year we have an identity problem and this year we need guys to step up on the mound.”

That begins with returning right-hander Forrest Williamson (4-2, 2.90 ERA) and David Moser (2-1, 3.07).

Senior Ryan Aaron returns at second base, Dylan Appel will be back at short and C.J. Elwood will plays in different places.

Stouffer and Appel are returning first-team All-County stars to lead the Blazers, who were 13-7 last year and looking to return to the form that took them to the state tournament in 2010.

Grace Academy

Head coach Justin Culbertson hopes his team can improve on a 4-8 record with junior Cole Helman leading the way as the No. 1 pitcher.

“He’ll play everywhere,” Culbertson said. “He turned into a good pitcher at the end of last year and he hit .400.”

Newcomer Matt Cole, a sophomore lefty, will be the No. 2 pitcher.

Culbertson is also looking for Harrison Barger, a big eighth-grader, to play first base and be an important part of the team.

Hancock

Coach Brian Kerns has a few key players returning and he knows them all in his sleep.

Pitcher Hunter McKinley is in his fourth year, while pitcher Nate Souders and first baseman Tanner Manning are in their third and they’ll be the go-to guys.

“I’m actually pretty pleased the way they’ve been practicing,” Kerns said. “This has been the best group working together. We got kids that will play positions that is best for the team and we’ve got two quality starters.”

McKinley, who will head to Davis & Elkins, was 2-4 with a 4.28 ERA. Souders hit .349 with three HRs and 13 RBIs and Manning batted .327.

Kerns also has Jesse Wolford penciled in as his leadoff batter playing center field as Tanner Faith moves in from center to third base.

“This group pretty much knows how to play,” Kerns said. “We’re looking to be better than .500.”

Hancock’s last winning record was 10-8 in 2010.

Heritage Academy

Heritage lost a couple of key players to graduation, but three seniors are back in the fold and new head coach Jeff Kriner will look to them for leadership and underclassmen to fill roles at multiple positions.

“We’ve got a lot of boys that can play multiple positions this year,” Kriner said. “The hitting will come and I think we’ll be good offensively.”

Kriner will lean on three returning seniors as important components to a team that went 13-1 last year.

Pitcher/outfielder Bryce Nigh, outfielder Colin Poyle and pitcher/shortstop Bubba Kriner are back in the fold and Kriner is high on junior Abe Strickler.

Nigh had a .478 average with two homers and 16 RBIs and had a 10-1 record on the mound with a 2.33 ERA. Poyle hit .529 last year and Kriner hit .346.

North Hagerstown

If North averages 11 runs a game as it did in 2012 on the way to a 20-2-1 record, the Hubs might be going places again.

It would be a surprise to Crawford, who lost plenty of offensive firepower to graduation.

There’s senior shortstop Matt Daley (.404, 1 HR, 14 RBIs), but the rest will come from those who saw minimal play last year, including outfielder/pitcher Zane Schreiber and pitcher/third baseman John Britton.

Crawford expects Britton (0-1, 2.00) to be the No. 1 arm with Yacyk and Schreiber, who has signed at George Washington University, on the rubber next. The Hubs also have outfielder Austin Stone and strong veteran catcher Hunter Williams back in the fold.

“We feel good about the group of guys we have,” Crawford said. “It starts with the pitching and we’ll be as good as the pitching is. We’ll score runs, I just don’t think it will be 11 a game. Defensively we just need to prevent big innings.”

The biggest loss pitching is Herald-Mail All-County Pitcher of the Year J.T. Root, who went 8-1 with a 1.91 ERA.

Saint James

“We’re hoping to be in every game and be competitive and that would be a good year,” coach Mick Kerns said. “We’ve basically had the same team three years, so we should improve.”

The Saints are not young and because of that, Kerns says there is no excuse to improve on last year’s 8-17 record.

“We’re no longer a young team. There’s no excuse,” he said.

One of the top players in the county is strapping junior catcher Garrett Blank, a second team All-County last year with a .329 average, 6 homers and 21 RBIs.

“It’s nice to have a solid catcher,” Kerns said. “He leads and he keeps everything in front of him.”

Senior outfielder Bobby Leatherman led the Saints in batting with a .370 mark with 27 hits and 15 RBIs. Also returning is senior first baseman Nico Gentile, who hit .308.

Senior Brett Vitkun is back for a third year and will likely carry at least one-third of the innings on the mound. He’ll also be in the outfield and looks to improve on his .291 average.

Smithsburg

If Smithsburg can turn around the 1- and 2-run losses in late innings from last year, a subpar 4-18 record will quickly be forgotten.

“We’ve worked all offseason and when you look back, you know what you need to focus on,” Smithsburg coach Trey Cobb said. “Pitching kept us in games last year. This year, we’ve got to do it by committee to succeed.”

After a sophomore season going 5-0 with a 4.29 ERA, J.R. Rinehart slipped backward last year to 1-8 and a 6.87 ERA, But like the team record, it’s in the past.

Cobb is also counting on junior Josh Miller, who was 0-3 over 17 innings last year, to improve and help out.

The highest batting average returning is that of senior first-baseman/DH Kyle Dinterman, who batted .309 with one homer and 10 RBIs. Junior James Shiffler hit .292 and is expected to improve at the plate along with shortstop and leadoff hitter Ryan Bolton, who missed the latter part of the year with a torn ACL.

“We’re not returning much power, but we have some speed and guys to make contact and the plate and manufacture runs,” Cobb said.

South Hagerstown

The Rebels simply underachieved last year with the talent it had.

“We just didn’t produce and we lost a lot of one-run games because of defensive lapses,” coach Zack Swisher said. “We’re shoring up the defense this year and we won’t have any rookie manager lapses, either.”

Colby Johnson was a second-team All-County player, hitting .491 with two homers and 16 RBIs. When he’s not in the field, he’ll get a chance to shine on the mound as a third starter.

Swisher will put junior Airin Martin (1-4, 6.25 ERA) and senior Aaron Roby (2-5, 7.26) out as his top two starters, hoping to help improve on the Rebels’ 6-15 record from last year. Martin was honorable mention All-County.

Center fielder Tim Kitchen will be counted on to set the table and get on base with his speed. He hit .333 last year.

Leaving holes to fill via graduation were veterans Sean Przywieczerski and Brandon Hess.

The Rebels have won 12 games total the last two seasons, the win total of their last above-.500 season of 12-9 in 2010.

St. Maria Goretti

The Gaels, under first-year coach Denny Talbert, are going to take a methodical approach to the season.

“We will compete, one pitch, one inning at a time,” Talbert said. “We have to be fundamentally sound, play to our potential, set some goals and work hard to achieve them.”

Goretti’s roster is nearly a duplicate of last year’s 15-14 squad, so the Gaels should be looking foward to the season.

Talbert will hand the baseball to any of four pitchers — Ryan Kinter (5-4, 2.43 ERA), Adam Blenckstone, Kevin Proctor and Tim Davidson. Control issues were a nemesis last season that needs improvement.

Blenckstone hit .413, Proctor hit .405, outfielder Jackson Roth returns and hit .389, Casey Bartholomew (.365) is back behind the dish and Josh Moats (.351) and Jake Moats (.408) all are offensive threats.

Williamsport

Two-time Coach of the Year David Warrenfeltz has pitching holes to fill, having lost 79 percent of innings pitched last year to graduation.

Among this year’s crop, senior Ryan Boward threw 18 1/3 innings, senior Nick Sauble threw 13 1/3, junior Wyatt Scriever threw 1 1/3 and junior Riley Arnone threw 1/3 last year.

“We lost a lot of pitching, this year’s pitchers are unproven at the varsity level,” Warrenfeltz said. “The big three (Zach Lucas, Tyler Byers, the late Brendon Colliflower) ate up the innings, but I feel good about the guys this season.”

The defending 2A champions, 15-9 in 2012, also have players in the field who gained invaluable experience in the Wildcats’ playoff march.

Brandon Allen (.321) will be in right, Brandon Toloso (.246) will be at short, Nick Williams will move to first from third. Arnone (.289) will be in either center or left when  he’s not pitching and Sauble will play second or third.

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