For players on the Putty Hill Panthers 22-and-under team who have to work this summer, the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League is the perfect fit because they don’t have to go very far for games: St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville.
That’s a lot shorter drive than some of their friends who compete in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, which has teams in Virginia, Southern Maryland, Washington D.C. and Montgomery County.
Most of the players on Putty Hill’s roster also compete collegiately.
The team features a slew of local standouts, including catcher and Gilman rising senior Matt Slodzinski, outfielder Sam Hanke (Loyola Blakefield grad, Glenville State), outfielder Matt Tilley (Gilman, William & Mary), first baseman Spencer Sutton (Calvert Hall, Towson University), second baseball Ryan Bartenfelder (Dulaney, Salisbury), pitchers Michael Gillespie (Boys’ Latin, University of Delaware), Garrett Walther (Calvert Hall, Towson University) and Ben Deaver (Calvert Hall, Rider University).
“The biggest thing about players here on my team is they don’t want to do all the driving,” said Putty Hill coach Pete Karsos, whose squad is 7-9. “The Ripken league you are up till 12:30 at night. Most of these guys are working. That’s why they are not playing in the Ripken league. We have three guys from Johns Hopkins (University) who have aerospace jobs.”
Playing for Putty Hill and in the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League is also about improving skills and getting repetitions.
Some players at four-year colleges want to strengthen their position, others hope to take the next step after playing at community colleges.
Slodzinski is eager to play college baseball and is the only high school player on the team’s 28-player roster. Five play at community colleges and the rest at four-year colleges.
“There’s a big range of goals on the team,” the Towson resident said. “I am just trying to move up to the next level and step up my game. Some of these guys play at good, top college programs. That’s where I want to be.”
When the Putty Hill players and coaching staff talk about the Panthers, the conversation always seems to back to pitching.
Deaver, a right-hander, has basically emerged as a ace of the well-armed staff. He’s 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
His best effort came in a 6-4 conquest over the Yankees Rebels on June 4 in a 9-2 victory.
“He just pounds the strike zone,” Karsos said. “He throws the curve ball and change-up for strikes. He really works at the game and I like the way he approaches it.”
Gillespie is the most intriguing pitcher and hardest thrower on Putty Hill’s staff.
“He is our biggest power pitcher,” Karsos said. “Delaware clocked him at 91 (mph) before he left. Delaware really wanted to get some innings this summer, so our job has been to get him into pitching shape. He started off the year with a little bit of wildness, but since then has done a really good job for us.”
Three right-handers — Christopher Denno (West Virginia Wesleyan), Paul Hawk and Wathers — are also a big part of the pitching staff.
“I have five guys that throw the ball well,” Karsos said.
Slodzinski likes All-Star caliber roster the Panthers have assembled.
“There are a lot of kids from the MIAA (Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association) who I played against who I am now playing with,” said Slodzinski, who shares catching duties with Andrew Shinnick (Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk) and Matt Baum (John Hopkins). “I think it makes for a really fun environment.”