Scrimmages on the Catonsville High baseball diamond could be as entertaining as regular-season games this season as the Comets have a 25-player roster.
Joining the 12 returning seniors back from last year’s 13-6 squad are 11 juniors and a pair of sophomores.
“The JV has been really strong the last two years and it’s a big junior class, also the reason I kept more guys is the pitching limitations have changed for Maryland this year,” coach Rich Hambor said. “Basically, it’s not based on how many innings you’ve pitched. It’s totally pitch count now.”
A senior or junior pitcher cannot throw more than 105 pitches and a freshman or sophomore can't throw more than 95 in a game, and if anyone throws over 75 pitches, he is not allowed to throw for four full days.
“We have probably 10 or 11 guys who are going to pitch this year at any given moment, so we are going to need them,” Hambor said.
Catonsville is scheduled to open the 2017 season at Eastern Tech on Tuesday, March 21 with the home opener set for Thursday, March 24 against Franklin at 4 p.m.
The Comets opened last season with back-to-back losses to Mount Saint Joseph and Eastern Tech, but they the Comets closed it with nine wins in the last 11 games.
The only losses during that stretch were each by a run to Perry Hall, during the regular season, and Belair in the finals of Section I in the 4A North Region playoffs
In the sectional playoffs, Catonsville defeated Perry Hall and Dulaney in the first two rounds and were the top-ranked Baltimore County team (12th) in the Baltimore Sun Top 15 poll.
Seniors Jake Getzendanner (2B) and Matt Moulthop (SS), All-County first team selections last season, are back in the middle of the diamond.
Getzendanner led the Comets in batting average (.456) and runs scored (23) and was selected along with Moultrop to the 20-player District VI team and the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches North Region team.
Moulthrop batted .367 and tied for the team lead in doubles with six.
Senior third baseman Ethan Alioto was selected to the All-Division first team after batting .364.
Senior catcher Kevin Deitz was named to the All-Division second team.
Deitz batted .373 with 14 runs batted in and hit the Comets only home run of the season.
It came in a 7-2 win over Dulaney in the sectional semifinals. Deitz will be backed up by junior Kyle Ryan.
This year’s team may have more power, but home runs may not be in abundance.
“I think we are going to have some more power, but I don’t know if it’s going to show with the home runs, but it’s going to show with the extra-base hits,” Hambor said. “We will be driving the ball in the gap instead of hitting the ball in front of the outfielders.”
Senior Ross Kidd starts at first base and at 6-feet, 6 inches tall, he will provide a big target.
Infield depth should be provided by juniors Adam Grace (3B), Jake Perry (3B), Joe Harrell (1B) and Brenden Kehoe (2B) and sophomore Cody Brick (SS).
Senior veterans Matt Rehder (.375 average) and Brent Johns (12 RBIs) return to the starting outfield, where they will be joined by senior Chaz Brunson or junior Carl Baker.
Juniors Will Corbitt, Mikhali Klosteridis and David Patton and sophomore Will Jones add depth to the outfield.
Senior pitchers Joe Rubalcaba, Matt Rhoades, Ross Kidd and Brandon Mackenzie look to fill in the solid numbers posted by graduated seniors Jake Parrott and Danny Terzi last season.
Parrott and Terzi combined to go 8-4 with earned run averages under 2.30.
Rubalcaba was 2-2 with a 1.67 e.r.a. and Rhoades was 2-0 with two saves and a 3.13 e.r.a. in limited innings last season.
Other pitching candidates include juniors Baker, Hunter Blackburn, Heath Marion and Matthew McMillan and Brick.
Although the recent snowstorm kept the Comets off the field last week, the warmer days in early March gave them a chance to get outside and while Hambor is hoping for a better start than last year, he knows when the team has to peak.
“We always talk about three different seasons,” Hambor said. “We have our season before spring break and we try to get things situated there. We come out after spring break and try to have our eye toward the playoffs, and that’s our second season, and our third season is the playoffs. Once that spring break is over and you get into the second half of the season, you really want to be clicking and playing your best ball in May, which I think we did last year.”
Players up from the JV squad that lost only two games last season bring a winning attitude that should mesh nicely with three-year varsity veterans Getzendanner, Moulthrop, Rehder and Deitz.
“They were there as 10th graders and this is kind of what we were hoping for their senior year to try and put this together,” Hambor said. “They are very confident and we are just going to try to tweak things that we already know and push them a little bit further.”