COACH: Brett Wheeler
LAST YEAR: 14-8, 11-7 (5th)
TOP RETURNEES: P/1B Nate Matheson, CF Tim Robinson, SS/P/OF Antonio Leite, OF/2B John Wallis, 3B/P Matt Cowan, OF Eric Palmer, C/P Perry Barber.
TOP NEWCOMERS: IF/P Liam Bellows, 2B Dillon Roberts, C/3B Robbie Edwards.
OUTLOOK: After a three-year hiatus, Wheeler is coaching PD baseball again. He went 126-48-4 in eight seasons at Bethel before stepping down to coach his daughter in softball. He inherits some good talent led by Matheson (5-1, 0.90 ERA, .382 BA), a junior who has committed to South Carolina. Robinson is a three-year starter.
THE COACH SAYS: “Team speed will be a plus and will help our defense with a fleet-footed outfield. Pitching will be a strength with Nate Matheson leading the pitching staff. Antonio Leite, Matt Cowan, and Liam Bellows have looked good on the mound in the pre-season. We need to be able to play solid defense and put the ball in play offensively.”
5. GLOUCESTER DUKES
COACH: Gus Morande
LAST YEAR: 12-9, 12-6.
TOP RETURNEES: 1B Brian Belvin, SS Adam Baldwin, P Jacob Brown, OF Hector Rios, OF/P Michael Clements, P/C/IF Tyler Woods, OF Kenny Parks, 2B Anthony Morande, P Aaron Guy, OF Derek Poole.
TOP NEWCOMRS: IF/OF Matt Contreras, C/P Jon Letchworth, 1B/OF Jake Giles, P Jaykeb Pinto, 3B Justin May, OF/P Lindsay Coleman, OF B.J. Robinson.
OUTLOOK: Also back on the PD scene is Morande, who coached the Dukes from 1992-2006 before relocating to Delaware. Among the losses from last season are all-district OF Jacob Houston, a tough guy to replace. Baldwin will help carry the offense, and Woods (4-5) is capable of quieting bats. One of his wins last year was a six-inning perfect game against Denbigh.
THE COACH SAYS: “I feel at this time our pitching and defense are solid. The hope is that the offense will come around. If that happens, we will be competitive.”
6. BETHEL BRUINS
COACH: Antonio Tucker
LAST YEAR: 10-10, 9-9 (T-6th)
TOP RETURNEES: P/1B Ian Benner, 3B/1B Jaciel Graves, C Rashaun Chambers, 2B/P Taylor Moody, OF Ramel Reynolds.
TOP NEWCOMERS: P/1B Joesph Wetzler, SS/2B Sisqo Scott.
OUTLOOK: This is Tucker’s first season as head coach, though he was Steven Mingee’s assistant the last six years. He inherits a team that could be this year’s surprise. The Bruins return an All-PD pick in Graves, who hit .377 and drove in 17 runs. Benner was 4-5 on the mound and Chambers led the team with a .412 batting average.
THE COACH SAYS: “If we can stay focused the entire game, if pitchers throw strikes, and if we can eliminate mental mistakes and put the ball in play on offense, we will have a successful season.”