1. MENCHVILLE MONARCHS
COACH: Phil Forbes
LAST YEAR: 21-4, 15-3 (T-1st), lost to Salem in Eastern Region semifinals.
TOP RETURNEES: 3B/P Tanner Woods, OF/P John Woodard, IF/P Emory Chopp, C Eric Weinreich, 2B/P Leroy Simmonds, OF Hunter Martin.
TOP NEWCOMERS: IF/P Austin Fields, IF Chris Meadows, LHP/IF Joe Tuzzolo, C/OF Shamoy Christopher, C/IF Clinton Stroble, RHP/IF Landon Woods, OF Connor McCarthy, OF/IF Hayden Storm, RHP Thailer Villarreal, OF Jah-neel Warner.
OUTLOOK: The Monarchs lost their top two pitchers but have plenty returning from a team that came within two runs of getting back to the state tournament. Woods (.313), Martin (390) and Simmonds (.368) are returning starters. Menchville also has plenty of talent coming up from last year’s 16-1-1 junior varsity team. As always, the Monarchs’ strength should be pitching depth, even despite the loss of Garrett Chrismon and Malik Mitchell. Menchville also has players who can play multiple positions. What the Monarchs’ don’t have is much power. But a lot of singles and doubles can overcome that.
THE COACH SAYS: “I believe with the number of pitchers we have, we’ll be OK with the new pitching rule. Each one of our pitchers should be able to give us a good two, three innings. Anybody who says they can pitch, we want to give them long looks.”
2. HAMPTON CRABBERS
COACH: Danny Mitchell
LAST YEAR: 18-7, 15-3 (T-1st), lost to Kellam in Eastern Region quarterfinals.
TOP RETURNEES: SS/P Steve Hux, SS/P Patrick Jackowski, 3B Patrick Kyle, P/1B Kevin Matthews, CF/P Darius Harris, C Graham Johnson, C J.J. Spellar, DH/1B Levi Halsey.
TOP NEWCOMERS: OF Tyquan Wilkins, OF A.J. Young, OF Cal Key.OUTLOOK: Last year’s co-championship season came a year earlier than Mitchell expected. But with six returning starters, the Crabbers should be in the hunt again. Hux, last season’s PD Player of the Year, was 9-3 on the mound and .378 at the plate. He’ll move from third to short with the graduation of Cody Seals. Kyle is back at third base, where he’s a solid glove and hitter, and Harris gets to just about everything in the outfield. Matthews (4-2) will be a strong No. 2 to Hux on the mound, and Jackowski and Harris should round it out.
THE COACH SAYS: “I like the experience level, but sometimes that leads to complacency. That’s the one thing I’m worried about. I want to make sure they’re still hungry. We won last year by sneaking up on people. We won’t be able to do that this year.”
3. WOODSIDE WOLVERINES
COACH: Kevin Hare
LAST YEAR: 14-6, 13-5 (4th)
TOP RETURNEES: IF Justin Burrell, IF/P Jordan Carter, IF/P Tim Perry, OF Austin Rouleau, C Roman Degnan, IF Seth Woodard, P/OF Josh Welcher, IF Shane Arceo, UTL Torin Porter.
TOP NEWCOMERS: P/OF Nick Arendas, IF Brandon Sadler, IF Jason Setliff, IF Matt Arendas, IF Shane Westfall, P/IF Sam Skabla.
OUTLOOK: The Wolverines have a strong group returning led by Burrell (a team-high 39 RBI), Carter, Perry, Rouleau and Degnan. Degnan will switch from the outfield to catcher with the graduation of Anthony Rouleau. Woodside also loses its top pitcher in Kyle Westfall (5-3), but Carter and Perry should be effective. One point of emphasis is a strong start. The Wolverines came out of the gate 0-2 in each of the last two seasons.
THE COACH SAYS: “I like the overall team speed and good mix of upper and lower class(men). The question is how quickly this mix settles. The key is to get off to an unusual start for (us) by winning some games early in the season. If the weather cooperates and games don’t get backed up, (we) should be in the mix at season end.”
4. KECOUGHTAN WARRIORS
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.”
7. WARWICK RAIDERS
COACH: Todd Barker
LAST YEAR: 10-10, 9-9 (T-6th)
TOP RETURNEES: OF Jahleel Sewer, OF/P Dallas Bevins, UTL Brandon Delgado.
TOP NEWCOMERS: SS/2B Mikey Delgado, UTL Triston Stuples, C Devin Frizzell, IF Michael Wiechman.
OUTLOOK: The Raiders are going through something of a youth movement, but they’re fortunate to return senior Sewer in center field. He was an All-PD pick last season and might be the district’s fastest playe. Seniors Bevins and Delgado also are back and will be counted on.
THE COACH SAYS: “We will be very young, but I think we will play good fundamental baseball. This is a team built to compete and get better as the season goes on. I lost seven starters from last year and we are filling in with youth. We will start three 9th graders and a sophomore most games.”
8. DENBIGH PATRIOTS
COACH: Chris Ochsenfeld
LAST YEAR: 4-15, 4-14 (8th)
TOP RETURNEES: P/IF Keith Mays, 3B/P Ben Sifen, SS Tim Perry, CF John Garcia, 1B/P David Kearney, C Thomas Morgan, UTL Ryan Rhodes, OF Patrick Prosser.
TOP NEWCOMERS: 1B/P Austin Edmonds, OF/P Troy Bryant.
OUTLOOK: The Patriots struggled last year but have a lot of the same players back, which can either mean improvement or more of the same. Mays (2-6) is a much better pitcher than his record shows. Sifen and Perry are experienced seniors who should make a difference.
THE COACH SAYS: “For us to be successful, we need to play solid defense and make the routine plays. Offensively, we have to do better with situational hitting and squaring up on balls. We have multiple pitchers who have experience, but we have to attack the zone.”
9. PHOEBUS PHANTOMS
COACH: James “Feenie” Carter
LAST YEAR: 2-16, 2-16 (9th)
TOP RETURNEES: P/IF James Voris, P/SS Caleb Ward, CF Dominique Holt, RF Timothy Garris, 2B/P Tommy Baacke, LF Mikal Lee.
TOP NEWCOMERS: 3B Seth Roby.
OUTLOOK: The Phantoms’ only wins last year came against Heritage, but they had five losses by four runs or less. That includes a 5-4 loss to Gloucester. But six starters are back, and it’s Carter’s hope that the experience will mean more wins.
THE COACH SAYS: “Voris and Ward will carry the load on the mound. The pitchers have gotten better with more experience. I think we'll sneak up on some people.”
10. HERITAGE HURRICANES
COACH: Rolando Pierce
LAST YEAR: 0-18, 0-18 (10th)
RETURNEES: P/1B Charles Harrison, IF/C/P Keenan Wilson, OF Gary Webster, 3B/RF Adrian Blount, C Juwan Madden.
TOP NEWCOMERS: 2B Shomari Wright, 3B/1B Dominick Crosby, 1B/OF Rasheed Branch, OF Montez Ruffin.
OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes have lost 57 consecutive district games, so step one in turning this program around is ending that skid. Pierce will be in his first full season after replacing Doug Williams at the midpoint last spring. He’ll rely on the veterans and some talented newcomers, and maybe the Hurricanes can break through.
THE COACH SAYS: “I am expecting this to be a year that we start to see the fruits of our rebuilding process. I have a great group of kids who, through the coaching change and loss of key players, continue to work hard and believe.”