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Catonsville baseball squad set to open the season

The Catonsville baseball team played three scrimmages on consecutive days two weeks ago in frigid temperatures, with gusts of wind that would make a knuckle ball pitcher salivate.

“It was dry, but brutal,” said coach Rich Hambor, who had his team practicing outside in similar conditions the next day. They were wearing sweatpants and hooded sweatshirts.

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After that practice on March 23, Hambor was eager for the start of opening day, scheduled for March 30 against Manchester Valley, and he was not concerned about the weather.

“I’m never going to say the weather is a deterrent because we all have the same weather,” Hambor said. “I’m not concerned about anything. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to getting the season started.”

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The Comets had to wait until today at home against Sparrows Point for that to happen.

Last week, except for one 60-degree day on Monday, weather put a halt to all practices for three straight days, because Baltimore County schools closed early on Tuesday and all day on Wednesday and Thursday, because of snow.

The game against Manchester Valley was postponed, but Hambor wasn’t overly concerned if they have to make up the game this week or if there are other games rescheduled because of the snow on the fields.

“Over those three scrimmages, we used 11 different pitchers, so I feel like right now we could do it,” Hambor said. “We could probably go 12 or 13 deep with guys who have pitched before in travel, but maybe not pitched in varsity games before. That’s going to be a huge help if schedules get backed up.”

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The top four pitchers in the rotation include senior Carl Baker, juniors Cody Brick and Will Jones and senior Brenden Kehoe.

Baker had a 2-1 record in seven innings pitched last season, and Brick and Jones only pitched one inning each because the 9-8 Comets were led by the triple threat of graduated seniors Matt Rhoades (4-1, 1.98 earned run average), Joe Rubalcaba (3.13 e.r.a., 37 strikeouts in 38 innings) and Ross Kidd (1-0, 1.24 e.r.a.).

They combined for 83 1/3 of the 112 innings pitched by the Comets.

Among the other nine players listed on the roster as pitching candidates, none has ever thrown a pitch on the varsity level.

They include seniors Matt McMillan, Kyle Ryan and Hunter Blackburn, juniors Ben Hall, Garrett Steneman, Tom Brown, Sam Brown and Brooks Richardson and sophomore Mark Brady.

Several of the pitchers will be full-time position players.

Brick, an all-county designated hitter last year, when he batted .368 with six RBIs and two doubles, is slated to start at shortstop.

Jones, who belted two home runs last year and drove in eight runs, starts at first base and has already impressed his coach by drilling some rockets off the fence.

Catonsville junior Will Jones, right, belted two home runs for the Comets last season. He will also be one of the top pitchers in the rotation this year for the Comets, who opened the season today at home against Sparrows Point.
Catonsville junior Will Jones, right, belted two home runs for the Comets last season. He will also be one of the top pitchers in the rotation this year for the Comets, who opened the season today at home against Sparrows Point. (File photo)

Ryan is the starting catcher and Kehoe mans the hot corner at third base, while senior Adam Grace takes over at second base.

Brady will be the ultimate utility player, depending who is on the mound.

“He’s going to play every day somewhere,” Hambor said. “He’s my number one reserve.”

Flychasers in the outfield include Baker (LF), junior Dallas Evans (CF) and freshman Nick Eiswert (RF).

Evans didn’t play last year, but his speed as a tailback on the football team can translate to the baseball diamond, where he will be one of the team’s top base runners along with Baker.

Reserve outfielders include Brady and seniors Will Corbitt, David Paton and Scott Delcarpio.

Other first base candidates are senior Joey Harrell, Tom Brown and McMillan.

Harrell is a returning varsity reserve who was impressive in the preseason.

He’s been on fire at the plate,” Hambor said. “He didn’t get a lot of opportunities last year, but the last two weeks he was 3-for-6 in the scrimmages and he had two hard-hit outs.”

Hall adds depth at second base, and senior Jake Perry can provide relief at third base.

Backup candidates behind the plate include juniors Sam Brown, Adam Bailey and Nate Beyer.

Hambor is not concerned about having 23 players on the roster.

“Everybody on the roster can play,” Hambor said.“We are stronger all around. We are two deep at every position, and everybody contributes something unique as well.”

Despite losing 11 varsity players from last season, Hambor likes the way the newcomers have meshed with the 12 returning varsity players.

“We’ve got such great chemistry right now, but what I’ve seen over the last three years with all these guys is everybody wanting everybody else to succeed,” Hambor said.

“It was evident at the scrimmages we’ve had this year, where even when we rotated guys in, everybody on the bench was involved in the game and excited about everybody’s success.”

Hambor is assisted by Eric Warm and Reid Foxwell. Former Catonsville baseball player and 2009 graduate Jeremy Manone is the JV coach.

“I’m looking forward to getting the season started,” Hambor said. “We have already played three good games.”

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