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Catonsville baseball squad set to open against Mount St. Joseph

Catonsville baseball squad set to open against Mount St. Joseph
Catonsville High senior Jake Parrott will be a fixture in the rotation for the Comets who ope their season on  March 22 against Mount St. Joe. (File photo/2016)

Catonsville's schedule won't allow them to ease into the spring season because the Comets open with consecutive home games against Mount St. Joseph (March 22) and Eastern Tech (March 23).

The Gaels are an annual threat to be one of the elite squads in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.

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The Mavericks are the defending Class 2A North Region champions.

The Comets are coming off a 9-8 season which ended when they lost in the second round of the playoffs to eventual regional champion Perry Hall, 8-2.

In that game, Danny Terzi and Eric Sheppard hit solo home runs and Terzi was robbed of a grand slam with the score tied 2-2 in the top of the fifth.

But, don't get the idea the Comets were a power-hitting squad last season.

Those playoff homers were the only ones they hit last spring.

Coach Rich Hambor, in his 12th season, is confident the Comets will display more power this season.

"Most of these guys are back and are bigger and stronger," Hambor said.

Seniors Sheppard (OF) and Terzi (3B/P) return.

Sheppard batted .293 and led the Comets with two triples, while also driving in eight runs.

Senior Jack Harrell (1B) was the top hitter last year (.386) when he also posted a .509 on base percentage and had a team-leading five doubles.

Junior Jake Getzendanner (2B) returns after hitting .319 with a team-high 13 RBIs.

He will be joined in the middle of the infield by classmate Matt Moulthrop (.289) for their second varsity season.

"They played together all year last season as sophomores and they are meshing," Hambor said. "They know each other's next move."

The coach is also confident in varsity veteran Kevin Deitz behind the plate.

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"He has made great strides since last year," Hambor said of the junior. "His confidence is through the roof. He's been through it for a year. He knows what it's about."

He'll handle a pitching staff led by right-handers Terzi and senior Jake Parrott.

Terzi pitched 23 innings and went 1-0 while posting a 2.13 earned run average.

Parrott (1-3) pitched against a lot of quality foes and posted a 2.84 e.r.a. and had a 1.297 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched).

"He basically knows this is my job and I'm good at it and I'm going to help this team become champions," Hambor said.

Junior Joe Rubalcaba got a taste of varsity pitching last season after getting called up from junior varsity for the playoffs and will figure in the rotation.

Other pitching candidates are junior righties Ethan Alioto and Ross Kidd and southpaw Matt Rhoades, who also pitched for the Comet junior varsity that went undefeated last season and has won their division six years in a row.

"We don't have a guy that is throwing 95 miles an hour or somebody we can throw out there and say we are only going to give up three hits," Hambor said. "If we play solid defense and we score four or five runs I feel good about our chances. Our defense is good. We have guys that are fundamental."

That defense will also include returning varsity veterans Matt Rehder (CF), a junior, and senior Nick Grace (3B).

Grace batted .308 last season and brings a lot of hustle.

"He is a Pete Rose type," Hambor said. "He goes head first into everything all the time."

Junior Brent Johns, a transfer from Mount St. Joe, should challenge for a starting outfield role along with senior Zach Caslin.

Seniors Jack Pendleton and Ryan Herilla could also help as flychasers, along with juniors Chaz Brunson and Alioto.

Infield depth will be provided by senior Tommy Meseke and juniors Wade Ashby and Kenny McGee.

Junior Brandon Mackenzie adds pitching depth and Herilla backs up Deitz at catcher after starting four games last season.

"A lot of kids that are going to be backups for us could play for a lot of teams," said Hambor, who had to cut 30 players from the junior varsity. "It speaks volumes to the baseball community and how much they love baseball."

While the competition for starting spots could get heated, Hambor knows his squad can handle it.

"Kids have no problem competing with their friends," Hambor said. "They said we are all in this together."

Hambor, who has a 128-62 career record, will play the Gaels for the third time in the past four years.

Last year's game was rained out and the Comets lost in the Jack Conley Tournament in 2013 and 2014.

This will be the first time the two teams have met in a regular-season contest in Hambor's tenure and the first one they will host.

"I'm glad they took us up on the offer and we will reciprocate next year. We will go out there," Hambor said. "It's a great opening day. I'm really excited."

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