While it may not seem like baseball season after Monday's snow, in just two short months someone will be competing for a state title at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.
And for the first time in several years, one of those teams could be from Howard County.
It has been four years since a local team hoisted the state championship trophy, when River Hill went on a memorable run in 2009. One year later, Atholton and Hammond both had promising seasons end in the state semifinals.
But in each of the last two years, no local team has made it past the regional championship.
With four returning all-county players, including 2012 Player of the Year candidate Logan Dubbe, Glenelg is looking to end that trend.
Dubbe "has some incredible career numbers. He is going to reach 100 hits and 100 RBIs at some point this year, and he is also one of the best pitchers in the county," said coach Dave Boteler, whose team has lost in the regional championship three of the past four seasons, twice by only one run.
Reservoir, which has won each of the past two District V titles but has never made it to the state tournament, is also looking to take the next step this year.
The Gators have graduated a Player of the Year each of the past two seasons (T.J. Pipik in 2011 and Lee Lawler in 2012), but bring back sophomore Cody Morris, the 2012 county Pitcher of the Year and a preseason MSABC all-state selection.
"I think Glenelg is going to be real strong and I think River Hill is going to be real strong. Hammond is going to be real strong, but there are a lot of teams. Oakland Mills has got two really good pitchers (Joe Zayatz and Kyle Madden-Stricker). Howard is going to be tough. Everybody is going to be tough," said Reservoir coach Adam Leader, whose opening day line-up featured six sophomores in the field. "We're really young so it's going to be interesting to see what these guys do ... but I think as a county as a whole, it's going to be an interesting year. I think it's going to be kind of like college basketball, everybody's going to take lumps and when it comes down to the end, it's going to be who's ready to rock and roll."
River Hill, the last local team to win a state title, seemed primed for a dominant season with the one-two punch of Richie Lancashire and Evan Griffin. But Griffin, a preseason all-state selection who was poised to join the career 100-hit club this season, suffered a preseason hip injury and will be sidelined for his senior campaign.
Among the private schools, Chapelgate (MIAA C Conference) and Glenelg Country (MIAA B Conference) will each try to take the next step in 2013 after a successful 2012 season.
The league will see only one new coach this season, as Casey Medairy takes over at Hammond.
Michael Lerner, who coached the Golden Bears for ten years total while taking off one year in 2011 after his son was born, stepped down again after last season to focus on his career as an educator and administrator.
Medairy played at Howard High School, earning second team all-county honors as a senior outfielder in 2007. That same year he won a county title in the indoor pole vault.
At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Medairy was a productive four-year outfielder, starting more than 100 games. He spent one year as the head JV coach at Atholton before coming to Hammond.
"I was more than happy to take the opportunity. This is what I want to do is coach varsity baseball," said Medairy, who is also currently finishing up his training as a student teacher. "We've got some work to do but I know that we can compete in this county."
Around the horn
Here is a look at all 14 county teams as the season begins.
Last state tournament appearance: 2010; Last state championship: 2002 (1st).
Top players: Seniors Joe Bentz (SS), Paul Burmester^ (C) and Austin Feuerman (1B); juniors Brady Acker* (CF) and Michael Slayton (P/2B); sophomore Nick Raulin (P/3B).
Key losses: Josh Martin (P/SS), Karter Seamonson (LHP/OF)
Scouting report: Slayton, who pitched to a 3.47 ERA last year over 40 innings as a sophomore, is the Raiders top pitcher. Raulin, who was the only Atholton freshman to make varsity last year, could eventually ascend to the No. 2 spot in the rotation. Acker, who batted .351 last year with 21 stolen bases, is the team's leadoff hitter and is being recruited by several Division I programs. He is one of only three preseason all state players from Howard County. Another returning .300 hitter, Bentz, has committed to play for Stevenson University next year. Burmester was the team's leading hitter last year, batting at a .390 clip, and is also one of the league's best at catching would-be base stealers, with 12 assists from behind the plate last year. He has committed to play for Catholic University next year. Dupski calls Feuerman one of the best defensive first basemen he has seen. Feuerman is also one of the team's best power hitters and will play for Ursinus next year. Freshman Blake James (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) was a key member of several elite travel teams prior to high school, and could have an immediate impact in the line-up and on the mound. Junior Phil Frazier earned a varsity call-up last year for the playoffs, and will be a starting outfielder on opening day.
Coach: Denis Ahearn, 12th season
2012 record: 10-7, 12-9
Last state tournament appearance: 2008; Last state championship: 2004 (2nd).
Top players: Seniors Joe Eads (P) and Brandon Feuerman (OF/P); juniors Derek Nadeau (P/SS), Dan Sterenberg (2B) and Tyler Morris (OF/SS).
Key losses: Jerry Burgo (P/RF), Ben Ciraolo (C), Ben Goldsmith (P/CF), Garrett Kurtz (P/1B), Jared Lacey (3B)
Scouting report: The Eagles graduated a strong senior class last spring, led by Garrett Kurtz, but the class of 2013 and 2014 is ready to step up. Eads and Nadeau will serve as the foundation of the pitching staff, but Feuerman is also a capable arm. Sterenberg and Morris will be getting their first significant playing time on varsity, but Morris is no stranger to pressure: he was the starting quarterback on the Eagles football team each of the past two seasons.
Coach: Dave Boteler, fourth season
2012 record: 13-4, 19-5, 2A South regional finalist
Last state tournament appearance: 1999; Last state championship: 1999 (5th).
Top players: Seniors Logan Dubbe* (P/OF), Nick Crabill^ (CF), Luke Brister* (2B) and Forrest Southern (C); juniors Tyler Hoeflich^ (P/1B), Alex Melcher (P/OF) and David Brookhart (SS).
Key losses: Matt Hughes (P), Dan Grimes (P), Ryan Perry (LF)
Scouting report: The Gladiators had a breakthrough season last year, starting the season 10-0 and finishing 19-5, but they still have unfinished business in the regional finals. In three of the past four years, Glenelg has traveled south to lose in the regional championship game, twice by only one run. But this year, the Gladiators certainly seem to have the horses to not only get to the state tournament, but to make something happen when they get there. Dubbe and Crabill have been four-year varsity starters together, and Dubbe is a preseason Player of the Year candidate as both a pitcher (.81 ERA, 56 K) and hitter (.392, 25 RBI). With Hoeflich and Melcher each boasting sub-2 ERAs as well, Glenelg likely has the deepest pitching staff in the league. Brister (.411, 19 SB) and Brookhart (.315, 19 SB) return as the team's double-play combo, and make for a powerful one-two punch atop the line-up. Hoeflich and Melcher (43 combined RBI in 2012) each batted around .350 last year, and should be able to drive in plenty of runs this year in the middle of the line-up. A trio of varsity newcomers — sophomores Anthony Bowman (INF) and Davis Jones (INF, transfer from Delaware), and junior Louis Gillespie (P) — will only provide even more depth.
Coach: Casey Medairy, first season
2012 record: 9-8, 12-10
Last state tournament appearance: 2010; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Senior Derek Sicca* (P/3B), Matt Cassett^ (SS), Ben Miller* (C/P) and Garrett Kelley (CF).
Key losses: Kyle Cheuvront (1B/P), Anthony Saleiro (SS/P), Will Sandish (OF)
Scouting report: Medairy takes over a team with three returning all-county players in Sicca, Miller and Cassett (second team), who will all figure into the top four spots in the batting line-up. Cassett led the team with a .381 batting average last year and Miller (.368) and Sicca (.348) each drove in 21 runs from the heart of the order. Speedy centerfielder Kelley opened the season as the leadoff batter and can also cover lots of ground in the outfield. He stole 18 bases and scored 18 runs in 2012. Sicca is the team's only seasoned pitcher, with a 3.14 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 58 innings last year, but Miller could also log some innings this year. Freshmen DeVonn Griffin (OF) and David Hutchison (1B/LHP) highlight the class of 2016.
Coach: Nick Hoffner, third season
2012 record: 10-7, 13-8
Last state tournament appearance: 1998; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Seniors Aidan Cain (P), Ben Baker (P), Logan Seitz^ (SS/2B), David Wolf (2B/OF) and Darian Dudley (OF); juniors Tyler Gormus (P) and Brett Schaeffer (C).
Key losses: Colin Dyer (SS), Josh Lee (3B), Sean Sivo (CF)
Scouting report: The Lions are an experienced squad this year, with ten seniors in the dugout. They've also got a deep pitching staff, as Wolf, Cain and Baker combined for more than 70 innings, almost 70 strikeouts, eight wins and a sub-2 ERA. Seitz is the team's top returning hitter, having batted .403 with 21 runs scored in 2012. Two JV call-ups, Gormus and Schaeffer, should see key roles on the mound and behind the plate, and a promising freshman, Eric Greenbaum, could see some time in the catcher's gear as well.
Coach: Mike Repsher, fourth season
2012 record: 2-15, 4-17
Last state tournament appearance: NA; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Seniors Chris Stanko (P/INF) and Brandon Cave (P/INF); juniors JD Huffman (P/C), Jacob Siegleman (P/1B) and Joey Grabowski (INF/P).
Key losses: Alec Taylor (1B/P), Randall Weist (SS)
Scouting report: Last season was a step in the right direction for the Lightning, which ended a 35-game losing streak last year, but there is still work to be done. Huffman (24 IP, 24 K, 2.92 ERA) is the team's most effective pitcher, but Repsher will give almost everyone a chance to see who is capable of eating innings. The Lightning will also need to find a spark on offense. Stanko's .204 average from 2012 is a team-best among returning players. Freshman Josh Kulina (UTIL) and sophomore transfer Giovanny Saenz-Diez (OF) will provide a youthful boost.
Coach: Paul Eckert, eighth season
2012 record: 9-8, 12-9
Last state tournament appearance: 2008; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Seniors Eric Brown (P), Michael Dorsch (P/3B) and Jake Bender (SS); junior Ryan Miller (OF).
Key losses: David Menker (C/1B), Ben Ferraro (OF), Brandon Kratochwill (3B), Avery Reidy (OF/3B), Jordan Szarko (3B)
Scouting report: Pitching could be a strength for the Mustangs this year, with Brown and Dorsch presenting a formidable duo. Brown threw a no-hitter last year and logged a team-high 55 innings with a 2.32 ERA, and Dorsch was right behind him with 28 innings pitched and a tidy 2.50 ERA. Bender (.348, 7 XBH, 15 R) and Miller (.297, 7 XBH, 16 R) are the only returning players who batted better than .260 last year, but a trio of varsity newcomers — juniors Wes Carson (C), Storm Galloway (P/IF) and Grant Summers (P) — should be able to add some punch to the line-up and help retire batters from the mound.
Coach: Brian Culley, seventh season
2012 record: 3-14, 5-16
Last state tournament appearance: 1980; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Seniors Brady Smouse (P/INF), Fred Simard (P/INF) and Jacob Meyer (INF); juniors Paul Lutchenkov (C) and Marty Stevenson (OF); sophomores Mark Smith (P) and Jake Snyder (OF).
Key losses: Patrick Wethington (2B/P), Raul Shah (SS)
Scouting report: Culley says that this is perhaps the deepest pitching staff he has ever had, with 12 guys capable of toeing the rubber. Smouse is the most experienced of the bunch, having logged 43 innings on the mound last year. But Smith, only a sophomore, could be the No. 2 option. Lutchenkov raked in limited at-bats last year, stroking 19 hits in only 37 at-bats (.514), with ten for extra bases and nine RBIs. Snyder played varsity last year as a freshman. Sophomore infielder Matt Ansaldi is another strong addition to the Vikings.
Coach: Brian Rau, second season
2012 record: 8-9, 11-10
Last state tournament appearance: 1987; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Seniors Joe Zayatz* (P/INF), Kyle Madden-Stricker (P/1B), Evan Russell (OF/P), Weston Hart (RP) and Ben Kale (CF); junior Ben Hale (C).
Key losses: Alex Figeroa (OF/P), Nick Zayatz (OF/P), Ryan Andrews (OF), Michael Moore (2B), Matt Huewe (1B)
Scouting report: Last year Zayatz (1.75 ERA) and Madden-Stricker (3.67) combined for almost 100 innings, 10 wins and more than 100 strikeouts. Rau says that they are interchangeable as the team's ace, and they should give the Scorpions a chance to win almost every game they play. Russell and Hart will be counted on to cover any remaining innings. Zayatz (.373 AVG) is also the team's top returning batter by 40 points, and had 10 extra base hits, 10 stolen bases and 17 RBI last year. Patience at the plate is a strong suit for the Scorpions, as Zayatz (12), Hale (18), Russell (18), Hart (10) and Madden-Stricker (13) drew more than 70 walks last year. Kale, a newcomer to the varsity, looks to add some speed and power to the middle of the line-up.
Coach: Adam Leader, 11th season
2012 record: 16-1, 22-2, County and District V champion, 3A East regional finalist
Last state tournament appearance: NA; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Juniors Danny O'Hagan (C) and Brian Reilly (OF/P); sophomores Cody Morris* (P/1B), Jack Barry (P/3B), Drew Stone (P/OF) and Jon Mierzwa (MIF).
Key losses: Lee Lawler (P/SS), Bryan Davidson (P/OF), Danny Klein (3B), Luke Schuster (OF), Ben Summers (OF)
Scouting report: With only one senior on varsity (utility man Seth Singer), and six sophomores in the starting line-up, the Gators are the definition of a young team. But that doesn't mean that they don't have talent and experience. Morris (6-1, .99 ERA, 64 K, 17 BB) is the reigning Howard County Pitcher of the Year, but is the only Reservoir pitcher with real varsity experience. Still, Barry and Stone have live arms as well. O'Hagan (.328 AVG, 10 SB, 8 XBH, 20 R) is the team's top returning hitter, and will typically bat leadoff. As freshmen, Mierzwa, Barry and Morris all saw significant at bats, and all three can glove it as well.
Coach: Wes McCoy, fifth season
2012 record: 13-4, 16-5
Last state tournament appearance: 2009; Last state championship: 2009 (1st).
Top players: Seniors Richie Lancashire* (P/OF), Karan Sinha (P/3B), Jason Freishtat (P/MIF) and Shrawan Sinha (OF); sophomore Rohan Tilva (P).
Key losses: Nick Riso (3B), Davis Grove (1B), Mas St. George (2B), Evan Griffin (SS/P)
Scouting report: Losing a Player of the Year candidate like preseason MSABC all-state selection Evan Griffin was a devastating blow for the Hawks, but they're not left empty handed. Lancashire (.451 AVG, 11 XBH, 19 RBI, 27 R) possesses a similar offensive skillset to Griffin, and is also an effective pitcher (33 IP, 3.00 ERA). Tilva (team-high 38 IP as a freshman, 6-1, 1.29 ERA), Freishtat (30 IP, 5-1) and Karan Sinha (3.43 ERA) give the Hawks more than enough depth in the pitching staff. Freishtat and Shrawan Sinha each batted over .300 last year and combined for 25 RBIs and 24 runs. McCoy is looking for junior Billy Smalls, a newcomer to the varsity, to contribute right away. Lancashire (DeSales), Freishtat (Marymount) and Karan Sinha (Catholic) are all looking to play collegiately next year.
Coach: Kareem Penn, third season
2012 record: 1-16, 1-17
Last state tournament appearance: 2005; Last state championship: NA.
Top players: Seniors Thomas Mee^ (C/P/OF), Kris Hines (C/1B) and Nick Wright (SS/P); sophomores Wilbert Jimenez (P), Cuinn Mullins (OF) and Wyatt Oler (OF/P).
Key losses: Devon McNeel (SS/P)
Scouting report: Mee, who will play for Johns Hopkins next year, is the Wildecats' best all-around player. Last year he batted .364 and pitched 24 innings. Pitching as a whole was a struggle for Wilde Lake last year, as seven players combined to allow 130 earned runs on 172 hits and 115 walks in 107 innings, and the team's best individual ERA was 6.72. However, Jimenez showed promise as a freshman, logging a team-high 29 innings and striking out 35. Offensively, Wilde Lake returns a good bit of firepower, as Mullins (.400), Hines (.381), Mee (.364), and seniors Jack Skolnik (.316) and Brandon Pelletier (.308) all batted over .300 last year. Wright, who homered twice in 2012, could be one of the league's best defensive shortstops. Oler is the team's top JV call-up.
Coach: Justin Riggin, third season
2012 record: 8-2, 10-7, MIAA C Conference finalist
Top players: Seniors Jordan Gorsuch (P), Matthew Hearn (3B) and Kris Hatton (CF); freshman Seamus Harrigan (C/P).
Key losses: Jordan Lawrence (SS), Rick Glidden (C)
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Scouting report: Gorsuch (No. 1 pitcher) and Hearn (No. 2 batter) are the team leaders, and Riggin is looking for them to set a high standard of excellence for their teammates. Hatton earned all-conference honors as an outfielder last year, and is expected to produce at a high level again this year. Riggin calls Harrigan a hoss behind the plate, and the freshman will catch the majority of the innings, pitch a little and bat in the middle of the line-up. The Yellowjackets are fairly experienced, having lost in the C Conference finals last year, and are aiming to win a conference title this year.
Coach: Chris Garber, fourth season
2012 record: 9-6, 12-9
Top players: Seniors Jack Dougherty (1B/RF/P) and Miguel Flores (CF/P); junior Will Seiferth (UTIL).
Scouting report: Dougherty was an all-conference selection last year as a junior, and will be turned to this season to lead the team on offense (.411 AVG, 24 RBI, 10 XBH), and defense (51 K, 44 IP). Flores (.277, 22 R) and Seiferth (.382, 32 R) will join Dougherty in the run-producing spots in the line-up. Sophomore Dylan Farnella had a strong freshman campaign, allowing only six earned runs in 17 innings, batting .282 and playing shortstop. Another sophomore, Colby Manekin (INF/P), is a strong addition to the club. The Dragons have advanced to the B Conference semifinals each of the last two years, but to get back this year they'll have to overcome the loss of Tyler Henderson, who graduated after batting .500 last year with 32 RBI and was 4-2 with a 2.12 ERA on the mound.