For Friends baseball coach Brett Linnenkohl, the accent this season is on seniors. There are 11 of them on a 14-player roster.
With experience, comes higher expectations.
“They have been together for so long,” said Linnenkol, in his fifth season. “They came in as freshman and they really know the program. They really know the goals of what we are trying to achieve. They all have established roles on the team, and I think that’s pretty unique.”
Friends is 4-2 this spring after going 7-5 last season and 1-2 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference double-elimination tournament
“This team really wants a shot at a championship,” said Linnenkol, who has six returning starters. “That’s what they have been working toward for quite some time.
“They do all the little things right and work together really well. This team definitely has a lot of character and a lot of fight.”
Friends' hopes start with two senior pitchers, left-hander Christian Spence and right-hander Nicholas DeMario, who anchor a staff that also includes seniors Jackson Dolina, Zachary Loewenberg, Benjamin Lynch and Holden Marshall.
“They are both gritty pitchers,” Linnenkol said of Spence and DeMario. “They are up there with some of the best pitchers we have had in the program. They both understand it’s not about blowing the ball by a hitter. They understand it’s making your pitch and letting the defense do the work.”
Linnenkol said the offense – led by sophomore shortstop Jake Rainess (batting .462, 8 RBIs, 2 triples), first baseman Loewenberg (.500, 10 RBI), third baseman Marshall (.471, 10 RBIs, 2 triples) and sophomore catcher Joshua Brooks (6 RBIs, 3 doubles) — is shaping up as the Quakers’ best in his five seasons.
“I think we have a pretty solid lineup from top to bottom,” Linnenkol said.
The Quakers routed Concordia Prep, 18-7, Annapolis Area Christian School, 11-2, and Mount Carmel, 16-2, to start the season.
The winning streak ended with a 14-13 loss to Park, but the Quakers had a memorable comeback in that game at Medfield Heights Elementary School on April 8.
After trailing by nine runs, the Quakers scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh and had the tying and winning runs on base before Park pitcher Micah Saltzberg got out of the jam to end the game.
“Our guys have a lot of fight in them,” Linnenkol said. “We really have a lot of leaders on the team.”
A 6-0 loss to league leader Boys’ Latin followed two days later. Sophomore right-handers Mark Lopez and Zach Grace combined to throw a three-hitter.
“We had the bases loaded twice and left eight runners in scoring position,” Linnenkol said.
The teams play again Friday at Medfield Heights Elementary.
“They are one of the better teams in the league,” Boys’ Latin coach Bill Greenwell said of Friends. “They are solid all the way around. They don’t have a lot of holes. We have seen six clubs in the league and they are the second best to (defending league champion) St. Mary’s.”