QA’s Fitzger­ald North Coach of the Year

NC’s Bu­rack, CR’s Ze­bron top player, pitcher in di­vi­sion

Record Observer - - Sports - By DAVID INSLEY dins­ley@star­dem.com

North Bay­side base­ball coaches have named North Caro­line High’s Joseph Bu­rack player of the year, and Colonel Richard­son’s Jake Ze­bron the di­vi­sion’s top pitcher in select­ing their North all-star team.

Queen Anne’s County head coach Chris Fitzger­ald was named Coach of the Year.

Af­ter reach­ing the Class 2A East Re­gion fi­nal a year ago, Fitzger­ald led the Lions to their first state tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance since 1978, when they de­feated Fall­ston, 7-4, to win the 2A East cham­pi­onship.

And Queen Anne’s did it with its top two hurlers miss­ing parts of the sea­son for health rea­sons. Se­nior Zach Bed­nar be­gan the year hurt and missed two weeks, then class­mate Jimmy Rich, per­haps the team’s best ath­lete, was lost for the sea­son with a bro­ken an­kle.

“That [Wi­comico] game when we lost Jimmy, that was a crazy game,” Fitzger­ald said of the 18-17 nail-biter. “But los­ing him, that wasn’t worth the win.

“Jimmy could pretty much do it all,” Fitzger­ald said, “but I have to say, we had guys step up all sea­son when we had guys hurt. You fig­ure, we started 0-5 count­ing the first few games. We had Colonel, then North Caro­line, and [Stephen] De­catur, and then the tour­na­ment we were in over Easter with

Broad­neck and Old Mill.

“The guys could’ve just hung it up,” Fitzger­ald said. “But then we started win­ning some games. We beat [Bohemia] Manor, Eas­ton, then North Caro­line, then 18-17 against Wi-Hi, and we started bang­ing around in there, win one, lose one, and we ended up right there, a above .500.”

The se­cond seed in the Sec­tion II play­offs, Queen Anne’s de­feated North Caro­line, and ral­lied to beat Eas­ton in 10 in­nings in the sec­tion fi­nal be­fore topping Fall­ston for the re­gion crown. The Lions lost in the state semi­fi­nals to even­tual 2A cham­pion Wil­liamsport on May 24.

Fitzger­ald was happy with his team’s ef­fort, and abil­ity to come to­gether, take ad­van­tage lit­tle bit of chances, and step up in the clutch.

“Los­ing Alex Usil­ton [to grad­u­a­tion] was huge, a huge hole to fill pitch­ing, and we were look­ing at Zach Bed­nar and Jimmy Rich as our 1-and2,” Fitzger­ald said. “And Zach got hurt early. Zach was out... for about three or four games early, and that’s where Chase Porter stepped up.

“I never saw it com­ing be­cause he never threw at all for us last year,” Fitzger­ald said of Porter. “He filled that void, es­pe­cially when Bed­nar went down; he stepped right into that No. 1 role with Jimmy. And then with Jimmy go­ing down, we were lucky to get Zach back. But also, Pat Free­man stepped in there and gave us some ex­tra in­nings. ... We seemed to have a dif­fer­ent guy step up for ev­ery oc­ca­sion.

“Cam­den Lan­caster had some big hits, big plays for us, Kole Klabe drove in some big runs, and Dy­lan Thomas, he had a re­ally solid year. He hit our only home run in that play­off at Fall­ston,” Fitzger­ald said. “It’s huge. It’s great when you have play­ers step [up] like that. You never pushed the panic but­ton with those guys. We had some guys that were slump­ing early on and then even mid­way through the sea­son. But they came on.

“With the num­ber of se­niors we had on the di­a­mond, we al­ways seemed to have a se­nior come through,” Fitzger­ald said.

A se­nior Fitzger­ald wishes he had was Bu­rack. A boon to the Bull­dog pro­gram for four sea­sons, Bu­rack proved his ver­sa­til­ity. Af­ter spend­ing a healthy por­tion of his time at catcher as an un­der­class­man, Bu­rack went on to ex­cel at third base, short­stop and on the mound.

He tossed a no-hit­ter against Kent Is­land, and fin­ished with three wins. He bat­ted .366 with a di­vi­sion-best five home runs, drove in 26 runs, struck out only four times, and drew 13 walks. He fin­ished with a .518 on-base per­cent­age, and a .585 slug­ging av­er­age, for an OPS (on-base, plus slug­ging per­cent­age) of 1.103.

“He was just the com­plete pack­age; a true next-level player, that I’ve not seen in a while,” Fitzger­ald said of Bu­rack, who’ll at­tend Shep­herd (W.Va.) Univer­sity this fall and play base­ball.

North Caro­line head coach Joe Bild­stein was of sim­i­lar mind.

“He was a great team leader. He did it in dif­fer­ent ways, too,” Bild­stein said. “He was re­laxed, and he got the boys re­laxed, but when he needed to, he stepped it up.”

Bu­rack’s de­par­ture leaves a big hole for the Bull­dogs.

“You’ve got to fig­ure ... from what I heard from the North coaches, with him hit­ting five home runs, that’s all but the top three, four teams’ out­put,” Bild­stein said. “That’s a lot of home runs in high school. That’s a lot of power. His power, you can’t re­place that kind of power. And then you have his pitch­ing, he had a one-hit­ter and a no-hit­ter in the last three games he pitched.

“I wish I had him a cou­ple more years,” Bild­stein added. “He de­serves it; he works hard at ev­ery­thing.”

A hard-throw­ing righthander, Ze­bron burst onto the scene a year ago when he threw a no-hit­ter in a 1A East Sec­tion I semi­fi­nal against Havre de Grace as a fresh­man.

The sopho­more was 6-0 with 30 strike­outs, a 1.51 earned-run av­er­age this year, start­ing five games and fin­ish­ing three. In 37 in­nings of work, he al­lowed just 22 hits and seven walks, giv­ing him a 0.78 WHIP (walks plus hits per in­ning pitched). Op­po­nents hit just .171 against Ze­bron, as Colonel marched to a se­cond con­sec­u­tive 18-0 reg­u­lar sea­son and North Bay­side ti­tle.

Ze­bron, who had a 1.000 field­ing mark, hit .443 with two homers, 23 runs scored, and 24 RBIs. Strik­ing out just five times in 20 games, he had a slug­ging mark of .655, an on-base av­er­age of .533, and an OPS of 1.189.

In terms of his ex­pec­ta­tions, Colonel head coach Dan Mangum said, “I think he was way above them, and they were al­ready high.

“I think as the year went on, we re­lied strongly on pitch­ing and de­fense, and him and Jaret [Ben­nett] to­gether were as strong a 1-and-2 team as [Jaret] and Caleb [John­son, in 2015],” Mangum said. “He re­ally stepped up and did that. We weren’t of­fen­sively as good as we were the year be­fore, there’s no deny­ing that . ... But pitch­ing-wise, de­fen­sively, it’s what got us there.

“I didn’t think a sopho­more with one year var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence would be able to step up and do that,” Mangum said. “I see great things out of him. He’s only go­ing to get bet­ter. It’s kind of scary, the year he had as a sopho­more, and the things he did, pitch­ing, hit­ting and de­fen­sively. His velocity is good, too. He’s al­ready con­sis­tently in the mid80s. He has a tremen­dous up­side.”

Also se­lected first-team were: Cam­bridge-South Dorchester’s Tyler Hard­ing (So., 2B, P) and Michael Richard­son (Sr., SS/P); Kent County’s Austin Peet (Sr. SS) and Tyson John­son (So., OF/P); Eas­ton’s Jack Wheat­ley (Sr., P/3B) and Ryan Farr (Jr., P/SS); Queen Anne’s Dy­lan Thomas (Jr., C); St. Michaels’ Noah Brack (Jr., 1B/P); North Caro­line’s Al­lan Saathoff (Jr., IF/P); and Colonel’s Jaret Ben­nett (Sr., Se­cond team in­cluded: C-SD’s Matt El­liott; Kent Is­land’s Jared Pez­zano; Eas­ton’s Brenan Cas­sell and Trent Weems; Queen Anne’s Lan­caster and Porter; St. Michaels’ C.J. Chansler, Nathan Howeth, Matt Gro­gan and Devin Stan­ford; Colonel’s Dy­lan Nepert; and North Caro­line’s Dan Edris. Named hon­or­able men­tion were: Cam­bridge-SD’s Nathaniel Lowe; Kent County’s Austin Black and Ben Man­ley; Kent Is­land’s Tyler Loh and Kyle Son­n­eveldt; Eas­ton’s Bran­don Latham and Kee­gan Bentz; Queen Anne’s Luke Wed­dell, Free­man, Bed­nar, Nick Cin­tron, and Kole Klabe; St. Michaels’ Seth Parks; North Caro­line’s Mark Con­ner, Mor­gan Loetz, Cameron Byrd; North Dorchester’s A.J. Wil­ley; and Colonel’s Gar­rett Nepert, Ja­cob Hicks, J.B. Buchanan and Jami­son Covey.

Ed­i­tor’s Note: The Al­lMid-Shore team, which in­cludes Saints Peter and Paul, and is cho­sen by The Star Demo­crat sports de­part­ment, is slated to ap­pear later this month. Fol­low me on Twit­ter: @Davetalkss­ports.

CHRIS FITZGER­ALD

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