Royal duo signs to col­leges

Catcher Starke to VMI, pitcher Forbes to Charleston (W.Va)

The Progress-Index - - SPORTS - By Nick Van­de­loecht Sports Ed­i­tor

PRINCE GE­ORGE — Prince Ge­orge Base­ball saw two of its great­est con­trib­u­tors to the pro­gram’s first-ever state cham­pi­onship of­fi­cially pen their col­le­giate de­ci­sions on Wed­nes­day.

Sur­rounded by school staff, friends and fam­ily (in­clud­ing their coaches and team­mates), catcher Justin Starke and pitcher Buck Forbes signed to NCAA Divi­sion I VMI and NCAA Divi­sion II Charleston (W.Va), re­spec­tively.

“It’s a dream come true, re­ally. It’s some­thing I’ve been work­ing for all my life,” Starke said. “For me to make it of­fi­cial to­day, it re­ally means a lot.”

“It’s just an­other step in life,” Forbes said. “Big step... mak­ing progress.”

Starke joins sev­eral Royal alum be­fore him - in­clud­ing Prince Ge­orge Base­ball head coach Mickey Roberts’ sons Sam and Mike Roberts - in choos­ing to at­tend and play for VMI. Starke’s trainer, Bran­don Massen­burg, also played base­ball for the Key­dets.

“I’ve got­ten to know the ropes a lit­tle bit from him, just kind of talk­ing to him... he’s kind of showed me a lit­tle bit what it’s gonna be about,” Starke said. “Look­ing for­ward to it.”

In mak­ing his col­lege de­ci­sion, Starke spoke to look­ing to­wards his fu­ture.

“’s a rare diploma where the job of­fers af­ter col­lege are just un­real,” Starke said. “That’s kind of what I was look­ing for... and then just good base­ball on top of that. Can’t get any bet­ter.”

Forbes said that he got along with the coaches at the Univer­sity of Charleston, and he added that the way the Golden Ea­gles’ pro­gram runs feels “more like how it’d be here” in Prince Ge­orge.

Roy­als head coach Mickey Roberts de­scribed both play­ers as the “back­bone of the pro­gram” for the last two to three years.

“They de­serve a lot of the credit for the achieve­ments that we had over the last few years,” Roberts said of Forbes and Starke. “It’s good to see the fruits of their la­bor come to fruition [with] both

of them get­ting to go on and play in the col­lege level; I think that’s huge.”

In his first three years on var­sity, Starke heav­ily con­trib­uted to the Roy­als’ phe­nom­e­nal three-year stretch from 2016 to 2018, in which the Roy­als achieved a then-record 20 wins in 2016, sur­passed that with 23 wins while also win­ning the pro­gram’s first-ever re­gional cham­pi­onship in 2017, and then won the Prince Ge­orge Base­ball pro­gram’s first-ever state cham­pi­onship in 2018.

Starke has been a force at the plate, be­ing able to ham­mer the ball deep - he had a solo homer in his team’ 8-1 state quar­ter­fi­nals win over Menchville this June and drive in team­mate af­ter team­mate with a bat­ting av­er­age of .450 over the past cou­ple of years.

He also joined a speedy cast of play­ers in ex­celling on the basepa­ths in 2018.

Roberts called Starke “a big-time leader be­hind the plate” and “a coach on the field” at the catch­ing po­si­tion.

“He’s able to give us the feed­back that we need to help with our coach­ing de­ci­sions,” Roberts said.

As for what he can im­prove, Starke said: “I can al­ways work de­fen­sively be­hind the plate - I didn’t re­ally didn’t get many op­por­tu­ni­ties to throw guys out this year but I can al­ways work and im­prove and make sure that, if some­body does go, that I’ll be able to get ‘em, and as far as block­ing and stuff like that goes, that’s a cou­ple of key lit­tle things I need to work on. But other than that, I think we’re ready to go.”

Forbes went 10-0 on the mound in his Roy­als’ cham­pi­onship sea­son, notched a 4:1 strike­out-to-walk ra­tio and con­cluded his ju­nior sea­son with a less-than-1.00 earned run av­er­age.

“I feel like I spot­ted up pretty good...I move my pitches around, I have good move­ment,” Forbes said. “I just need to get my velo up, throw a lit­tle harder.”

“He’s gonna step up, throw strikes, he’s gonna be in the zone,” Roberts said of Forbes. “We know ev­ery time he goes out, we have a re­ally, re­ally good chance of win­ning... he’s just a tremen­dous player.”

Forbes started on the var­sity mound in both 2017 and 2018, and showed signs of what was to come when he pitched the Roy­als to the 2017 re­gional cham­pi­onship over Menchville. Forbes would go on to toss a one­hit shutout in the Roy­als’ state ti­tle-clinch­ing 8-0 tri­umph over Po­tomac Se­nior.

But “that’s in the past now,” Forbes said smil­ing.

“You just got to look for the next sea­son and not re­ally keep that on,” he said, “be­cause then your head might get too big.”

Both Forbes and Starke, now se­niors, have one more high school sea­son to play for

Prince Ge­orge Base­ball. The Roy­als are look­ing to step up and see if they can re­peat as state cham­pi­ons in 2019.

“I think we have a good shot to do that; we just need to have some things go our way much like they did last year,” Roberts told the at­ten­dees of Forbes’ and Starke’s sign­ing on Wed­nes­day. “But I think it’s some­thing that’s pos­si­ble with this group, and these two guys are big fac­tors in that.”

“We want to win an­other one,” Starke said. “We have one, but we’re not sat­is­fied with that.”

He and his Roy­als want more; they want to make even more of an im­pact on Prince Ge­orge.

“And I’d like to make an im­pact be­fore I leave and go to col­lege,” Starke said. “Look­ing for­ward to this year.”

At VMI, Starke is look­ing for­ward to be­ing a part of the brother­hood there - “you can’t find it any­where else,” he said - while Forbes looks for­ward to get­ting toplay both on the mound and in the field for the Golden Ea­gles in Charleston, W.V.

For this com­ing sea­son, Roberts looks for­ward to Starke and Forbes prac­tic­ing hard, play­ing hard, con­tin­u­ing their lead­er­ship and be­ing role mod­els to the younger play­ers on the team

“They’ve meant a lot to the pro­gram as lead­ers, as play­ers, just build­ing great team chem­istry,” Roberts said. “Those guys have been the lead­ers for do­ing that.”


Prince Ge­orge Base­ball se­niors Justin Starke (seated, from left) and Buck Forbes take pic­tures with their coaches af­ter sign­ing to VMI and Charleston (W.Va), re­spec­tively.


Prince Ge­orge Base­ball se­niors Justin Starke (left) and Buck Forbes sign to VMI and Charleston (W.Va), re­spec­tively.

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