Colonels look to dethrone de­fend­ing state champs

Times-Record - - News - By DAVID INS­LEY dins­ley@star­dem.com

It’s quite the task de­fend­ing a state cham­pi­onship, but it’s one ev­ery high school coach longs to have.

“Oh, it’s real hard to de­fend a state cham­pi­onship,” said St. Michaels High head base­ball coach Brian Femi, whose pro­gram earned its fifth state crown last May with a 12-1 rout of Boons­boro in the Class 1A state fi­nal. “Af­ter all, I’ve only man­aged to do it once. Even to win one, too many things have to go right. Every­body’s got to stay healthy; every­body’s got to get bet­ter. You’ve got a bull’s-eye on your back all sea­son, too.

“I’m not say­ing it can’t be done, but ever ything has to fall your way,” added Femi, who led the Saints to state ti­tles in 2001, 2008, 2010 and 2011. “We’re tal­ented enough, but we need to stay healthy to do that stuff.”

An­other North Bay­side team that wears red and black, Colonel Richard­son, is also loaded this year, pos­si­bly with more fire­power on the hill than the supremely tal­ented Saints.

With a 1-2 pitch­ing punch of Di­vi­sion I-bound Jake Ze­bron and Jami­son Covey, the Colonels aim to take the Saints’ place in the dog pile at Rip­ken Sta­dium on May 26.

Ze­bron, who, like Covey and Colonel catcher Gar­rett Nepert, was a pre­sea­son all-state se­lec­tion, has signed with North Carolina State. But ac­cord­ing to Colonel’s 10-year head coach Dan Mangum, the se­nior right-han­der has also drawn in­ter­est from the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles, Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pi­rates, and Detroit Tigers.

“We’ve got the best pitch­ing in, if not the con­fer­ence, the state,” said Dan Mangum, whose staff also in­cludes his son, Remy Mangum. “We’re pretty loaded up. It’s the game of base­ball. Any­thing can hap­pen. But I think I’ve got three le­git guys.

“One’s ver­bally com­mit­ted to Ole Miss, one’s gonna get drafted,” Dan Mangum said of Covey and Ze­bron, re­spec­tively. “They’re all six feet or taller, and they all throw hard.”

In Class 2A, sev­eral North teams could make deep play­off runs.

Queen Anne’s County, the last 2A from the di­vi­sion to win the re­gion (2016), is hop­ing to make it back af­ter reach­ing the regional fi­nal last year, miss­ing the state tour­na­ment with a 9-3 loss to Fall­ston.

“It’s a long road there,” said Lions head coach Chris Fitzger­ald, who led the team to its first fi­nal­four ap­pear­ance in 38 years two sea­sons ago. “We’re hop­ing not just to get hot come play­off time; we want to be solid through­out the year. And we’ve got great chem­istry. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to this sea­son with this team.”

Eas­ton didn’t lose a player to grad­u­a­tion last year. What’s more, the War­riors upped their team bat­ting av­er­age by more than 70 points from 2016 and went from 7-13 — with nine one-run losses — to 11-8, which in­cluded hand­ing St. Michaels its only loss.

Eas­ton’s Al­bert Pritch­ett, the 2017 Mid-Shore Base­ball Coach of the Year, got back sev­eral Al­lMid-Shore stars, in­clud­ing first­team picks Ryan Farr and Ma­son Led­ford. And “the whole team got that ex­tra year of ex­pe­ri­ence on var­sity, which is huge,” Pritch­ett said.

“Ob­vi­ously, we made a big leap from ’16 to ’17 in the hit­ting cat­e­gory,” Pritch­ett added. “I would ex­pect us to keep up at hit­ting. We’ve got more ex­pe­ri­ence at the plate.”

Kent Is­land and North Caro­line hope to make some moves in 2A, while 1As in Dorch­ester and Kent coun­ties aim to move up in the stand­ings.

“I think it’s gonna have to be a toss-up be­tween (Matt) Gro­gan at St. Michaels, and the guys at Colonel,” said Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester third-year head coach Chad Wolfe. “Ze­bron’s good. You’ve got Remy Mangum. Covey’s go­ing where, Ole Miss?”

Though the 1A East Re­gion has of­ten con­sisted of solely Bay­side schools over the last 15 years, this year’s re­align­ment brings Har­ford and Ce­cil County teams back in the mix (like in 2014 and 2015).

Eas­ton, Kent Is­land, Queen Anne’s, and St. Michaels are sched­uled to start the sea­son within sight of one an­other on Wednesday at the newly ex­panded Henry S. Parker com­plex on Nay­lor Mill Road in Sal­is­bur y. The open­ing­day event on turf fields will show­case the com­plex’s ex­pan­sion – though poor weather may wipe out those plans.

Seven of the North Bay­side’s nine teams open on the road against a South op­po­nent on Wednesday. Colonel Richard­son opens at home due to a last-minute change.

Here’s how the Mid-Shore’s base­ball teams look this sea­son.

Cam­bridge-SD (5-14)

Wolfe hopes the squad can show it has re­bounded af­ter a rough 2017, and looks to do so with the help of se­nior pitcher/short­stop Tyler Hard­ing, an All-Mid-Shore first-team se­lec­tion last spring and three-time All-Bay­side coaches’ se­lec­tion.

Se­niors Max Pres­ley and Eric Shorter, and left-han­der Ryan Car­tright will also see time on the mound, as will un­der­class­men Kha­lik Beasley, who trans­ferred back to C-SD af­ter two years at Del­mar (Del.), and sopho­more Lo­gan Mid­dle­ton.

Sopho­more Noah Pres­ley, Max’s younger brother, is at catcher, while Mid­dle­ton plays se­cond when not pitch­ing. Tyler Ste­wart will han­dle third base, with ju­nior Shamar Young in left field, se­nior Clint Meekins, who’ll also pitch, in right. Beasley takes over cen­ter field, while ju­niors Tommy Crain (IF) and Ethan Blood­w­sorth (OF) join fresh­man John Henry in re­serve.

The Vik­ings, who’ve dropped their ju­nior var­sity this sea­son, are sched­uled to open Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Po­comoke.

Col. Richard­son (16-4)

Ze­bron will play cen­ter field when not pitch­ing. His brother Jackie, a sopho­more, who missed most of last year due to in­jury, will play cen­ter or right. Covey will play right field or first base if not on the bump, with Remy Mangum at first if he doesn’t have the ball.

Nepert, an All-Mid-Shore se­lec­tion head for North Carolina Cen­tral, is the only se­nior in the in­field. He’ll re­turn to his spot be­hind the plate, with ju­niors Tyler Stan­ley at se­cond, Ty Scott at short, and Nathan Roth at third. Ju­nior Ryan Stan­ton will roam left field. Covey plays right when Jake Ze­bron pitches.

First base­man and des­ig­nated hit­ter Mark Cran­field is also avail­able. Twins Bran­don and Matthew El­more may see time in the out­field. Colonel is slated to host Snow Hill on Wednesday, at 4 p.m. Snow Hill was set to orig­i­nally host, but the pitcher’s mound on its re­cently ren­o­vated field needs work, re­sult­ing in a change of fields.

Eas­ton (11-8)

The War­riors has every­body back from last year.

“I didn’t have a se­nior day,” Pritch­ett said. “I’ve never had that hap­pen in a sea­son be­fore.”

Led­ford, who has re­cov­ered from a bro­ken leg suf­fered early last foot­ball sea­son, went 7-1 last year, and an­chors the ro­ta­tion, which in­cludes Jaden Cas­sell, a ju­nior who’ll share time at first with Led­ford, and Farr, a se­nior short­stop and pre­sea­son all-state pick.

Ju­nior Alek Riedel plays se­cond and class­mate Lo­gan Bail­lif is at third. Ja­cob Book, Trent Weems, and Kee­gan Bentz are the out­field­ers, from left to right.

Josh Tull catches, with backup from Haiden Rhodes. Ju­niors Bran­don Latham and Dante Hall will also pitch from time to time. Round­ing out the ros­ter are util­i­ty­man Bran­don Booze, pitcher Alex Stecher-Scott, and out­fielder Grant Fos­ter.

Kent County (8-10)

Se­nior pitcher and short­stop Tyson John­son, an All-Mid-Shore first-team se­lec­tion last year, tops the ro­ta­tion. Sopho­more lefty Pey­ton Tay­lor, the team’s No. 3 last year, will chew up in­nings again, along with class­mate Buddy Welsh. Ju­nior south­paw Collin Turner will also get signs from ju­nior start­ing catcher Don­nie For­gan.

Ju­nior Mitch Deb­nam, at 6-foot-6, will see time at first base along with fresh­man Noah Ise­man, younger brother of 2017 grad­u­ate Josh Ise­man.

Se­niors Brian Usil­ton and John Moore will work to­gether at se­cond. John­son will be joined at short by sopho­more Kenny Fowler, who’ll play third when John­son’s not pitch­ing. Se­nior Brian Black­burn will also see some time at third.

Tay­lor, fresh­man Ian Wal­ters, and ju­nior Dy­lan Hill look to be in the out­field, with Wayne Mor­ris, a ju­nior, to back up For­gan be­hind the plate.

The Tro­jans are slated to open Wednesday at Wash­ing­ton.

Kent Is­land (7-11)

Se­cond-year head coach Bren­dan Schulte lost Al­lMid-Shore pitcher Ian Schools, who moved to Florida, but re­turns sev­eral other arms, in­clud­ing ju­nior south­paw Ryan Ry­der, and right-han­ders Jared Pez­zano, a McDaniel Col­lege­bound four-year var­sity starter; se­nior Dy­lan Tvelia, who’s go­ing to Wil­son (Pa.) Col­lege; sopho­more Hunter Griebel, ju­nior Jeremy Dodge, and sopho­more J.D. Blevins.

Se­nior back­stop Brody Tay­lor is joined in the in­field by sopho­more first base­man Ray An­der­son, Dodge at se­cond, Tvelia at third, and Pez­zano at short, a po­si­tion he’s held through­out high school.

In the out­field will be Ry­der, sopho­more Cooper Fulton, ju­nior Tre’Quan Thomas, a trans­fer from Eas­ton, and 2019 class­mate Bran­don Austin.

Se­nior Jake Hipps will be avail­able to catch or play first, with ju­nior out­fielder Paul Laf­ferty, sopho­more in­fielder/ pitcher Jimmy Kac­marek, in­fielder Austin Hor­ney, and catcher Tyler McMullen pro­vid­ing depth. North Caro­line (10-9) Se­cond-year head coach Joe Bild­stein’s crew is sched­uled to open on Thursday at Stephen De­catur.

Se­niors Nathan My­ers and Mor­gan Loetz are the Bull­dogs’ “1A and 1B guys” on the mound, ac­cord­ing to Coach Bild­stein. Ju­niors Casey Byrd and Chase Con­ner, and se­nior Seth Lay­ton are ex­pected to ro­tate at catcher.

Con­ner, or fresh­man Matt Her­ring, will lock down first base, with Loetz at se­cond when not pitch­ing. Sopho­more J.B. Brown plays se­cond as well, while Will Man­ship, who may also pitch, is at short. My­ers, Lee Byrd, and Cam Brown share time at third base.

In the out­field, Joey Bild­stein, the coach’s son, is joined by Ja­cob Brown, Tucker Stevens, and pos­si­bly Cam Brown and Byrd.

Round­ing out the ros­ter are util­i­ty­man Dakota Tow­ers, pitcher Johnny Ger­ris, and out­fielder Ja­cob Newell.

North Dorch­ester (5-14)

The Ea­gles, un­der thirdyear head coach Steve Lieske, are sched­uled to open at Cr­is­field at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

With top thrower Tyler Wind­sor nurs­ing an in­jury, fel­low se­nior Michael Nos­sick fronts the ro­ta­tion.

Ju­niors J.B. Lewis and Ben John­son will also get the ball a good deal, and so will Lu­cas Thorpe, Ryan Cheesman, and fresh­man pitcher/ util­i­ty­man Caleb Jus­tice.

Tan­ner War­rell and Chess­man will both see time at first and des­ig­nated hit­ter. Lieske said he has “sev­eral pla­toons, with a num­ber of play­ers who can han­dle sev­eral po­si­tions. Sopho­more Adam Free­man plays se­cond when not pitch­ing, with John­son at short. Lewis will play third and catch, as will Free­man.

Se­nior Drew Walker plays left field, with sopho­more David John­son bounc­ing from the mound to third, se­cond, and the out­field.

Speedy sopho­more Ja­heim Cop­per joins the out­field, along with ju­nior left Reed Jones, who might also pitch. Brandt Swann, a se­nior who didn’t play last year due to in­jury, will be se­cond or the out­field.

Queen Anne’s (12-9)

Two of the Lions top pitch­ers — All-Mid-Shore first­teamer Aaron Rovenolt, and sopho­more Chance Porter — will ro­tate at third. Darin Rose­brock, a se­nior like Rovenolt, will also pitch when he’s not at first or in the out­field.

Ju­nior Noah Skinner, who’ll see time at first, and start­ing short­stop Luke Wed­dell, a se­nior, will also chew up in­nings.

Se­nior Cole Gun­ther is at catcher, with class­mate Jor­dan Ben­nett look­ing to play first base at times. Se­nior An­thony Mar­coni starts at se­cond, though ju­nior Dalton Rob­bins could also be there.

Se­niors Chris Crow and Ja­cob Nay­lor pla­toon in left field. Class­mate Trey Pin­der plays cen­ter, with ju­nior Sam Bishop, a trans­fer from St. Mary’s High, in right field.

Out­fielder Wil­liam Usil­ton and ju­nior catch­ers Ay­din Yardim and Ryan Grimes are in re­serve.

St. Michaels (24-1)

No. 1 hurler Matt Gro­gan, a pre­sea­son all-state se­lec­tion and a first-team All-MidShore pick last year, will play in the out­field when not on the hill.

Sopho­more catcher Jock Luthy, who spent his fresh­man year at C-SD, will call the pitches. At first will be a split-time ar­range­ment be­tween Grant La­Belle (a sopho­more trans­fer from Colonel) and se­nior Brodie Steen. Se­nior Trent Saun­ders starts at se­cond, se­nior Andrew Risher is at short, while sopho­mores Nolan Swataski and Josh Risher shar­ing du­ties at third.

In the out­field, Femi will look to Gro­gan, fel­low se­nior Nathan Howeth (an­other re­turn­ing All-MidShore first-teamer), as well as ju­nior Nick New­nam and sopho­more Ryan Smith.

Saints Peter and Paul (13-7)

For the se­cond year in a row, the Sabres made the Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion’s C Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals in 2017. De­spite los­ing a cou­ple of key starters, head coach Chris Thomp­son re­turns a lot of tal­ent, in­clud­ing All-Mid-Shore first­team first base­man and DH Sam Weis­man, who drove in 36 runs – an as­tound­ing av­er­age of 1.8 RBIs per game.

Sopho­more hurler Aubrey Perry and ju­nior Con­nor Quade an­chor the ro­ta­tion. Sopho­more Brooks Hoff­man will play se­cond, with Quade at third when not on the hill. Perry will also spend time at short and catcher.

Others on the ros­ter in­clude ju­niors Henry Shindler, Ryan Free­man, Wes­ley Stallings (a trans­fer from St. Mary’s), Sam Warpin­ski; sopho­more Joey Gre­aney; and fresh­men Evan LaPointe, Cole Mis­ter, Au­drey Perez, and Nate Haschen.

SSPP be­gan the sea­son with a loss Friday against B-Con­fer­ence op­po­nent An­napo­lis Area Chris­tian, and stands 0-1, with a game sched­uled at Hog Neck Park to­day against St. Frances.

GAR­RETT NEPERT

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