For a decade now, a lot of the so-called smart money has been either on the Colonels or Saints in Mid-Shore baseball. The trend looks to continue this year.
Colonel Richardson is pointed to most as the North Bayside’s odds-on favorite. Last season, it was St. Michaels, which lost its bid for back-to-back state titles in an extra-inning, four-hour 1A final against Boonsboro.
Colonel head coach Dan Mangum, remembering his team’s undefeated regular seasons in 2015 and 2016, both of which led to playoff heartbreak, isn’t resting on any laurels, though.
“Well, we’re really senior-heavy this year,” Mangum said. “But I don’t care; I’m not gonna come out and say ‘this is our year,’ though, because it’s baseball. Anything can happen.
“Part of me might want to say, ‘if it’s not our year, then it’s never going to happen,’” Mangum added, “but again, it’s baseball. You’ve seen what one bad inning can do, much less a bad game. And when you’re in a single-elimination tournament, when you have one bad game, then that’s all it takes. As far as the north, St. Michaels is going to be loaded again. Kent Island had some good pitching. In terms of the 1A East, Mardela, too, they had some pitching. ... I wouldn’t sleep on them at all.
“There’s St. Michaels, us, maybe someone up in the northern part of the bracket; Patterson Mill had maybe one of the best three pitchers in the state last year and they took us to extra innings in the playoffs,” Mangum continued. “We’re lucky that we’ve got two proven guys (seniors Jamison Covey and Remy Mangum) coming back that were Preseason All-State that pitched really good all year.
“As far as experience is concerned, I think we’re the experienced team,” Colonel’s skipper added. “We’re definitely deeper than last year. But it’s a one-game thing when you get to the playoffs.”
While it’s true squads like Colonel have plenty of varsity field time, others which look young on paper have resumes which include recent state championships in other brackets.
In addition to Colonel, North Caroline and Queen Anne’s County boast multiple veterans from last year’s Senior and Junior League state champs, which drew from areas of Maryland District 6 Little League feeding all three high schools.
Names such as Jayden Watkins, Adam Boyles, P.J. Gunther, Will Turner, Chris Curler, and Kyler Boyd could potentially be heard repeatedly, as the next crop of stars makes its debut.
Other teams are facing a variety of challenges. Cambridge-South Dorchester graduated more than two-thirds of its innings-pitched last spring, and may be juggling role players in multiple spots.
“We were joking about it,” Vikings head coach Chad Wolfe said, “and in addition to several kids who’ll pitch, almost everyone we’ve got could be listed as a utility player.
“We’re gonna have a lot of lineup changes this year, as things go on,” Wolfe said, “simply because we’re going to have a lot of guys moving in and out based on who’s hot, who’s throwing, who’s pitching against us. ... We’ve got a little talent though, too.”
Kent Island, which had a program-best 16 wins last season, returns most of its pitching, but lost a four-year starter in shortstop Jared Pezzano, who’s playing at McDaniel University now. Head coach Brendan Schulte remains optimistic, though.
“We lost some key guys, but I think we got a good deal back,” said Schulte, whose team finished second in the North to Colonel last year. “We’ve got some arms coming back, and I would like to think we can return to the form we had last year. ... I think Easton has a little bit coming back, too, though, so we’ll see.”
North Caroline sees a familiar face return in head coach Mark Potter, who led the program from 2008-2010, winning a Mid-Shore Coach of the Year award along the way. A ton of young talent joins him on a team some are calling the division’s dark horse.
“Kent Island, they got a lot back. Easton has a bunch of seniors. Colonel’s got two studs for pitchers. ... I think North Caroline has a lot of talent there, too,” St. Michaels head coach Brian Femi said. “By the end of the season ... I think they’re gonna be one of those teams nobody wants to play.”
Here’s how the Mid-Shore’s baseball teams look:
The Vikings, which had no junior varsity in 2018, will field one this year, thanks to a huge increase in turnout.
Junior Khalik Beasley, who received second-team All-State honors last year, anchors the varsity pitching staff, with Logan Middleton and Noah Presley. Sophomore Eric Willey, who shares a name with a hurler from the Vikings’ 2004 1A state championship team, is also expected to see significant time on the mound.
Jay Duey II, a junior transfer from Cleveland, Ohio, can play the infield corners, catch, and is a strong hitter. Also on the roster are Tommy Crain, Shamar Young, John Henry, Dylan Meekins, Tyler Stewart, Dazheem Emory, and Delaware transfer Tanner Conter.
The Vikings opened March 21 at home against Pocomoke.
Col. Richardson (19-3)
A winter storm on opening day last year resulted in the Colonels’ game with Snow Hill being moved to American Corner. Because of this switch, Colonel visits the Eagles for the only varsity game being played at a South venue on opening day this year.
Dan Mangum’s son, Remy, and Jamison Covey will be at the top of the pitching depth chart, with Jackie Zebron and Ty Scott looking to get throwing time as well.
The infield is all seniors except for catcher, where either Zebron or junior classmate Mason Lambert set up. Remy Mangum will play first when not on the hill, with Tyler Stanley at second, Scott at short, and Nathan Roth holding down third.
Senior Ryan Stanton will patrol left field, with Zebron, a junior, or sophomore Chad Willoughby in center, and Covey, or perhaps Gunner Johannsen in right.
Mason Knotts (Sr., OF), Mark Cranfield (Sr., 1B), Nathan Brown (Jr. 1B), and sophomore utilityman Will Turner add depth to a Colonel roster, which grows from 11 last year to 14.
A large group of returning seniors form a veteran core. Back for head coach Albert Pritchett will be Jaden Cassell (1B/P), Alek Riedel (2B), Logan Baillif (3B), Trent Weems (CF), Brandon Latham (P), Dante Hall (P), Haiden Rhodes (C), Walter Vargas (OF), and Alexander Stecher-Scott (P)
Junior talent on the team includes Ashton Echternach (Util.), Nick Christopher (C/DH), Ben Romberger (OF), and Brennen Lyons (P). Sophomores Ryan O’Connor (IF), Jarin Winters (IF/P/DH), Jackson Cronan (IF/OF/P), and Colin Baynard are also available, and battling for multiple open spots in the lineup, Pritchett said.
Easton opened at home March 21 against Wicomico. The teams’ coaches, Pritchett, and Wi-Hi’s Otis Elzey (a 1988 C-SD alum) played against one another in high school and on American Legion teams.
Kent County (9-10)
The Trojans return two-thirds of their starting lineup from 2018. Back are junior infielder-pitchers Peyton Taylor and Kenny Fowler, senior outfielder Dylan Hill, and sophomores Ian Walters (OF/P), Noah Iseman (1B/P), and Dean Sipe, who finished the year as the team’s regular third baseman.
Joining head coach Phil Cygan’s crew this spring will also be senior southpaw Collin Turner, senior catchers Donnie Forgan and Wayne Morris, junior pitcher-third baseman Buddy Welch, junior outfielder Taylor Lyons, and freshman utilityman Connor Dean.
The Trojans began the season with a three-game home stand, starting Thursday at 4 p.m. against Washington.
Kent Island (16-5)
The Buccaneers won more games last year than in their 2008 state-title season (14-8), and were runners-up in the North.
Kent Island’s school-record 13-game win streak was ended in last year’s playoffs by North East-Cecil.
Much of the team’s pitching from 2018 is intact, including seniors Jeremy Dodge and Ryan Ryder, as well as juniors Hunter Griebel and J.D. Blevins. Senior Tre’Quan Thomas and junior Cooper Fulton return to the outfield. Junior first baseman Ray Anderson is back as well, with Ryder and Fulton seeing outfield time, and infielder Austin Horney and Tyler McMullen, a catcher, adding to the team’s returning depth and experience.
Kent Island, under third-year head coach Brendan Schulte, opened against Parkside on March 21.
North Caroline (4-13)
Preseason All-State senior shortstop Will Manship, who’s been on varsity since 2016, anchors the infield, as Potter, who ran the program from 2008-2010, returns as head coach.
The roster includes returning sophomores Lee Byrd (P/3B), and Matt Herring (1B/P), third-year varsity player J.B. Brown (Jr., CF), Mason Pate (So., C), Chris Curler (So., C/1B/3B/P), Kyler Boyd (So. RF/LHP), Jayden Watkins (Fr. 3B/LF/P), Tanner Young (Fr. IF), Tristan McNeil (Fr. 2B/3B), L.B. Thompson (Fr. P/Util.), Garrett Himmighoeffer (Jr. OF), Matt Merkel (Jr. OF), and Joel Cohee Jr. (1B/3B).
North Caroline opened at home March 21 against Stephen Decatur.
North Dorchester (1-17)
The Eagles look to rebound after an injury-plagued 2018 campaign that saw two of their top pitchers sidelined for most or all of the season. Five seniors, Ryan Cheesman (1B/DH), Ben Johnson (P/SS/3B), J.B. Lewis (P/IF), Lucas Thorpe (P), and Cole Morrissette (DH/1B) will lead the way.
Juniors Adam Freeman (C/P), David Johnson (P/OF), and brothers Grant (2B) and Garrett Walker (OF) are joined by sophomores Caleb Justice (P/Util) and Andrew Johnson (C/2B).
As many as three other players might make varsity but head coach Steve Lieske is “still on the fence” about playing time and his depth chart. The Eagles opened the season March 21 against Crisfield.
Queen Anne’s (7-12)
The Lions lost 10 seniors, comprising a large portion of their talent on the hill and in the field, but head coach Chris Fitzgerald said he’s “got a lot of competition at a bunch of positions this year.”
Four seniors, first baseman Noah Skinner, middle infielder Dalton Robbins, and catchers Aydin Yardim and Ryan Grimes, provide leadership for the squad.
Juniors Chance Porter (IF/P), Carson Tucker (IF), Mitch Gunther (IF/C), Austin Doyle (OF), and Zach Brown (OF), along with sophomores Adam Boyles (OF), P.J. Gunther (OF), and Drew Edwards (OF) are looking for spots in the lineup as well.
A trio of freshmen, Colin Athey, Jeremy Bedford, and Tyler Titus, are on the varsity roster as the season begins, too, and will vie for time at a variety of positions.
The Lions opened at home March 21 at 4 p.m. against James M. Bennett.
St. Michaels (21-3)
The Saints graduated half their starting lineup, and are looking to retool under longtime head coach Brian Femi.
Returning for 2019 are senior first baseman and pitcher Nick Newnam, a Preseason All-State honoree; Jock Luthy (Jr., C/P); Nolan Sawatsky (Jr., SS); Grant LaBelle (Jr., 3B); Josh Risher (Jr., OF); Ryan Smith (Jr., OF); Beckett Mesko (Sr., OF); and Mike Kemp (Jr., C).
Seniors Jack Vener and Taylor Lyons, and junior Ben Morris are expected to chew up some innings. Junior Harrison Hoover, sophomore Owen Baum, and freshman Josh Sherwood are currently battling for an infield position.
Cade Jones (Jr., OF), Austin Glessner (Fr., OF), Christian Glessner (Jr., Util/DH), and Jeremy Patchett (So., 1B) provide punch and depth.
St. Michaels opened at home March 21 against Mardela.
Sts. Peter and Paul (8-7)
After two years as an assistant, Tony Sala takes over the Sabres, who reached the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association’s C Conference semifinals last year before losing to eventual champ Indian Creek.
This year’s team features four returning seniors — Connor Quade (IF/P), Ryan Freeman (1B/OF), Wesley Stallings (OF/P), and Andy Riesberg (IF/OF). Juniors Brooks Hoffman (C/1B) and Aubrey Perry (OF/P), and sophomore Andrey Perez (IF/OF) are joined by three newcomers in sophomore infielder/pitcher Shawn Reinoehl, and freshmen Hunter Hoffman (IF/OF/P) and Brandon San (OF).
SSPP, which plays its home games at Hog Neck Park, hostedKey School in its opener March 20 at 4 p.m., then hosts North Caroline on Friday at 7 p.m. SSPP also plays at Cambridge-South Dorchester on April 2.