2018 Baseball Preview

Pitching means almost everything is baseball.

And with that in mind, Sherando certainly seems to have a leg up on Northwestern District competition this spring.

The Warriors bring back three of their top winners from last season’s 17-6 squad that won a conference regular-season title and advanced to the regional semifinals.

Hunter Entsminger went 5-1 last season with an incredible 0.20 ERA. Entsminger, who also had three saves, struck out more than a batter per inning. No. 2 starter Michael Usa went 3-2 with a 3.69 ERA and left-hander Tad Dean was 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA on the mound.

The Warriors aren’t short at the plate, either.

Third baseman Pearce Bucher led area public school players with a .449 batting average and had a remarkable .547 on-base percentage. Bucher, a first team 4A West Region selection and second team All-State pick, had four triples, seven doubles and a team-leading 28 RBIs.

Shortstop Frank Ritter III also was among the area’s best with a .356 average, scored 20 runs and swiped 12 bases. Entsminger, who can also catch and play outfield, also hit .315.

Millbrook, the Warriors’ primary rival most seasons, is going through a rebuilding campaign. The Pioneers, who went 15-6 and fell in the Conference 21 West tournament title game, lost seven starters and eight seniors, all of whom are on college baseball rosters.

Millbrook’s top returnees are outfielder Ryan Houchens and second baseman Bailey Collins. Houchens hit .333 with 11 RBIs, while Collins batted .322 and plated 13 runs.

Chandler Ballenger (1-1, 3.00 ERA) and Jalen Tyson (3-1, 4.50 ERA) each had a pair of starts.

James Wood (9-16 last season) also is trying to rebound from graduation losses. Pitcher Trenton Campbell went 3-2 last season with a 4.17 ERA and 44 strikeouts for a club that had to scrap for runs. Campbell (.263) and pitcher/third baseman Tanner George (.260)

Handley (4-16) scored runs last season, but had trouble preventing them. Center fielder Web Bentley (.286), third baseman Cam Mintz (.283) and shortstop Logan McGinnis (.250) pace the Judges’ offense.

Area teams will also face new competition in the new Northwestern District as Liberty, Fauquier and Kettle Run join the mix.

Clarke County (8-13 last season) also has some rebuilding to do (eight sophomores on the roster), but the Eagles bring back one of the area’s top hitters in Kaden Warren. The catcher batted .418 and did plenty of damage when he connected with three home runs, three triples and eight doubles. Warren drove in 21 runs.

Starting pitcher Colby Childs (2-3) had a solid 2.50 ERA and struck out 29 batters in 28 innings.

Here is a capsule look at the area teams:

Sherando

Head coach: Pepper Martin, 25th season

Last season: 17-6 (7-1 Northwestern District).

Key losses: Adam Miller, Ravyn Rouse, Myles McPartland, Brett Bodenschatz, Caleb Peacher, Lucas Barbe.

Top returning players: Pearce Bucher, Sr. 3B; Frank Ritter, Sr. SS/P; Hunter Entsminger, Jr. P/C/OF; Tad Dean, Sr. P/OF; Michael Usa, Jr. P/1B; Jack Duvall, Jr. 2B; A.J. Wunder, Sr. 2B.

Top newcomers: Kyle Armistead, Sr., 1B; David Ashby, Sr. C; Nick Mazza, Jr. OF; Payne Bauer, So. OF/P; Jared Tinsman, Jr. P/3B; Sam Duke, Jr. OF; Hunter Estep, Jr. C/OF.

Martin’s outlook: “The coaching staff feels that this year’s team has a lot of potential with the return of three of the top four hitters and pitchers from last year’s team. The entire starting outfield from the 2017 team was lost due to graduation, but their replacements seem to be very capable. We have decent team speed and our roster includes a number of players who are versatile at multiple positions. Our immediate team goal is to get better each week and be competitive in every game.”

First game: March 13 at Brentsville, 6 p.m.

Millbrook

Head coach: Brian Burke, eighth season

Last season: 15-6, 6-2 Northwestern District

Key losses: Conor Hartigan, Ryan Kennedy, Anthony Simonelli, Nate Jaye, Kyle Keenan, Austin Murphy, Gavin West, Zach Rogers

Top returning players: Bailey Collins, Sr. 2B; Alec Rudolph, Sr. SS; Ryan Houchens, Sr. OF; Conner Turrill, Sr. OF; Chandler Ballenger, Jr. 1B/P; Jalen Tyson, 1B/P; Haden Madagan, UT/P;

Top newcomers: Logan Hartigan, Fr. OF; John Rosa, Jr. SS; Cris Burger, Jr. C; Luke Churchill, Jr. OF/P; Daniel Croyle, 2B/OF.

Burke’s outlook: “We graduated our biggest and arguably our most talented class ever in Millbrook baseball history last spring. We have many positions open for competition and innings to fill on the mound. We are facing a year where we still have talent, but that talent hasn’t played many varsity innings. Our hope is to remain competitive and see these players continue to make progress. We’ll have a lot of growing up to do and it might just happen during game situations.”

First game: March 13 at Warren County, 6 p.m.

James Wood

Head coach: Brent Lockhart, fifth season

Last year: 9-12, 4-4 Northwestern District

Key losses: Brady Renner, Ben Russo, Tyler Mathews, Sam Ellingsworth, Joel Smith, Hunter O’Goreman

Top returners: Mitch Craig, Sr., P; Trent Campbell, Sr., P/SS; Tanner George, Sr., P/3B; Brett Baker, Sr., OF; Cobly Monroe, Jr., C; Tylor McBride, Jr., OF; Will Moore, Sr., 1B.

Top newcomers: Tyler Mounts, Sr., 2B; Lucas Whitacre, So., C; Daniel Coopenhaver, So., 2B; Hayden Cunningham, So., 1B; Mason Lippold, Jr., OF; Logan Zimmerman, Jr., 3B; Kevin Brown, So., 3B; Jacob Bell, Jr., P/1B

 

Lockhart’s outlook: “We are looking forward to another exciting high school baseball season. We lost a lot of good talent last year and have some nice young talent replacing them. We are excited to see how well this team will come together and play as a team. We are optimistic how the conference will play out this year.”

First game: March 14 at Kettle Run, 6 p.m.

Handley

Head coach: Patrick Wingfield, fifth season

Last year: 4-16, 1-7 Northwestern District

Key losses : Dwight McGinnis, Clay Curbow, Cam Bentley, Jimmy Vitola

Top returning players: Tommy Downey, Jr. C/P; Web Bentley, Jr. CF; Logan McGinnis, So. SS/P; Cam Mintz, So., 3B/P.

Top newcomers: Jacob Stewart, Fr. 1B; Nick Hott, So., Utility

Wingfield’s outlook: “This year we are looking to build off a lineup that more than doubled its run production from 2016 to 2017. The lineup is full of many underclassmen that now have a season of varsity experience under their belts.”

First game: March 13 vs Manassas Park, 6 p.m.

Clarke County

Head coach: Mike Smith, second season

Last year: 8-13, 4-10 Bull Run District

Key losses: Colt Webb, Chris Davis, Mike Zuleger, Sam Fairman and Duff Bloomingdale

Top returning players: Kaden Warren, Sr., C/P; Colby Childs, So., SS/P; Mike Edwards, So., 3B/P; Danny Lyman, So., 2B/SS/P; Eamon Juday, Jr., CF

Top newcomers: Jack Taylor, So., LF/P; Matt Williams, So., 1B/P; Nick Orndorff, So., RF; Ryan Miller, So., 2B/1B/RF; Cody Adams, Jr., LF/1B/C; Nick Testa, So., LF/RF.

Smith’s outlook: “We will have a very young team this year with only one senior on the roster. A positive is that three of the sophomores started as freshman last year. This group dedicated themselves to playing during the summer and fall and the weight room in the winter. We will be playing in the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., during Spring Break where we will be facing very good competition.”

First game: March 12 vs. Luray, 5 p.m.

— Contact Walt Moody at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1