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Pitching has been at a premium the past two seasons in the Class 4 Northwestern District.

James Wood and Millbrook piled up many wins because of their standout arms and the Colonels went all of the way to the Class 4 title game in 2022 and to the semifinals last spring.

But those two schools saw their top two pitchers graduate and each are on college rosters this spring. Sherando and Handley also lost top arms as well.

With several new faces on the mound, each area team will be looking to make its mark playing in Region 4D for the first time. The top four qualifiers in the Northern Division — which also includes Liberty, Charlottesville and Orange County — will advance to the regional quarterfinals based on winning percentage.

The Colonels, led by coach Adrian Pullen, will have to replace a lot more than standout pitchers Colin McGuire (Winchester Star Player of the Year in 2023, now at Lynchburg) and Nick Bell (Star Player of the Year in 2022, now at Shenandoah), who also played at third base when the other was on the mound. The Colonels also will have new starters at shortstop, first base and left field.

Leading James Wood is center fielder Kemper Omps and catcher John Copenhaver, both First Team All-District and All-Region 4C selections last spring. Omps, an excellent defender, hit .313, while scoring 23 runs, driving in 13 and stealing 14 bases. Copenhaver is an excellent defensive catcher who has come up with several big hits over the course of his career.

Deuce Strosnider, who played second base last season, is another solid hitter. Garett McAlexander saw significant action on the mound and had a 2.41 ERA over 20.1 innings.

Brian Burke will have to replace a significant part of a Millbrook lineup that includes Carl Keenan (pitcher/shortstop) and Cam Comins (pitcher), who are both at Shenandoah, and Nate Brookshire (third base), who is at Shepherd.

The good news for the Pioneers is that they return three of the area’s top hitters. Micah George, an excellent defensive center fielder, hit .457 with 29 runs scored, 25 RBIs and 12 steals. Chase Ford, also a good defensive left fielder, hit .339 with 20 runs, 18 RBIs and 11 steals. First baseman Hogan Newlin, also good with the glove, hit .325 and scored 18 runs. George (Cedarville), Ford (Bridgewater) and Newlin (Bryant & Stratton) have signed to play in college.

Devin Reid is the Pioneers’ top returning pitcher. Reid was 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 20.1 innings last season.

Longtime Sherando assistant Craig Bodenschatz gets his first chance as head coach following the retirement of Pepper Martin, the only head baseball coach in school history. Martin didn’t leave the cupboard bare, even though the Warriors graduated ace Cole Orr, who is now at Ferrum.

The Warriors return several key players, including First Team All-District selection Trey Williams in center field. Williams, an excellent defender, hit .324, with 26 runs and 19 stolen bases. Third baseman Neil Holborn (.383) and left fielder Hayden LaFever (.368) were among the area’s top hitters.

Giancarlo Lisciandrello (3-3, 3.00 ERA) has excellent stuff and got a win over the Colonels in the district tournament semifinals.

Handley got better throughout last season and gave some of the top teams trouble. One of the reasons was the emergence of Landen Lewis (3-5), who will be counted on after Griffin Hott’s graduation.

Patrick Wingfield’s club also is led by senior shortstop/pitcher Kaplan Ambrose, one of the area’s most consistent hitters throughout his career who batted .344 and scored 21 runs last season. Catcher Charlie Allen was among the area’s top base stealers with 17.

Always facing tough foes in the Bull Run District, Clarke County will be looking to contend.

Mike Smith’s team returns top pitcher Quenton Slusher (4-3, 2.04 ERA) as well as Aiden Wagner (3.65 ERA).

The Eagles lost top hitters Hunter Norton and Matthew Sipe to graduation and will be looking for players like Cam McCarty to provide some pop in the lineup.

The following is a breakdown provided by area coaches:

James Wood

Coach: Adrian Pullen, fourth season

Last year: 19-5, 12-0 Class 4 Northwestern District. District regular-season champion, Region 4C runner-up, Class 4 semifinalist

Key losses: Nick Bell, Clayton Braithwaite, Daniel Franceschi, Colin McGuire, Eli Miller, Jared Neal, Ethan Pingley.

Top returning players: John Copenhaver (Sr., C/IF); Jacob Harty (Sr., IF); Sam Jackson (Sr., P/OF); Bradley Kimble (Sr., P/IF); Evan Lafollette (Sr., P/OF); Garett McAlexander (Sr., P/OF); Kemper Omps (Sr., OF); Deuce Strosnider (Sr., INF); Richard Terry (Sr., U); Cade Cornwell (Jr., P/U).

Top newcomers: Coby Nesslerodt (Sr., IF); Carson Southern (Sr., IF); Logan Bower (Jr., OF/P); Fletcher Powell (Jr., P/IF); Jackson Rager (Jr., OF); Colin Thomas (Jr., IF); Tyler Walter (Jr., P/IF); Brock Whipkey (Jr., P/OF); Zach Woskobunik (Jr., P/IF).

Pullen’s expectations: “We hope to play sound and fundamental baseball. We expect to throw strikes, play defense, and get the timely hits that will put us in a great position to win the ballgame. We lost two First Team All-State Pitchers, one of which was the District and Region Player of the Year, so we have some shoes to fill on the mound. However, we do return some experienced and qualified guys that I believe will step up and fill the holes. Offensively, we have returning guys with experience in the lineup that will help build upon what we did last year. … Garett McAlexander and Cade Cornwell will look to lead our pitching staff, along with Logan Bower, and Brock Whipkey. Seniors Kemper Omps, John Copenhaver, and Deuce Strosnider will lead the offense. They all bring experience and leadership qualities that every team needs to be successful.

“The new realignment definitely puts a spin on how things could shake out. Locally, Sherando, Millbrook and Handley will be tough matchups as always. With the new format for the postseason, we just hope to be in the Top 4. We have a very competitive schedule that will make us a better team in the end and hopefully we will get the opportunity to extend our season. We were fortunate last year to beat some extremely talented ballclubs to put us once again in the state tournament. We accomplished that because we work hard, and we have the drive to compete and succeed. With that said, we will focus on what we can control, and that is how we prepare and execute the process of being successful.”

First game: March 13 at Fauquier


Coach: Brian Burke, 13th season

Last year: 16-4, 10-2 Class 4 Northwestern District

Key losses: Cam Comins, Carl Keenan, Nate Brookshire, Ryan Liero.

Key returnees: Micah George (Sr., OF); Chase Ford, (Sr., OF); Brady Price (Sr., IF); Devin Reid (Jr., P); Hogan Newlin (Sr., 1B); Tanner Barb (Sr., C).

Key newcomers: Mason Reich (Jr., IF); Mason Eaton (Jr., IF); Dylan Apfel (So., P/U).

Burke’s expectations: “We have many positions to fill left vacant from 2023 and it will be a challenge to get where we’ve been in previous years. We want to continue to be competitive in the region. We are focused on doing our jobs to the best of our ability and grow as individuals and as a team this season. … This season it will take the entire roster stepping up and showing improvement and impressing upon the coaching staff that they deserve their name on the lineup card each night.

“Being the first season with the new set-up it’s hard to really know what to expect. The new regional and postseason format is not favored by many as they speak to their experiences. We still have a schedule to play and the expectations don’t change within the program. We’ll go out each night and make the best of the situation and hopefully we are there in the end to compete at the next level.”

First game: March 12 at Sherando


Coach: Craig Bodenschatz, first season

Last year: 12-11, 6-6 Class 4 Northwestern District. District tournament runner-up

Key losses: Cole Orr, Malachi Sloane, Ty Helmick, Tyler Whitacre, Logan Brannan, Gary Keats.

Top returners: Brady Largent (Sr., 1B/P); Giancarlo Lisciandrello (Sr., P/IF); Tyler Strosnider Sr., P/IF); Neil Holborn (Sr., 3B/P); Trey Williams (Sr., CF); Riley Hartley (Sr., C); Dylan Frazier (Jr., C); Hayden LaFever (Jr., OF); Tucker LaFever (Jr., OF); Sam Ridings (Jr., IF/P).

Key newcomers: Gavin McKelvey (Jr., P/1B); Isaiah Doedan (Jr., OF); Judson Dean (Jr., 3B/1B); Nick Usa (So., U).

Bodenschatz’s expectations: “We expect to compete hard in every game. We return a good amount of experience in the field, but not as much on the mound, so we will be working to sort that out early in the season. We will rely on our seniors to help the new players adjust to roles on the varsity team this season. We want to continue to improve and be playing our best baseball when the playoffs start. We’re excited to get the season started, as we’ve been working hard in the offseason.

“The new format will be a challenge this season. Without a district tournament, the emphasis on each regular-season game to qualify for the playoffs will be even higher than in the past. There isn’t a lot of information available on those other teams in the region, so we seem to be entering into an unknown with them. We will try to go see them at some point to get an idea of what we’re competing against. We’re expecting the area competition to be strong, like it’s always been. James Wood has set the bar the last two seasons with their runs in the state tournament. Playing in the Northwestern District has always provided stiff competition and that won’t change this season. We’re hopeful that the competition brings out the best in our players.”

First game: March 11 at Skyline


Coach: Patrick Wingfield, 10th season

Last year: 6-16, 2-10 Class 4 Northwestern District

Key losses: Griffin Hott, Lucas Mammano, Dylon Moxley.

Key returnees: Kaplan Ambrose (Sr., SS/P); Landen Lewis (Sr., P/OF); Staige Dolan (Sr., 2B/P); Charlie Allen, (Jr., C/P).

Key newcomers: Will Braun-Duin (Fr., SS/3B); Ian Bruening (Jr., 1B); Jack Prosser (Jr., OF).

Wingfield’s expectations: “We return the majority of our starters from a team that had the most wins at Handley in a decade. With some key additions and a strong group of seniors we believe we can continue taking steps in the right direction. Senior Kaplan Ambrose has been First Team All-District for the past two seasons and senior Landen Lewis will be our leader on the mound. Will Braun-Duin, coming off an unprecedented freshman basketball season as the District Player of the Year, will be a key contributor in the lineup.

“I think the district will be the most competitive from top to bottom that it’s been in years. James Wood will still have a strong group of pitchers and Millbrook and Sherando’s all-around depth will make those teams strong. The new region setup and playoffs are as good as any for our district. We have however already seen the flaws especially in basketball that will need to be corrected dealing with home-field advantage and strength of schedules. With longer travel and the current state of officiating, we will have to find ways to make decisions not coming down to chance. Luckily home field advantage is historically not as large of an issue in baseball.”

First game: March 11 vs. Park View

Clarke County

Coach: Mike Smith, seventh season

Last year: 8-13, 6-10 Bull Run District

Key losses: Matthew Sipe, Theo Wood, Hunter Norton.

Key returnees: Cam McCarty (So., C); Aiden Wagner (So., SS/P); Wilson Taylor (So., 3B/P), Quenton Slusher (Sr., P/OF); Caden Fowler (Sr., OF); Kaden McKenzie (Sr., OF/P); Caleb Erickson (So., OF/C), Josiah Carne (Sr., OF); Landon Roper (Sr., OF).

Key newcomers: Jacob Reichert (So., 1B/P); Tucker Fox (So., INF); Colton Johnson (Fr., 2B), Brady MacDonald (So., 1B).

Smith’s expectations: “We do have some experienced players, so I’m hoping to be competitive in every game. Cam McCarty was asked last year to change positions from the outfield to catcher. He has made great strides since last year and playing summer and fall baseball has helped. He is a strong player who has significant bat strength.

“Like every year our goal is to win the district and region. The Bull Run District has always been competitive and this year should be no different. Our region has some new faces this spring and those teams have always had success in baseball. It should be interesting to see how Region 2B plays out this spring.”

First game: March 19 at Strasburg

— Contact Walt Moody at
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