After going wire-to-wire as the metro area’s No. 1 high school baseball team, Archbishop Spalding is poised for an encore this spring.
The Cavaliers return the VSN Pitcher of the Year in righthander Parker Thomas, who’s one of nine returnees committed to a Division I program, and one of four Cavaliers named to the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches (MSABC) preseason All-State team.
The other three Cavaliers named MSABC preseason All-State are Seton Hall-bound hurler Cody Sharman (5-0, 0.49 ERA in 2022), junior Jake Yeager (committed to Maryland) who also plays the infield corners and outstanding defensive senior catcher Ethan McNally who will play for James Madison.
Thomas was 8-0 with a microscopic 0.36 ERA for the Cavaliers who went 17-0 in the highly competitive MIAA A Conference and leads a pitching staff that boasts five pitchers committed to play D-1 college baseball.
Joe Palumbo, last spring’s VSN Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers to a fifth MIAA A Conference title (has won four), has the deepest returning pitching staff he’s had in his 11 seasons.
John Carroll, last season’s MIAA A runner-up to Spalding returns 10 D-I commits led by a trio of MSABC All-State selections in seniors Frank Adamski (Coastal Carolina) and Ethan Ruiz (Salisbury), and sophomore Will Rhine (Maryland commit). Coach Darrion Siler says once again his Patriots will face “robust competition” in the A Conference and in Maryland.
John Carroll hopes to challenge Spalding along with No. 3 Calvert Hall, Loyola Blakefield (10th), Archbishop Curley (11th) and a young Gilman squad.
Anne Arundel County champion and Class 4A finalist Severna Park is ranked N0.3 Severna Park with its strong returning nucleus look to be the Anne Arundel County contenders along with No. 5 and defending Class 3A state champ Chesapeake-Anne Arundel, No. 8 Broadneck and No. 13 Arundel.
No. 9 River Hill, No. 12 Reservoir and defending 2A state champion Glenelg will be top teams in Howard County while No. 9 Hereford and Randallstown (15th) will be teams to reckon with in Baltimore County.
In the UCBAC, No. 6 Fallston of Harford County will vie for big seasons with No. 14 Patterson Mill, No. 15 Bel Air and defending Chesapeake Division champ North East. Liberty and Century are the top teams in the Carroll County and Poly is again the Baltimore City favorite.
2023 Baltimore Banner/VSN Preseason Baseball Top 15
1. ARCHBISHOP SPALDING
2022 record: 27-4
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 1
Coach: Joe Palumbo
Players to watch: Parker Thomas, Sr., RHP/INF; Cody Sharman, Sr., LHP/OF; Ethan McNally, Sr., C; Jake Yeager, Jr., RHP/INF
With its deep pitching staff and overall wealth of experience (nine players committed to D1 schools) Archbishop Spalding is without question the best team in Maryland. The Cavs have the returning VSN Pitcher of the Year in Parker Thomas (East Carolina), who went 8-0 last spring for the defending MIAA A Conference champions and is expected to lead a pitching staff with five Division I commits.
2. JOHN CARROLL
2022 record: 15-12
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 14
Coach: Darrion Siler
Players to watch: Frank Adamski, Sr., INF; Ethan Ruiz, Sr., OF; Will Rhine, soph., INF; Griffin Shirk, Sr., OF
Siler expects his Patriots to “”be exciting to watch” and offensively potent while its pitching and defense will keep foes off the board. Adamski (.351, 32 RBI), Ruiz (.357, 18 RBI) and left swinging soph Rhine (19 RBI) trio will lead the way. A host of senior veteran leaders will play important roles in showing the way for a strong group of young talent as John Carroll look to challenge Spalding in the MIAA A.
3. SEVERNA PARK
2022 record: 18-4
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 4
Coach: Eric Milton
Players to watch: Seamus Patenaude, Sr., 3B; Angel Santiago-Cruz, Jr., INF; Nathan Clarke, Sr., RHP
After disappointment agianst in the Class 4A state final (lost Sherwood of Montgomery County for second straight season), Milton is optimistic the Anne Arundel County champions can breakthrough this spring. Patenaude (.365, 17 RBI) and Santiago-Cruz (.371, 14 RBI) will lead the way.
4. CALVERT HALL
2022 record: 21-9
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 3
Coach: Brooks Kerr
Players to watch: Jake Butler, Sr., SS; EJ Hankerson, Sr., OF.
Kerr, a longtime assistant and 1987 Hall grad, succeeds Lou Eckerl, the Cardinals’ all-time winningiest coach who retired at season’s end last spring. The Cardinals’ rich tradition should continue in 2023 with MSABC Preseason All-State performers, shortstop Butler and outfielder Hankerson back.
5. CHESAPEAKE-ANNE ARUNDEL
2022 record: 20-3
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 2
Coach: Jeff Young (20-3)
Players to watch: Noah Bowerman, Sr., LHP/1B; Carter Drab, Jr., RHP/OF; Cole Parsons, Jr., 2B.
After his banner first season at his alma mater, Young hopes the Cougars can run it back as 3A state champs this spring. He’ll be looking for contributions on the bump from lefty Bowerman and Drab to anchor the pitching staff.
6. RIVER HILL
2022 record: 17-3
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No.8
Coach: Craig Estrin
Players to watch: Henry Zatkowski, Jr., LHP; Eje Okojie, Sr., OF/P .Demetre Koutras, Jr., OF
The Hawks won the Howard County League championship last spring before suffering a 4-3 loss in 12 innings to league Reservoir in the Class 3A East Region final. The Hawks return several outstanding players in Zalkowski, Okojie ( team-leading .433 last spring) and Koutras (.350) and the Zatkowski/Okojie pair were named to the MSABC Preseason All-State team. Zatkowski was 6-0 ( 0.65 ERA) and was named Howard County Pitcher of the year as a sophomore.
2022 record: 16-5
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 13
Coach: Matt Skrenchuk
Players to watch: Calvin Cook, Jr., SS; Sean Murphy, Sr., RHP/2B; Zach Palmer, Sr., RHP; Devin McGowan, Jr., 1B.
Cook will anchor what should be one of the area’s sharpest defensive ball clubs with his keystone partner Murphy when the latter is not on the “bump.” Murphy, a returning All-Anne Arundel ace was 7-1 with a 1.67 ERA, is committed to Catholic University. Cook is also the leading returning hitter with a .449 average with 18 RBI and 24 runs. The Bruins hope to go farther after being eliminated in the 4A East Region II semifinals last spring.
2022 record: 16-3
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 11
Coach: Brad DuVall
Players to watch: Liam Diehl, Sr., RHP/OF; Jack Kinsey, Jr., RHP/1B ; Ryan Larkin, JR., RHP/3B.
DuVall is excited about the upcoming season as he savors the return of his entire pitching staff led by MSABC Preseason All-State choice in Liam Diehl (6-1, 1.81) and juniors Larkin (5-1, 1.91 ERA) and Kinsey (3-0, 1.75 ERA). Diehl (.383), Larkin (.375) and Kinsey (.325) will lead the offense as well as the Northern Baltimore County school expects to improve on its 2A state quarterfinalist finish from last spring.
9. LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD
2022 record: 11-13
Final VSN 2022 ranking: Not ranked
Coach: Mike Kelly
Players to watch: Dylan Bryan, Jr., LHP; Wyatt Mummert, Jr., LHP; Trent Waire, Sr., SS
Despite a losing mark last spring, the Dons will be dangerous in the MIAA A Conference. Bryan (4-3, 2.93 ERA) will anchor a young pitching staff that will be key to the Dons’ postseason hopes this spring.
2022 record: 10-9
Final VSN 2022 ranking: Not ranked
Coach: Grant Morlock
Players to watch: Paul Kvech, Jr., RHP/1B; Finley Jourdan, Sr., RHP/Utility; Jason Foxx, Sr., SS; Logan White, Sr., 2B
Morlock welcomes back 8 starters and most of his pitching staff for his 10th season at the Harford County school. Kvech (6-1, 1.24 ERA) is the ace and Jourdan (2-3, 2.62 ERA) give the Cougars a tough 1-2 while middle infielders. Foxx (.345, 10 RBI) and White (.340, 14 runs) along with a couple of transfers give the Cougars a lot of pop, but Morlock says pitching and defense remains their calling card.
2022 record: 19-5
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 5
Coach: Steve Tiffany
Players to watch: Nick DuVall, Sr., RHP/INF; Alfonso Dello Russo, Sr., OF; Zach LaFountain, Jr., RHP/INF
The Gladiators return a solid nucleus from last spring’s Class 2A state championship team. Two-way star DuVall is MSABC preseason All-State choice.
12. ARCHBISHOP CURLEY
2022 record: 22-13
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 15
Coach: Joe Gaeta
Players to watch: John Petryszak, Sr., 3B; Harry Middlebrooks, Sr., 1B; Dillon Michaloski, Sr., RHP
The Friars’ aspiration of another MIAA A postseason berth will be determined by their pitching with Michaloski (3-0, 2.82 ERA) the key returnee. The Baltimore City private stronghold will be strong on the corners with Petryszak (.389, 4 HRs), a MSABC Preseason All-State selection and Middlebrooks (.330) over at 1B.
2022 record: 19-5
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 7
Coach: Adam Leader
Players to watch: Quinn Dean, Sr., SS; Jack Lloyd, Sr., RHP
The Gators may have lost 11 seniors from last year’s Class 3A state semifinal squad, but the Howard County squad have another solid senior nucleus under Leader, one of the area’s best coaches. The Gators will follow his guidance as he gets Dean (.407, All-Howard County) and Lloyd (3-1, 1.79 ERA) to lead a talented group.
14. BEL AIR
2022 record: 15-8
Final VSN 2022 ranking: No. 20
Coach: Jon Andrews
Player to watch: Aiden Hankins, Sr., RHP/1B/3B
The Bobcats reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals, and Andrews said his squad is ready to challenge in the UCBAC Chesapeake and make another deep postseason run. Their success will center around Hankins with his talent on the mound and go-to clutch bat.
15. PATTERSON MILL
2022 record: 13-9
Final VSN 2022 ranking: Not ranked
Coach: Matt Roseland
Players to watch: Michael Hemelt, Jr., LHP/OF; Jackson Wheeler, Sr., INF; Ethan Shertzer, Sr., OF
Roseland says he is “excited” about his Huskies and that could be bad news for UCBAC Chesapeake opponents. The Huskies return six starters from their Class 1A Region title team last spring, led by ace lefty Hemelt (7-1, 60 K’s).