Pitching key to Skipjacks’ hopes
Chesapeake College aims for fifth straight 30-win season, but needs pitchers to step up
WYE MILLS Chesapeake College has a dozen sophomores back from last year’s 32-17-1 baseball team. None, however, was a pitcher with more than two wins last season, which points to the key for this season.
"This is a first," said Frank Szymanski, who is starting his tenth season as the Skipjacks’ head coach. "We’ve always had one or two guys we knew were going to anchor the pitching staff."
The uncertainty surrounding the Skipjacks’ pitching doesn’t mean the team’s goals are any different, according to Szymanski.
"We feel confident that this group of players will gain experience early, learn and get better down the stretch," said Szymanski, who has guided the Skipjacks to four straight 30-win seasons. "Our objective is the same to play meaningful games in May and get better every day."
And the Skipjacks who open Saturday with a noon doubleheader against visiting Queensborough (N.Y.) Community College have an added incentive this year as Chesapeake College will host the NJCAA Division I Region XX Final Four for the first time.
"We’ve talked about that a lot," said Szymanski. "The Region Final Four is here at Chesapeake and we want to be in it."
Sophomores Jacob Garvey (North Dorchester High), Ben Newport (North Caroline High), and Gary Blackledge (Valley View High/PA) will all contribute on the mount after having combined for a 3-3 record with two saves last year. Garvey was 2-0 with a 3.71 earned-run average while Newport, a left-handed specialist, was 1-1 with two saves and a 3.27 ERA.
Freshmen Michael Turner (St. Michaels High), Devin Gardner (Kent Island High) Chris Bell (Leonardtown High/St. Mary’s County), and Jordan Heller (Loch Raven High/Baltimore) will all pitch.
"We’re going to need Turner, Gardner, Bell and Heller to pitch well for us this year," said Szymanski.
While the pitching is a bit of a question mark, the Skipjacks have some proven hitters returning. First baseman/catcher Andrew Markey (North Caroline High), catcher Derek Richards (Calvert High/Port Republic), second baseman Mathieu Vallieres (St. Patrick High/Quebec), and Florida products J.J. Corriveau (catcher/outfielder) and Mike Liddell (outfielder/infielder) should all contribute offensively.
Markey hit .338 with four homers, 45 RBI and 28 runs scored last year. Liddell (.333, 24 RBI, 34 runs), Corriveau (.310, 18 RBI, 23 runs), and Richards (.300, 10 RBI, 13 runs in only 60 at bats) all hit .300 or better. Vallieres, meanwhile, drove in four runs in the first eight games before being sidelined the rest of last season by a badly sprained ankle.
Szymanski also expects sophomore outfielder Stephen Aaron (Cambridge-SD High) to contribute more after getting only 14 at bats last season.
"Aaron’s stock is rising," said Szymanski.
Szymanski has 38 players on the roster as the Skipjacks look to top last year’s 21-7 league record, which set a school record for conference wins and kept them in the title hunt until the final day of the season. If anything, Szymanski expects the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference to be even more competitive this year.
"There are a lot of teams that have gotten better," said Szymanski. "That’s what makes this league so great. You have to bring your ’A’ game every game."
Chesapeake will complete a three-game series with Queensborough with a single game Sunday at noon. The Skipjacks then host Lackawanna College next Thursday in a 1 p.m. doubleheader and open their league schedule with doubleheaders against visiting CCBC-Catonsville next Saturday and Baltimore City Community College next Sunday.
For more information on the team, please visit the Chesapeake College website (www.chesapeake.edu/athletics).
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please send correction or comments to: Becky Fauver