Szymanski, Skipjacks already looking to next year
Chesapeake will try to top 2005’s Word Series appearance
WYE MILLS, June 6 Frank Szymanski’s goal each year is to improve on the results of the previous season.
In this case, that’s going to be difficult to accomplish.
The Chesapeake College baseball team smashed the previous school record for victories (26) in putting together a 40-18 record in 2005. In the process, the Skipjacks won the college’s first Region XX championship in a men’s sport along with Chesapeake’s first Northeast District title, first World Series appearance, and a fifth-place finish in the nation.
"We obviously have to defend our titles," said Szymanski, who just finished his sixth season as the Skipjacks’ head coach. "We want to experience what we experienced this year, but we also want to improve every day as a ball club, as people and as students. I know that sounds like a cliché, but that’s important to us in our program."
The Skipjacks expect to return their entire starting infield, two corner outfielders, a group of pitchers who could earn spots in the starting rotation, and the valuable experience gained in playing 11 postseason games. Szymanski said the key to improving will be bringing in more pitching and plugging their holes up the middle at catcher and in center field.
"Recruiting is coming along well," said Szymanski. "We’re always looking for extra pitching because we like to play a lot of games, and I think adding some pitchers is a key for us if we’re going to get back to the World Series."
While the Skipjacks lose sophomore standouts Bryan Brainer (8-2, 2.56 earned-run average) and Matt Fitzgerald (6-1, 4.43 ERA), freshman Nick Lemmer (5-3, 3.09 ERA) stepped up to go 2-1 in the postseason.
"Lemmer has emerged as a No. 1 candidate," said Szymanski, who is looking for a new staff ace. "We have some quality guys returning Taylor Leeson (2-0, 6.86 ERA), Ryan Morse (4-1, 5.79 ERA), and Will Delawter (2-3, 9.82 ERA) who could be in the pitching mix, and we’ll get back Joey Sable, who missed the season after having ’Tommy John’ surgery last summer." The pitchers should be able to count on solid defense and run support. Many of the key players will be back from a team that set school records for fielding percentage (.953), batting average (.338), slugging percentage (.513), hits (653), doubles (125), home runs (53), total bases (975), runs batted in (462), walks (224), and runs (517). The defense and run support could start with an all-sophomore infield next spring. First basemen Will Delawter and Anthony Archie, second baseman Ryan Bell, shortstop Mike Kelch, and third baseman Justin Armiger are all expected back next year. That unit provided a lot of offensive punch, paced by Armiger, who set school records for runs (65), RBI (57) and hits (77) while also leading the Skipjacks in home runs (nine), extra-base hits (31), and batting average (.391).
Kelch (.323 average, eight homers, 45 RBI, 43 runs) and Delawter (.387, eight homers, 53 RBI, 46 runs) strongly supported Armiger’s bat. Bell was noted more for his steady defense at second base, but still hit .265 with four homers and 36 RBI while scoring 38 runs, and Archie (.308, two homers, 23 RBI) showed promise while getting 117 at bats split between first base, DH, and pinch-hitting duties.
"We’re hoping to get them all back next year," said Szymanski. "The experience of second-year student athletes is very beneficial. They know what it takes, what I expect, and what our faculty expects of them."
The outfield will probably be anchored by Jimmy Carroll (.383, one homer, 25 RBI, 49 runs) and Robbie Miller (.345, one homer, 29 RBI, 36 runs), but the Skipjacks will have to replace sophomore star center fielder Clarke Rollins (.373, six homers, 55 RBI, 50 runs). Rollins set school career records for doubles (32), walks (58), runs (100) and games played (105) while tying Tim St. Clair’s record with 123 hits.
Chesapeake will also lose designated hitter/infielder Brett Ireland (.378, three homers, 44 RBI, 38 runs), catcher Kevin Weems (.286, one homer, 21 RBI, 26 runs), catcher/outfielder Chad Wolfe (.333, five homers, 33 RBI, and 36 runs in 39 games), outfielders Steve Tiffany (.150, one homer, two RBI) and Josh Creighton (.287, three homers, 21 RBI), and pitchers Matt Clark (1-6, 6.90 ERA) and Ryan Albright (0-0, 5.91 ERA)
"We’re losing a lot of key players and a lot of ’character’ people," said Szymanski. "The numbers and production is one thing the leadership and the character is what we’ll miss most from Ireland, Weems, Rollins, Fitzgerald, and Brainer."
The Skipjacks will also return pitcher Richard Grasso (0-0, 7.71 ERA) and catcher/infielder Michael Garrett (.260, nine RBI).
This year’s championships should help the Skipjacks to attract recruits. They will also, however, attract more attention from the perennial powers knocked off by Chesapeake during its championship run. That doesn’t bother Szymanski, who doesn’t believe the theory that the Skipjacks simply "snuck up" on unsuspecting league powers this year.
"We faced the No. 1s (pitchers) from every team in the league this year Allegany, Catonsville, Dundalk, all of them," said Szymanski. "The teams were already throwing their best pitchers at us this year. I think those teams already had us circled on their calendars, but they may double-circle us next year."
Members of the Chesapeake College baseball team presented President Stuart Bounds gifts from their World Series appearance Monday, including the team’s Region XX and Northeast District championship plaques and two items a World Series ball and a Maryland state flag that were signed by all the players and coaches. The flag flew at the World Series during the Skipjacks’ participation in that event. Pictured, left to right, are Matt Fitzgerald, Brett Ireland, Dr. Bounds, Clarke Rollins, Athletic Director/Head Baseball Coach Frank Szymanski, Kevin Weems, and Vice President for Student Success Rich Midcap. Szymanski’s plaque for being named Region XX Coach of the Year was also presented to the college. (Photo by Marcie Molloy)
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