Skipjacks expect to be relevant in state, region
Chesapeake baseball returns 9 from Region XX runner-up
WYE MILLS A four-game swing into North Carolina provided just about the only good weather the Skipjacks (0-4) saw as they prepared for Thursday’s 2 p.m. Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference baseball opener against the visiting College of Southern Maryland (0-2).
"Right now we’re trying to find some consistency," said Frank Szymanski, who is beginning his 12th season as Chesapeake College’s head baseball coach. "It’s very hard to get consistency when you’re not playing outside every day.
"We’re still improving in practice every day," added Szymanski. "Our goal is to keep improving every day so that we’re playing meaningful games in May."
The Skipjacks have grown accustomed to playing relevant games in recent years. Chesapeake went to an NJCAA Division II World Series in 2005, stayed in the state title race until the final day the last two seasons, and was the Region XX runner-up to perennial champion Potomac (W.Va.) State College last spring.
"It’s a very competitive region," said Szymanski, who expects Potomac State, Hagerstown, Anne Arundel, CCBC-Catonsville and Harford to all be potential championship contenders.
All of those teams, and Allegany College of Maryland, could contend for the state regular-season championship.
Chesapeake lost quite a bit of talent from last year’s 37-15 team, which won a school-record 36 games in the regular season. Pitchers Devin Gardner, Daniel Abdalla, Joe Garrity, Billy Felo, Brennan Miller and Daniel Miller (combined 26-9 with 9 saves) have all departed, along with Michael Turner, the St. Michaels High graduate who hit .313 with 9 homers and 37 RBI before being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Szymanski said this year’s Skipjacks also have the potential to be quite good.
"It’s a pretty good mix," said Szymanski, who has nine sophomores among the 27 players. "Only a few of those sophomores, though, have a lot of experience."
The most experienced returners are four Virginians: catcher/first baseman/outfielder Tucker Tobin (West Springfield High), outfielder Zach Larson (Woodbridge High), infielder Frank Zare (Bishop Ireton High), and first baseman/outfielder Richie McMahon (West Springfield High).
While Tobin (.321 average, 6 homers, 38 RBI last season) and Larson (.356, 4, 35) are co-captains, Szymanski expects leadership for all four.
"All four are team guys who put the team ahead of themselves," said Szymanski.
Tobin and Larson look to hit in the middle of the order for the Skipjacks, while Zare (.254, 1, 11) will be "asked to get on base, steal bases and make plays." McMahon, who had four saves in 10 innings pitched last spring, will play a bigger role on the mound this year.
"We were counting on him to pitch last year," Szymanski said of McMahon (1-2, 3.39 ERA), the team’s only left-handed pitcher with any collegiate pitching experience. "We had a couple of injuries at first, so he gave up his pitching to help the team."
Sophomores David Cannon (0-0, 6.20) and Jordan Shockley (0-1, 13.50), two Cambridge-South Dorchester High graduates who pitched a combined total of less than 20 innings last spring, and North Caroline High grad Jake Yarber, will also pitch. Local freshman pitchers include Sean Hoback and Nik Nowottnick from Colonel Richardson.
"Jake Yarber is off to a great start," said Szymanski. "He’s a tireless player who is very coachable and plays extremely hard.
"David Cannon is preparing to be a starter and to be successful in that role," added Szymanski. "Nik Nowottnick should have an early role as a starter. Jordan Shockley and Sean Hoback could both be spot starters and work out of the bullpen."
Outfielder Will Jones (Huntingtown/Calvert County) and catcher Michael Russo (American Heritage High/Florida) round out the Skipjacks’ sophomores.
Freshman outfielder/catcher Jordan Gowe (St. Michaels High) is the fifth North Bayside product on this year’s team. Three freshmen from Parkside High pitchers Ethan Coffey and Spencer Gillis, and catcher/utility man Johnathon Donalds complete the Bayside Conference contingent.
The Skipjacks open their league schedule after dropping four games to Wake Technical Community College, which has taken advantage of its warm climate to already play 16 games this season.
"We were very competitive in three of the four games," said Szymanski. "It was a good experience for our players and coaches."
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