Focus on Sports
Hard-working Skipjacks are ready for spring

Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005

Clarke Rollins 

WYE MILLS, March 13 – There are many things to like about this year’s Chesapeake College baseball team, but head coach Frank Szymanski is most impressed by the Skipjacks’ work ethic.

"It’s a hard-working group – on the field, in the classroom, in the community," said Szymanski, who indicated Friday’s team trip to Chapel District Elementary School was a great example of why he enjoys coaching this year’s squad.

"We were able to read to the kids and play kickball with them afterwards," said Szymanski, whose team was participating in a read-a-thon that commemorated the anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ birth. "I’ve good a really good group of people on my team."

Szymanski, who guided last year’s squad to a school-record 26 wins and the second round of the regional tournament, also thinks he’s working with a lot of baseball talent.

"We obviously want to go further than last year, but we don’t set out as a goal to win a certain number of games," said Szymanski, whose team swept visiting Queensboro (NY) Community College, 12-6 and 14-4, in Sunday’s season-opening doubleheader after the first seven games were cancelled due to inclement weather. "The goals we’ve set for this year are we want to improve as a team every day, become a family, play hard, and let the chips fall where they may."

The Skipjacks, who finished 26-21 last season, are scheduled to play as many as 50 games this spring. That’s one reason 16 of his 25 players are slated to pitch as least some innings this season.

"We like to play a lot of games. We try to recruit players who can pitcher and play another position, but we never turn down somebody who just wants to pitch," said Szymanski.

This year’s team is built around eight returning sophomores, led by 2004 all-Region XX selection Clarke Rollins. Rollins, who can play anywhere in the infield, hit .349 with nine homers, 44 runs batted in, and 50 runs scored.

"Clarke is very committed to the college and he works year-round on his game," said Szymanski. "We’re expecting him to have another wonderful season."

Catcher Kevin Weems (Easton High School) is team captain "and a great team player," according to Szymanski. Weems hit .256 with 10 RBI and 20 runs scored last spring, but was even more valuable for his defense and leadership.

Kent Island High grad Bryan Brainer (4-4 record, 3.82 earned-run average, 56 strikeouts in 40.3 innings) was one of the team’s top pitchers as a freshman and should be so once again this year.

"Bryan really worked hard in the weight room all year round and improved both his strength and his velocity," said Szymanski.

Infielder/pitcher Brett Ireland (.295, four homers, 33 RBI, 23 runs) is another "tireless worker who really put in a lot of time in the weight room in the off season," according to Szymanski.

Pitcher Ryan Albright also returns for his sophomore season.

"Ryan worked very hard in the fall and winter," said Szymanski. "He’s improved his game a lot since last year, and he is a big asset to the team."

Outfielders Josh Creighton of Easton High (.214, two homers, 18 RBI, 16 runs) and Steve Tiffany (.200, eight RBI, eight runs) saw increasing playing time in the second half of their respective freshman seasons, while Matt Clark (2-6, 6.29 ERA) pitched well in some late-season games last spring. Szymanski is expecting their numbers to improve thanks to last year’s experience.

The seven returners have been reinforced with 18 freshmen, including former Easton High pitcher Taylor Leeson and outfielder/pitcher Richard Grasso from Queen Anne’s County High.

Five freshmen – Ryan Morse, Robert Miller, Justin Armiger, Joey Sable, and Chad Wolfe - will pitch and see time in the infield. Ryan Bell, Ryon Rabon, Mike Kelch, and Anthony Archie are also expected to be infielders, while Matt Fitzgerald and Mike Garrett (who also pitches) are hoping to be in the catching mix along with Weems.

Freshmen Will Delawter and James Carroll will both pitch and play the outfield, while Ryan Albright and Nick Lemmer are exclusively pitchers and Micah Terrill is competing only for time in the outfield.

Tony Riggi and Tim Washburn will be assisting Szymanski, who is starting his sixth season as head coach.

While winter is still the dominant season here, the Skipjacks leave March 19th for what they expect to be sunny and warm Florida. They will play 11 games in seven days in the annual Palm Beach Challenge over spring break.

"That’ll be just great – especially after being stuck inside for two months," said Szymanski. "We’ll get a chance to practice outdoors and there will be a lot of exposure to four-year college and professional scouts."


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