Spring Forward: Beach/SW Title Contenders


John Nolan
Virginia Scouting Director & Managing Editor

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As we have crossed the midpoint in January and are now under four weeks to go until public school practices can get underway, we continue our look ahead to warmer days to come with more of our Spring Forward series. 

Today we will look closely at the State Title contenders from the Beach and Southwest Virginia. Just as a reminder, these are teams that we think will be in the mix at the end of the season based on the talent that should be on their 2019 rosters. 2018 season finish has no bearing on this list. Also, when we reference the Beach we are referring to the I-64 corridor east of Richmond, including the Tidewater, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Hampton, and Newport News.

 

***Look for our VHSL Class 1 and Class 2 previews as we begin Region Previews next week.

 

2019 Beach and Southwest Championship Contenders

 

VHSL Class 6

Kellam-Kellam has some depth in its senior class, with two-way talent Corey Leadenham (George Mason) leading the rotation and lineup. Ben Lenhard (Wilson College) joins him in the rotation and his brother Riley Leadenham and catcher Micah Fox (Paul D Camp CC) round out a veteran group.

Ocean Lakes-The Dolphins just missed a State Tournament berth in 2018 and has some senior talent back again this spring in pitchers Micah Singer and Noah Kucenski (Wilson College). Elias Negron is one of the top uncommitted 2019 middle infielders left in the State and has a ton of athleticism. Dynamic underclassmen Carson DeMartini (Virginia Tech) should pair with Negron to make a talented infield combination.

Western Branch-The 2018 State Runners-up lost key pieces in their lineup to graduation but they will be very deep on the mound with the return of their one-two punch from last season in senior Antonio Velasquez (Bryant & Stratton) and junior Reid Long. Junior Kyle Carlson and sophomore Roberto Velasquez add depth to the Bruin rotation that few will be able to match.

 

VHSL Class 5

Halifax County-The Comets went 14 innings in the 2017 State Championship game before finishing as runners-up and were eliminated in 2018 by eventual State Runners-up Potomac. The Comets lost a big bat in catcher Clay Lloyd and innings-eater Carlton Redd. Despite those losses, Halifax is again stacked on the mound and a favorite to go deep in the playoffs. Flame-throwing senior Andrew Harlow (Radford) struck out over 76 batters in 32 innings as the Comets' closer and should see his innings jump up. Fellow senior Alex Lowery is back off of a big season as Halifax's number two, and junior Christian Worley (Virginia Tech) should give Halifax another smoke-thrower to round out the rotation. Seniors Dylan Clark and Shaun Perkins are back off of strong offensive seasons.

Maury-Pitching remains the theme for Maury as the Commodores look to return to the State Tournament in 2019 after making a trip in 2018. A big part of their 2018 story was the emergence of Ben Capehart (VMI) on the mound, and he will join fellow senior Dalton Barham (Norfolk State) in giving the Commodores a strong 1-2 punch on the mound.

Menchville-The Monarchs were the Region A champs in 2018 and have made it to the State Tournament each of the last two seasons. Look for Menchville to be back again this spring with a pair of junior arms leading the way in lefty Tyler Davis (VCU) and righty Philip Forbes V (James Madison). The Abrisz brothers are back for another year and will again form the core of the Menchville lineup, with junior Kody manning the middle infield and sophomore Kade behind the plate. Senior outfielder Stephen Cook, Jr. should also contribute again this spring for a well-rounded squad.

 

VHSL Class 4

Grafton-The Clippers won the Region A Championship in 2018 and advanced to the State semifinals. Grafton is again among the on-paper favorites in always-deep Class 4. To say the Clippers are stacked on the mound might be the understatement of the year. Back are seniors Joseph Majewicz (Radford), Andrew Shartzer (Paul D. Camp CC), and Zachary Wojnarowski (VMI) as well as juniors Trey Gibson (Liberty) and Mark Petko (Radford). Junior catcher Tyler Cotten is another Division I talent on a roster that should be a treat to watch.

Jefferson Forest-The Cavaliers share a District with LCA, and when they square off, it is appointment viewing. Jefferson Forest has the top senior arm in Virginia in lefty Griffin Agee (Virginia), and he is the kind of talent that can carry a team to victory in every game he starts. Look for junior outfielder Jackson Cherry to have another monster season this spring.

Liberty Christian Academy-The Bulldogs were far and away the top team in Virginia during the regular season in 2018, going undefeated and winning most of their games in five innings. All of that came to a close as LCA was upset in the Regional Quarterfinals by William Byrd. The Bulldogs lost 2018 Player of the Year Wesley Clarke (South Carolina) to graduation, but should be talented as always. A trio of Liberty commits will lead LCA in 2019, with seniors Emmanuel Johnson and Christian Gordon and junior shortstop Quade Tomlin also being joined in the lineup by senior outfielder Jacob Williams (Middle Tennessee State). 

Salem (Roanoke)-The Spartans won the Class 4 Championship in 2018. Back in 2019 will be junior lefty Zian Honaker, who took over the ace role threw a complete game in the State Championship. Also back will be his rotation mate, senior Caleb Lingenfelter. Also back for the defending champs will be leadoff hitter and junior outfielder Parker Stallard (Virginia Tech).

 

VHSL Class 3

Cave Spring-The Knights came up just short of a State Tournament berth in 2018, with a dynamic offense leading them all season. The offensive talent will be there again this spring with the return of seniors Caleb Pritchard (UVA Wise) and Grant Wilson (Radford) as well as junior Jalen Buster (Radford). 

Fluvanna County-The Fluccos were one of the surprises of 2018 as they put together a strong season against bigger opponents in the Jefferson District and won Region C. Fluvanna was led by the performance of ace junior lefty Andrew Ward, who emerged last season and led the Fluccos on their run.

 

VISAA

Greenbrier Christian-The Gators have had a down season or two by their recent standards but 2019 looks like a rebound year for them. The lineup has some senior experience in catcher Gavin Younce, outfielder Josh Stevens (CNU), and third basemen JT Inskeep (VMI). Also another year older and back will be 2020 shortstop Nic Britt (William & Mary) and 2020 outfielder Ryland Brown as well as 2021 catcher Austin Younce. The depth and talent in the lineup should make the Gator lineup explosive and a real tough out this spring.

Miller School-The Mavericks are the defending Division II champs and should suffer with the losses of Ethan Murray (Duke) and Adam Hackenberg (Clemson) to graduation. Despite those losses, some key transfers will have a major impact on the Mavericks rotation, specifically 2019 lefty Jack Masloff (VCU) and 2020 righty Garrett Payne (NC State), both of whom transferred from Western Albemarle during the offseason. Adding the two of them to a rotation that already included 2019s Matt Sykes (George Mason) and Nate Burton (Mary Washington) as well as 2020 Ethan Chenault (UNC Wilmington). That depth on the mound will give Miller a shot to again outclass anyone in Division II. 2020 Jeremy Wagner (Austin Peay) should emerge as a key piece in the lineup.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy-The Saints got off to a slow start in 2018 and surged down the stretch before falling in the State Quarterfinals. Nansemond-Suffolk has a core trio of seniors that will make them a tough team to handle this spring. Righty Nic Psimas (Virginia Tech) should top the rotation and be joined by fellow senior Colby Owens in eating most of the innings coming off of strong 2018s. Senior shortstop Zach Morris (VMI) had a monster 2018 season at the plate and should again be the centerpiece of the offense.

 

 


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