Spring Forward: NOVA/DC State Title Contenders


John Nolan
Virginia Scouting Director & Managing Editor

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As we continue our early look at the upcoming high school season, we will take a moment to look beyond individual players to see what teams we think are pre-season State Title contenders from their regions, beginning with a look at the NOVA and DC teams that should contend to bring a Championship back north. 

In 2018, West Springfield brought a VHSL Class 6 crown back to Fairfax and Spotsylvania brought the Class 3 title to Fredericksburg  while Prince William's Potomac finished as the Class 5 Runners-up. Class 2 Page County went 28-1 in winning its State Title as well. In District action, Woodrow Wilson won the DC State Championship and St. John's College captured its fifth straight WCAC title. Final four runs were also made in 2018 by Fauquier, Freedom (South Riding), Brentsville District, and Lake Braddock.

As a disclaimer, the teams we have identified as State Title Contenders are based on the rosters that we expect them to have in the spring, not where they finished last year. For example, while West Springfield is the defending Class 6 Champ, the Spartans lost the two arms that carried them in the postseason to graduation as well as shortstop Brett Stallings, so we have left them off of this list for the time being. Class 3 Champ Spotsylvania also lost three graduates to Division I and will be off our preseason list as well.

Every year a team that we were not expecting to be in the mix for a title ends up there, and that is part of what makes this fun for us, without further babbling, here are the teams that we think should be in the mix at the end to win their respective championships. Look for us to take a stab at some potential dark horse contenders in the coming weeks.

 

2019 NOVA State Title Contenders

 

Battlefield, VHSL Class 6

The Bobcats made the State Quarterfinals in 2018 and are loaded to bear again in 2019. Seniors SS/RHP Zach Agnos (East Carolina) and OF Carter Cunningham (Gardner-Webb) will back for one more run at a title and  they are rejoined by fellow senior RHP Matthew Michel (East Stroudsburg), who returns to Battlefield after a season at Highland. Senior OF CJ Miles will be back as well at the top of the order and 2020 C Peter Benavides will step into a bigger role and lead a deep group of youngsters that will help fill out one of the most talented top-to-bottom rosters in NOVA.

 

Brentsville District, VHSL Class 3

The Tigers made a run to the State Semis in 2018 and fell in extra innings to the eventual State Champs, Spotsylvania. They do lose two-way talent Mason Posey (George Mason) and All-State performer Garrett Cornell (King University) to graduation but bring back a deep group of seniors in SS/RHP Jake DeLisi (King University), 3B Billy Hoad (Wilson College), OF/LHP Alex Seymour (Fairmont State), and C Sam Beard. 2020 RHP Vince DiMauro also contributed last spring and looks to be part of a very deep rotation for Brentsville.

 

Fauquier, VHSL Class 4

Fauquier reached the Class 4 semifinals in 2018 but suffered the loss of the centerpiece in their lineup and arguably one of the most impactful hitters in NOVA in 2018 with the graduation of SS Blaze O'Saben (UMBC). The Falcons do benefit from a transfer as they add 2019 LHP Harrison Whitt to their rotation, giving them a trio of senior arms to lean on this spring. Look for Whitt and RHP Lane Pearson (Indiana University PA) to form a potentially dominant 1-2 combination with OF/LHP Carson McCusker (Roanoke) patrolling center and anchoring the middle of the lineup before coming into close tight games.

 

Highland School, VISAA II

The Hawks have been building for this season for a few years and it has finally arrived. Losing Michel to transfer will hurt, but Highland will be deep on the mound and at the plate, with seniors Luke Burner (West Virginia Weslyan), Joseph DeBardi (Mount St. Mary's), Dylan Fisher (Lynchburg), and Ty Gravett back for one more run. 2020 SS/RHP Blake Fisher will top the rotation and lead a group of sophomores and juniors that also includes OF Eddie Gimbel and C Garrett Pancione.

 

James Madison, VHSL Class 6

Madison has missed the last few State Tournaments, but look for the Warhawks to have the type of team that could end that drought this spring. Losing SS Kyle Novak (James Madison) and RHP Jake Nielsen (BYU) will hurt, but the bulk of the rest of the Madison roster returns. The Warhawks look to have one of the deepest lineups in Northern Virginia that will be buoyed by the return of senior lefty Matt Howat (William & Mary), who emerged as a second ace last spring for Madison. Big power bat Ethan Lipp should be back healthy after missing the fall with an injury as the Concorde District will likely have to run through Vienna this spring.

 

Lake Braddock, VHSL Class 6

The Bruins reached the State semifinals in 2018 and lost a lot to graduation, but a healthy Lyle Miller-Green (George Mason) should give them the kind of dominant ace who can carry a team deep, and Braddock usually always finds itself in the mix late in the season.

 

Page County, VHSL Class 2

Page went 28-1 in 2018 to win the Class 2 championship, with their lone loss coming in the first week of the season. The Panthers had the State Player of the Year last year in 2021 LHP TR Williams (Virginia Tech), and he will be back for his sophomore season this spring and is the kind of player who can push Page County deep in the playoffs every year that they have him.

 

Potomac, VHSL Class 5

The Panthers reached the State Championship game before falling to Prince George in 2018 and bring the majority of their core back this spring. Their ace and the centerpiece of the lineup returns in senior LHP/1B Brody Mack (William & Mary). Also back this spring will be athletic senior infielders Julian Cumba and Josue Cumba, both of whom can contribute on the mound for a team that plays hard and has a knack for finding ways to win.

 

Riverside, VHSL Class 4

The Rams were one of the top teams in NOVA all season in 2018 and then saw Fauquier end their season in the Region semifinals, one win short of a State Tournament berth. The Rams will have a pair of senior righties that could form a lights-out 1-2 punch on the mound in David Setien and Gunner Canary as well as a flamethrowing 2021 option in RHP Wyatt Shenkman, who could force his way into the rotation or be a shutdown closer for the Rams. Riverside will ultimately be keyed by the man who has been the centerpiece of the team for the last two seasons, senior shortstop Carson Swank (Yale). Swank anchors the lineup and has speed while hitting for power and average as well as playing outstanding defense, also back will be speedy centerfielder Sajon Belser (College of Charleston), who makes it difficult to find a gap in the outfield.

 

St. John's College, WCAC

The Cadets won their fifth straight WCAC title in 2018 and just when you think they may finally have to rebuild for a bit, they have again reloaded instead. SS/RHP Ian Remalia (Liberty) leads a senior class that also features RHP Sean Culkin (James Madison) and OF Luca Giallonga (New England College). Look for underclassmen to make their presence felt if St. John's makes it six in a row this spring, with 2020 RHP Chris Bookhultz (Maryland), 2020 LHP Luke Schauer (Virginia), 2021 3B Evan Smith (West Virginia), 2022 RHP Jack O'Connor (Virginia), and 2022 SS/RHP James Triantos (UNC) all poised to contribute this spring.

 

Woodgrove, VHSL Class 4

The Wolverines earned a State Tournament trip in 2018 but saw their season end in the quarterfinals, and while losing ace RHP Jarrett LoRusso (Roanoke) and SS Justin Hanvey (Radford) will hurt, Woodgrove is still going to be in pretty good shape this spring. Senior RHP Nick Lockhart (Virginia Tech) is one of the most dynamic high-upside arms in Virginia, and 2020 Wyatt Miles and 2021 Christian Hile are very talented youngsters who could force their way into big roles.

 

Woodrow Wilson, DCSAA

Wilson won the DC State Championship in 2018 with a walk-off win over St. Alban's and dominated their DC opponents throughout the season en route to the championship. Look for the Tigers to be poised to repeat with a rotation built around a pair of outstanding 2020 arms in returning ace Colin Bosley-Smith (Duke) and high-upside arm Charlie Ganote

 

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