Most of the star-power is gone. That's what happens when your Player of the Year is drafted in the sixth round by the New York Yankees and four pitchers sign with Division I programs.
"Yeah, we lost our best player," Kecoughtan coach Chad Ochsenfeld said of pitcher/outfielder Jake Cave, the Yankees signee. "But if you look around the district, just about everybody lost their best player."
True enough. Menchville no longer has flame-throwing right-hander Deshorn Lake (East Carolina after turning down the Boston Red Sox), Woodside loses 6-foot-6 Brett Mays (Marshall), Warwick said goodbye to lefty Brandon Vick (Longwood), and Denbigh no longer has right-hander/third baseman Aaron Myers (Longwood).
But that's the star-power. Another way to look at things is that 17 of the 29 players to make first- and second-team All-Peninsula District are back.
Menchville returns pitcher/first baseman Evan Forrest, who went 7-1 with a 2.09 ERA as a left-handed pitcher and batted .419 as the Monarchs' leadoff hitter. Woodside welcomes back five starters, including catcher Anthony Rouleau, who was first-team All-Eastern Region. Kecoughtan has infielder Darnell Ware, who batted .444 last season.
The Monarchs go into the season as the favorite, the same role they had a year ago when they finished second. And Menchville coach Phil Forbes isn't taking anything for granted.
"I look at Peninsula District baseball as wide open," Forbes said. "Hampton, Woodside, Gloucester — they'll be right there, and I look for it to be a close race. I find it hard to see anybody going undefeated, but you never know."
The season begins Tuesday afternoon with a dandy of a matchup: Woodside at Menchville.
Peninsula District baseball
(In predicted order of finish)
1. Menchville (18-4, 15-3). The Monarchs missed the Eastern Region tournament last spring, but they should get back. Outfielder Hunter Webster (.442), shortstop Josh Moore (.354) and catcher Alex Korecky (.328) head the everyday lineup. Look for RHP Garrett Chrismon (3-0) to step up.
2. Woodside (20-4, 18-2). It won't be easy without Mays, but the Wolverines have enough coming back to return to the regionals. Justin Carter and Justin Burrell anchor the infield, and Kyle Westfall (6-1) and Tim Perry (5-0) should be a solid 1-2 combo on the mound.
3. Kecoughtan (15-9, 12-6). A surprise last season was then-freshman Nate Matheson, who split eight decisions on the mound with a 2.18 ERA and batted .406. Also back is senior OF/P Kippy Holbrooks (.385, 28 RBI). A big addition is C Tim Moore, a transfer from HRA.
4. Hampton (9-11, 8-10). The Crabbers have been young and inexperienced the last couple of seasons, but no more. In addition to Hux, C John Jackowski, SS Cody Seals and RF Patrick Kyle also return. Coach Danny Mitchell likes freshman Patrick Jackowski, a 3B/P.
5. Gloucester (8-13, 7-11). After making the state quarterfinals in 2010, the Dukes struggled last year behind inconsistent pitching and an offense that batted .277. But most of the starters are back, and Gloucester also returns C/OF Josh Martin, a starter in '10 who was injured last year.
6. Bethel (8-11, 8-10). After a disappointing 2010, the Bruins return of P/SS Connor Henderson, who batted better than .400 last year. 1B/P Ian Brenner (5-3) and OF Ramel Reynolds (.320) also are among the veterans who are back.
7. Warwick (14-8, 11-7). In addition to Vick, the Raiders lost All-PD C Ben Delgado. But OF Jahleel Sewer (.375) is one of the district's most underrated players. RHPs Dylan Rose (3-2, .333 at the plate) and Brandon Beasley should give the Raiders two solid pitchers.
8. Denbigh (10-9, 10-8). Myers was more than just the Patriots' ace last year — he was a terrific glove at third base on days he didn't pitch and a .400-plus hitter. But coming back are CF/P Ben Sifen (.390), P/1B John Garcia (.350), SS Tim Perry (15 SBs) and RHP Keith Mays (2-3, 3.78).
9. Phoebus (3-17, 3-15). Now under first-year coach James "Feenie" Carter, a star at York High in the 1970s, the Phantoms haven't finished above .500 since 2002. Carter hopes C Timothy Newman, P/1B Ethan Boltz, P/SS James Voss, and P/3B Hunter Boswell can spark a turnaround.
10. Heritage (0-18, 0-18). The Hurricanes have won once in their last 54 district games. So any improvement is gravy. Heritage returns 1B/Ps Charlie Harrison and Daniel White and P/OF Devin Mayo. With more production at the plate, the Canes might get a few wins.
Peninsula District baseball preview: Menchville the team to beat, at least on paper
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