Vogatsky Deals North Past Central in Commonwealth Games Gold Medal Game

July 22 - Joe Vogatsky took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and went the distance as the North held off the Central, 7-4, in a rain-shortened gold medal contest yesterday at the Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg. 

The championship is the North’s ninth in 10 years under coach Mike Covington, the longtime skipper at Potomac who has guided the team each year since the Commonwealth Games were first held for baseball in 1991.

“Joe Vogatsky was phenomenal on the mound today, upper-80s bumping 90 [MPH] here and there and with an outstanding slider,” Covington said. “He kept them completely off-balance.”

Vogatsky, the Kettle Run right-hander who has committed to pitch at James Madison, was handed an early lead when the North scored four first-inning runs on Central starter Brandon Eike (Powhatan), a North Carolina recruit. Vogatsky didn’t allow a hit until Bobby Ayscue (Cosby) hit a chopper down the line that third baseman Eddie Eisert (Bishop O’Connell) was unable to backhand in the bottom of the fifth inning. 

Three fifth-inning errors led to three unearned runs as the Central cut its deficit to 5-3, and it would pull to within a run an inning later on Aycue’s RBI triple. Unshaken, Vogatsky would fan the next batter to end the sixth, his seventh strikeout of the day. 

“We made a couple errors and got him in trouble, and he bounced back and got a couple punchouts to get himself out of it,” Covington said. “I was really impressed by him.” 

Added Vogatsky, who also tossed a scoreless inning to close Friday’s 11-4 win over the East: “I was locating my fastball very good and the offspeed was working. The slider was working really good and the change-up was dropping and hitting its spots. I just keep throwing my pitches and eventually they’re going to make the plays, and they did.”

In the top of the seventh, it was his teammates’ turn to pick him up. Tristan Gordon (Page County) and Blake Fisher (Highland School) hit back-to-back RBI singles to give the North two insurance runs, which would provide the final margin when the game was called with two outs following a lengthy weather delay. 

Gordon finished 2-for-3 with a walk, while Braden Mack (Potomac) reached in all three plate appearances and Thomas Trinca (Centreville) added two hits. 

“Jumping out 4-0 right away I thought relaxed the kids,” Covington said. “Their confidence level and their determination really showed today in their language in the dugout.”

Notable: Earlier yesterday, the West beat the East, 5-4, in the bronze medal game … Prior to yesterday’s rain, the weekend yielded scorching temperatures in the mid-and high-90s that reached well into triple digits on the artificial turf playing surface at Liberty University. “The kids showed a lot of toughness being able to battle through four games in three days with a workout under those conditions,” Covington said … Eisert, Fisher and Nathan Cmeyla (Briar Woods) were also on the North’s gold medal-winning team last summer … The North hit .324 (36-for-111) with a .435 on-base percentage at the tournament, averaging 6.5 runs in the four contests … Trinca was 6-for-16 with a team-high six RBI over the weekend, while Mack reached base seven times, going 4-for-6 with two RBI, two walks, a hit by pitch and two sacrifice bunts. Tre Williams (South County) went 5-for-12 and Gordon, Eisert and Cmeyla each had four hits … The game marked the end of Central skipper Bill Pelot’s long tenure at the Games. The former Louisa County coach has been with the Central as an assistant or the head coach for all 29 years of the tournament. 

Quotable: “It was a good team effort all-around … it was a really fun experience. The guys are good, and we all hung out and bonded really well. A very talented group.” - Joe Vogatsky, on his experience with the North team this weekend at the Commonwealth Games.

Media: Player of the Game interview with Joe Vogatsky and postgame interview with coach Mike Covington. Game highlights on the mag’s Twitter page, including a recap of the North’s four-run first inning

Photo of Joe Vogatsky by Joey Kamide

Clutch Hits by Eisert, Gordon and Fisher’s Relief Work Lead North to Gold Medal Game

July 21 - Clutch hits by Eddie Eisert and Tristan Gordon and some crafty relief work by Blake Fisher enabled the North to overcome a four-run deficit and beat the West, 7-6, last night to clinch a spot in today’s gold medal game at the Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg. 

After the West built a 6-2 lead on starter Nathan Knowles (Yorktown) and reliever Tre Williams (South County), the North bats finally came alive in the top of the fifth. A two-run single by George Mason recruit Thomas Trinca (Centreville) cut the deficit in half and a two-run single by Eisert, the Bishop O’Connell standout committed to N.C. State, pulled the North even. 

“In a situation like that and getting the job done, it feels good,” Eisert said.

The big hits loosened up a dugout that was growing frustrated after posting just one run in their loss to the Central earlier in the day.

“One of the things I talked to them about and started fussing about in the third inning was, ‘Quit going up there and trying to kill the ball whenever there’s a guy on third base and let’s move some runners. Quit trying to pull it and let’s go back-side and hit the ball the other way’,” said North coach Mike Covington.

In the bottom of the fifth, Fisher came on for Williams with two outs and the bases loaded. A two-time first-team VISAA Division II all-state selection at Highland School, the right-hander got an inning-ending ground ball. Ben Thomas (Potomac) then led off the sixth by drawing a walk and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Braden Mack (Potomac). North skipper Mike Covington then inserted Tristan Gordon, who hit .486 with 10 homers and 32 RBI en route to first-team Class 2 all-state honors at Page County, as a pinch hitter for Griffin Boone (Forest Park). 

The move paid off, as Gordon laced a go-ahead double to the right-center gap. Fisher could come back on and toss scoreless frames in the sixth and seventh to earn the decision and send the North to today’s gold medal game against the Central. 

“Really focused on hitting all my spots, getting down the mound and getting all my mechanics straight,” Fisher said. “It’s great to be back in the gold [medal] game.”

Added Covington: “[Fisher] really competed on the mound. The first day, I was going to use him in long if we had to but Eric [Bohenek] went on that four-inning run and we didn’t have to. I really wanted to save him to help out [in the medal game], but obviously we had to do what we had to do to get there. 

“The biggest thing is he came in and threw the ball over the plate.”

Notable: A solo homer by Nathan Cmeyla (Briar Woods) tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth and ended a streak of 23 consecutive plate appearances without a hit by the North dating to the fifth inning of its 10-1 loss to the Central earlier in the day … Eisert finished 2-for-3 with a walk and has four hits at the tournament … The North (2-1) and Central (2-1) will last met for the gold medal in 2017, when the Central snapped the North’s seven-year championship run. The East (1-2) and West (1-2) will play in the bronze medal game this morning … The North, which has trailed at one point in all three games this weekend, has played in the gold medal game in 26 of the 29 years at the Commonwealth Games … Joe Vogatsky (Kettle Run), a James Madison recruit, will start today on the mound. 

Quotable: “It would be very easy for Tristan, who is a three-time all-state guy, or Blake, who is an all-state guy, to sit around and pout and be upset. But they all understand that the team goal is to win the gold medal.” - North coach Mike Covington, on his players accepting supporting roles this weekend and taking advantage when given opportunities.

Media: Player of the Game interview with Highland School’s Blake Fisher. Game highlights on the mag’s Twitter page, including Cmeyla’s home run, Gordon’s go-ahead double and Fisher recording the final out

Next: The North plays the Central at 12 p.m. All games at the tournament are held at Liberty University. 

Photo of Eddie Eisert by Joey Kamide

After Loss, North Faces Must-Win: “Get on track tonight, or we won’t be in the right game tomorrow.”

July 20 - Unable to solve Central right-hander Justyn Hudson, the North dropped a 10-1 decision this afternoon and now must win its game against the West tonight to advance to tomorrow’s gold medal game at the Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg. 

Hudson went the distance, scattering six hits to stymie a North lineup that pounded 15 hits in an 11-4 win over the East last night. Hudson was a first-team Class 3 all-state selection as a junior at Park View-South Hill this spring. With the win, the Central moves to 2-0 and locked up a spot in the gold medal contest. 

“I thought our approach was pretty bad,” North coach Mike Covington said. “We had a lot of first-pitch outs, we never really gave him a chance to get in trouble. It was just a bad day, all the way around.”

North starter Teddy Merritt (McLean) was charged with six runs on five hits in three-plus innings, and reliever Wyatt Shenkman (Riverside) allowed four runs on four hits in four innings. 

“I threw a lot of strikes, which I was happy about,” said Merritt, a 6-foot-6 right-hander who committed earlier this month to High Point. “But I left balls up, and that’s why I gave up so many hits.”

An RBI single by Braden Mack (Potomac) cut the North’s early deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the third, but the Central responded the next inning with two runs on Merritt and two more when a single past a drawn-in infield allowed two inherited runners to score on Shenkman. The Central scored four in the sixth to put the game away. 

The North is in danger of missing the gold medal game for just the fourth time in the 29-year history of the tournament. Covington told his charges they needed to move on quickly to be ready for what’s essentially an elimination game tonight. 

“Go get some rest, flush it, not much you can say about it,” the coach said. “Come back and get on track tonight, or we won’t be in the right game tomorrow.”

Notable: In today’s second game, the West beat the East, 4-3, so is also 1-1 entering tonight’s game … Tre WIlliams (South County) continues to swing a hot bat. He tripled and scored on Mack’s RBI in the second, then singled in the fifth and he’s 4-for-5 on the weekend … Ryan Dooley (South Lakes) led off with an infield single and has three hits through the first two games … Nathan Cmeyla (Briar Woods) and Eddie Eisert (Bishop O’Connell) had the North’s other two hits … Nathan Knowles (Yorktown) is expected to start tonight’s game. 

Quotable: “It’s a big crowd, there’s a lot of coaches and scouts here and you just want to do your best.” - Central starter Justyn Hudson, after tossing a complete game today. 

Next: The North plays in the final pool play game tonight against the West.

Photo of coach Mike Covington by Joey Kamide

Trinca, Bohenek lead North Past East, 11-4, in Commonwealth Games Opener

July 20 - Thomas Trinca was 3-for-4 with two triples, a home run and four RBI and Eric Bohenek recovered from a shaky start to give the North five innings as they beat the East, 11-4, in their opener at the Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg last night. 

Trinca, the George Mason recruit who hit .423 with 16 extra-base hits this spring, showed his tremendous pop with three-baggers to both fields and three-run round-tripper that slammed off the scoreboard at Liberty University and pushed the North’s lead to 9-4 in the bottom of the fourth. 

“I was just looking for my pitch,” Trinca said. “Just trying to get what I could get.”

Ryan Dooley (South Lakes), Ben Thomas (Potomac) and Tre Williams (South County) each added two hits and the North pounded out 15 in the nightcap of the 29th annual tournament.

After the East took a 4-0 lead on Bohenek in the top of the first, Dooley didn’t waste any time starting the comeback. The left-handed swinging Virginia Military Institute recruit singled up the middle, then came in on Trinca’s triple. The North pulled even in the second when Thomas and Williams led off with singles, moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Braden Mack (Potomac) and scored on a ground out by Griffin Boone (Forest Park) and an RBI single to left by Dooley. 

“I had no doubt that we were going to hit and it was a matter of time,” North coach Mike Covington said. 

Bohenek settled in, retiring 12 of the next 15 before giving way to relievers Eddie Eisert (Bishop O’Connell) and Joe Vogatsky (Kettle Run) while the North pulled away. Eisert and Vogatsky each tossed a scoreless inning.

Tristan Gordon (Page County) had an RBI double in the third and Mack an RBI single in the fourth before Trinca’s homer put the game away. They’d plate two more in the sixth on ground out by Blake Fisher (Highland School) and a sacrifice fly by Nick Lottchea (Westfield).

“As good as we hit the ball, the difference in the game was [Bohenek] getting us through five innings after we had that start,” Covington said. “He started mixing and threw a few change-ups and got his breaking ball working.”

The North continues play this morning against the Central - who beat the West, 6-4, in the other game last night - and then plays the West this afternoon. The winner of the North-Central game clinches a spot in tomorrow’s Gold Medal game. 

Notable: Teddy Merritt (McLean), a 6-foot-6 right-hander who committed earlier this month to High Point, will start against the Central. Merritt was 5-1 with a save, a 3.02 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 44 innings for the Highlanders this spring … Today’s temperatures are forecasted to reach into triple digits, which is even hotter on the artificial turf playing surface. Tournament organizers are preparing for potential delays should trainers determined the conditions become too hot. 

Quotable: “I told him, as an ex-college college coach and scout, ‘When I go see pitchers, I want to see you on your bad days as well as your good days. And today wasn’t a good day, but any college coach here today has to walk away not as impressed with the stuff because it wasn’t great today, but with the demeanor and the poise and the bulldog in him to get through that and hold that game there for us’. That was just clutch.” - North coach Mike Covington, on Eric Bohenek’s five-inning outing.

Media: Player of the Game interview with Centreville’s Thomas Trinca. Game highlights on the mag’s Twitter page, including Trinca’s three-run homer.

Next: The North plays in the first game this morning against the Central at 9:30, then will play in the third game this afternoon against the West.

Photo of Thomas Trinca by Joey Kamide

Heritage Assistant Van Dusseldorp Named New Coach at Champe

July 19 - Scott Van Dusseldorp has been hired as the new head coach at John Champe, the school announced via its athletic department Twitter handle this morning. 

Previously an assistant for nine seasons at Heritage and Woodgrove, Van Dusseldorp inherits a Knights program that went 9-13 in former coach Michael Prince’s second season this spring. Prince did not have his contract renewed by the school’s athletics director, Joe Breinig, in an outster that has since escalated to a legal matter. 

“I’m excited to get things underway,” Van Dusseldorp said when reached earlier today. “I think Champe is a good spot for me, I live here in the community and look forward to getting everyone to buy in and get the program moving forward.”

In Van Dusseldorp, the Knights are getting a veteran in Loudoun County baseball circles. The 31-year-old graduated from Heritage in 2006 before moving on to play at Shenandoah University. He returned to coach as an assistant with the Pride from 2011-14, then again in 2018-19 after spending three seasons as an assistant at Woodgrove. He has also coached on the travel circuit with the Diamond Elite program. 

Van Dusseldorp, who is a physical education teacher at Heritage, received his master’s degree in coaching from West Virginia University. He resides in Aldie not far from the school. 

“I’m looking forward to building on the previous year’s progress,” the coach said. “Hopefully we can hit the ground running.”

The hiring leaves current area vacancies at Herndon, Riverbend, Stone Bridge and West Potomac. Herndon has made a hire pending approval from Fairfax County Public Schools, with an official announcement expected next week.

Photo of Scott Van Dusseldorp by Michael Ferrara

Commonwealth Games Preview: North Seeks 9th Gold Medal in 10 Years

July 19 - The North team will be seeking its ninth Gold Medal in 10 years at this weekend’s Commonwealth Games held at Liberty University in Lynchburg.

The team had to make two late roster changes when St. John’s right-hander and shortstop James Triantos and Page County lefty T.R. Williams, who would have been two of the North’s top arms, informed coach Mike Covington earlier this week that they’d be unable to attend. Covington quickly tabbed replacements in Forest Park shortstop Griffin Boone, who recently committed to Virginia Commonwealth University, and Centreville right-hander Eric Bohenek, who is likely to start tonight’s opener against the East. 

Boone joins middle infielders Ryan Dooley (South Lakes) and Blake Fisher (Highland School), while Bohenek joins a staff heavy on right-handers. That group includes Joe Vogatsky (Kettle Run), who could throw in relief and be available to start Sunday’s medal game, as well as Teddy Merritt (McLean), Nathan Knowles (Yorktown) and Wyatt Shenkman (Riverside). Two from the trio of Merritt, Knowles and Shenkman will start the North’s games tomorrow against the Central and West. 

Eddie Eisert (Bishop O’Connell) and Tre Williams (South County) will be the starters on the infield’s corners, with Thomas Trinca (Centreville), Nick Lottchea (Westfield) and Ben Thomas (Potomac) starting in the outfield. The North’s catchers are Nathan Cmeyla (Briar Woods), Tristan Gordon (Page County) and Braden Mack (Potomac). Mack, Eisert, Fisher and Williams will also be available in relief. 

“I think our overall team speed is good, and I think we have a good lineup even though I’m disappointed Triantos is not in the middle of it,” Covington said. “But Griffin is a very good player and Cmeyla was our 4-hole last year and we’ll plug him right back in there. I think ultimately our weekend will go how our pitching goes.”

The North’s roster includes seven players committed to Division I programs, with several others expected to make their college decision soon. Over two dozen colleges are expected to be represented at the tournament this weekend. 

Also fielding a deep lineup will be the Central, which features a recent North Carolina commit in Powhatan’s Brandon Eike, a two-way threat on the mound and as a middle infielder. While playing for his EvoShield Canes travel team, Eike was the winning pitcher earlier this month in the championship game at the Perfect Game WWBA 17U National Championship in Georgia. He was the Central’s top hitter and winning pitcher in the bronze medal game at last year’s Commonwealth Games. 

Midlothian’s Christian Chambers and James River’s Will Riley will also hit in the middle of coach Bill Pelot’s lineup. Chambers has committed to James Madison and Riley to the Virginia Military Institute. 

The West boasts perhaps the best offensive club this weekend, but has questions on the mound. Coach Rodney Spradlin’s lineup will be led by Riverheads catcher Braeson Fulton, another James Madison recruit, and one of the tournament’s best uncommitted players in Jefferson Forest outfielder Jackson Cherry. 

The East also has plenty offensively with the likes of Ocean Lakes third baseman Johnny Wall and shortstop Carson DeMartini, a Virginia Tech recruit, as well as Cox outfielder Sam Slevin and Greenbrier Christian’s Ethan Ott. Coach Sean Townsend’s staff will be led by Prince Anne lefty Jordan Irizarry. 

Covington, who has managed the North each year since the Games were first held for baseball in 1991, said tonight’s first games will determine how teams manage staffs for their final pool play games tomorrow. 

“If you lose, then you’ve got to make some adjustments,” he said. “If you take care of business early, you can line pitching up and be sure you’re saving your best guys for the last day.”

For more information on the North team, click here for last month’s story. 

Game Schedule:

6:00 - West vs. Central
8:30 - North vs. East

Saturday (beginning at 9:30)
Central vs. North
West vs. East
East vs. Central
North vs. West

Sunday (beginning at 9:30)
No. 4 Seed vs. No. 3 Seed (Bronze Medal)
No. 2 Seed vs. No. 1 Seed (Gold Medal)

Teams at a Glance:

North Team
Head Coach:
Mike Covington
Pitcher to Watch: RHP Joe Vogatsky
Hitter to Watch: OF Thomas Trinca
College Commitments: Bishop O’Connell Eddie Eisert (N.C. State), South Lakes IF/OF Ryan Dooley (Virginia Military Institute), Kettle Run RHP/IF Joe Vogatsky (James Madison), Centreville OF Thomas Trinca (George Mason), Potomac C/RHP Braden Mack (Cornell), McLean RHP Teddy Merritt (High Point), Forest Park IF Griffin Boone (Virginia Commonwealth)

East Team
Head Coach:
Sean Townsend 
Pitcher to Watch: LHP Jordan Irizarry
Hitter to Watch: 1B Ethan Ott
College Commitments: Ocean Lakes IF Carson DeMartini (Virginia Tech)

Central Team
Head Coach:
Bill Pelot
Pitcher to Watch: RHP Brandon Eike
Hitter to Watch: IF Christian Chambers
College Commitments: Midlothian IF Christian Chambers (James Madison),  Powhatan RHP/IF Brandon Eike (North Carolina), Atlee IF Hayden Harris (Longwood), James River IF Will Riley (Virginia Military Institute), Matoaca RHP LaTroy Whitaker (Radford)

West Team
Head Coach:
Rodney Spradlin
Pitcher to Watch: RHP Connor Maggi
Hitter to Watch: C Braeson Fulton
College Commitments: Cave Spring IF Jalen Buster (Radford), Riverheads C Braeson Fulton (James Madison), Riverheads IF Grant Painter (James Madison)

Photos of, from left to right, Centreville’s Thomas Trinca by Fred Ingham, with Powhatan’s Brandon Eike, Riverheads’ Braeson Fulton and Ocean Lakes’ Carson DeMartini courtesy

Travel Notebook: Balsis Leads Stars to Round of 32 at Perfect Game WWBA 15U Nationals

July 18 - Mason Balsis was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI as Marucci Stars Colangelo beat Tennessee’s Cross Hit Black, 7-2, to advance to the second day of bracket play at the Perfect Game 15U WWBA National Championship in Georgia. 

Bobby Fleming (Langley) struck out seven while scattering three hits and permitting one run over 5.1 innings to earn the win, and he was 1-for-3 with an RBI at the plate. Caelan Kim (Fairfax) added two hits for the Stars, who will play the No. 4 seed, Georgia’s Team Elite 15U Scout, today at 12:15 p.m. in the Round of 32. 

In other action, the EvoShield Canes North team featuring several local players beat Florida’s Cannons Baseball, 3-2, and will play the No. 6 seed, Georgia’s 5 Star National Dobbs, at 11:45 a.m. Two other Canes teams rostering area players, their National and Central teams, earned byes and will also play today. 

The Round of 16 and quarterfinals will be held later today, with the semifinals and championship game tomorrow. 

Savino Heads to Chicago for Monday’s Under Armour All-America Game

Nate Savino (Potomac Falls) continues his busy summer when he travels to Chicago this weekend to prepare for Monday’s Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field. 

Savino, a two-time NOVA Nine Team selection who has committed to pitch at Virginia, will suit up for the 21-man National team at the annual showcase of some of the country’s top rising seniors. The left-hander has dominated Northern Virginia prep hitters over the past two seasons, totaling 180 strikeouts to 32 walks and compiling a 0.73 ERA in 86.1 innings. 

“Savino fills up the strike zone from the left side, working off of a live fastball that regularly touches the mid-90s,” a scouting report for the All-America Game reads. “The combination of big velocity and the ease with which he does it allows him to throw his fastball by hitters on a consistent basis. Add in a quality breaking ball and change and you have the top [left-handed pitching] prospect in the class.”

Savino, who plays in the offseason with the Diamond Elite travel program, will travel to Los Angeles next month for the USA Baseball 18U National Team Trials. Monday’s All-America Game will be broadcast on the MLB Network at 3 p.m.

Diamond Elite’s Walsh Shines at 15U WWBA National Championship

Michael Walsh (Riverside) had a big week at the plate and on the mound as his Diamond Elite team went 4-2-1 in pool play at the Perfect Game 15U WWBA National Championship. 

Walsh, a left-handed pitcher and left-handed swinging outfielder, was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA over 10.1 innings in two starts while hitting .429 (6-for-14) with a .652 on-base percentage, drawing eight walks and driving in three runs. 

Diamond Elite was in contention to advance to bracket play yesterday before falling, 4-2, to the eventual pool winner, Colorado’s Slammers Baseball Asnicar. Declan McCann (Dominion) was the team’s top offensive threat at the tournament, hitting .467 (7-for-15) with three doubles, a triple and five RBI. 

Eldridge, LeClair, Poole Get Invites to Perfect Game 14U National Showcase

Three Northern Virginia residents have been invited to participate in the Perfect Game 14U National Showcase in Fort Myers, FL, next month. 

The three players, right-hander Bryce Eldridge (Madison), left-hander Marcus LeClair (Gonzaga) and outfielder A.J. Poole (Landon), are among the 260 that advanced through regional showcases and will take the field from Aug. 2-4 at JetBlue Park, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox. Eldridge and LeClair both play for the Marucci Stars, and Poole plays with the Richmond Braves. 

“For a lot of these players, the 14U regional showcases are their first exposure in a showcase setting and it helps set a baseline for the next couple years of their career in terms of monitoring their progression,” said Jheremy Brown, Perfect Game’s national crosschecker, in a release on their website. “Like other sports, recruiting in baseball has started younger and younger.”

Following the National Showcase, 44 players will be invited to attend Perfect Game’s 14U Select Baseball Festival at the end of August in Fort Myers. 

Sponsor: The magazine’s Travel Notebook is sponsored by the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League. For more information on the NVTBL, visit its website at www.nvtblbaseball.org.

Photos of, clockwise from left, Mason Balsis by Bethany Balsis, Nate Savino courtesy of PDP League, and Bryce Eldridge courtesy of NVTBL

Locals Help Stars, 3 Canes Teams Advance to Bracket Play at Perfect Game 15U Nationals

July 17 - Nicholas Morabito and Mason Balsis paced Marucci Stars Colangelo as the team won its pool and advanced to bracket play at the Perfect Game WWBA 15U National Championship. 

Stars Colangelo (6-1) was joined by three EvoShield Canes teams carrying area players in winning one of the wood bat tournament’s 39 pools. The Stars (6-1) and Canes North (5-1-1) will play in the opening round tonight at 8:45 p.m. The Canes National (7-0) earned the top seed and will play at 10 a.m. tomorrow, and the Canes Central (6-0-1) also earned a bye and will play tomorrow at 12:15 p.m.

The next three rounds will be held tomorrow, with the semifinals and championship game held on Friday at the LakePoint facility in Cartersville, GA. 

Morabito, an uncommitted middle infielder who resides in McLean and attends Gonzaga (D.C.), filled up the stat sheet over the seven pool play games - hitting .500 (9-for-18) with a .609 on-base percentage, eight runs, five RBI and nine steals. Balsis, a catcher and outfielder from Osbourn Park who has committed to the University of Virginia, hit .421 (8-for-19) with two doubles, six RBI and four steals. 

Jason Cheifetz (Westfield) went the distance in yesterday’s 4-3 win over Florida Burn 2022 Orlosky, allowing three runs (one earned) on seven hits. 

Carson Carroll took the reigns midway through pool play after Mike Colangelo had to depart due to another commitment. Carroll, the Northern Virginia-based travel program’s founder, has skippered several teams to bracket play at the annual event. 

“Our success and ability to make a run will depend on pitchers throwing strikes, quality at-bats and applying pressure on the bases,” Carroll said earlier this evening.

A.J. Shepard (Osbourn Park) and James Triantos (St. John’s), a resident of McLean, swung hot bats for unbeaten Canes National. Shepard, an Indiana recruit, hit .438 (7-for-16) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI while Triantos, a North Carolina commit, hit .389 (7-for-18) with a double, homer and five RBI. The team’s third local player, Virginia recruit Bradley Gagen (Paul VI Catholic), earned the win after limiting Georgia’s Game On Vipers to two hits in three scoreless innings in a 7-0 win on Monday.

Among the Canes North’s top hitters in pool play was Cal Henderson (Freedom-South Riding), who hit .375 (6-for-16) with five runs and five RBI. Aidan McDonald (Paul VI Catholic) made three appearances, allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings. The team has eight players from Northern Virginia schools on its roster, the most of any Canes team.

Canes Central, meanwhile, had two area players - Eli Serrano (Patriot) and Blain Simonich (Dominion) - among its top hitters in pool play. Serrano hit .429 (6-for-14) with a double, triple and three RBI and Simonich hit .412 (7-for-17) with three doubles, a triple and six RBI.

Photos of, clockwise from left, Nicholas Morabito and Mason Balsis by Bethany Balsis and Bradley Gagen and Eli Serrano courtesy of EvoShield Canes

West Potomac’s Linza Steps Down After 1 Season at Alexandria School

July 17 - Citing health concerns and a recommendation by his doctor, Jimmy Linza stepped down earlier his week after one season at West Potomac. 

The coach sent an email to the program’s players and parents with the news on Monday. 

“If I can’t give the program my full effort, which it deserves, it’s best that you move on to someone who can,” Linza wrote. “I do believe the program is in good shape and that all of us have made it better in our year together. There are many wins and championships still to come, without a doubt.”

Linza led the Wolverines to a 16-6 record and a second straight Gunston District championship, falling a game shy of a Class 6 state tournament berth and having an eight-game winning streak snapped after a Region 6C semifinal loss to eventual region and state champion Lake Braddock. He has a 146-70 record in 10 seasons, having previously served as the coach at Flint Hill, Falls Church, Mount Vernon and Hayfield. 

In an email earlier today to the magazine, Linza wrote, “[I’m] sorry to have to end it so soon, but better to be on the front end when it’s stuff like this.”

The departure of Linza means West Potomac will be guided by its fourth coach in three years when it takes the field next spring. Longtime Wolverines skipper Jim Sullivan resigned at midseason last year, and assistant Jason Hescock took over on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. Hescock has since been hired as the football coach at South Lakes.

West Potomac’s opening is the fifth at a Northern Virginia school this offseason, joining current vacancies at Champe, Herndon, Stone Bridge and Riverbend. The position has been advertised on the Fairfax County Public Schools website. 

Photo courtesy of West Potomac Baseball

Recruiting Notebook: Forest Park’s Boone to Play at VCU

July 17 - Forest Park infielder Griffin Boone committed yesterday to play at Virginia Commonwealth University, announcing his intention via Twitter. 

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound shortstop helped the Bruins advance to the Region 6C semifinals before falling to West Springfield this past spring after playing a key role in Forest Park’s run to the Cardinal District championship in 2018.

Boone is a two-time first-team all-district selection, hitting .449 with 31 hits, 20 runs and eight RBI as a sophomore and .326 with a .545 on-base percentage, 15 hits, 20 runs, and 11 RBI despite missing four games with a knee injury this year. He was hit by a pitch 10 times and drew 13 walks.

He will follow two area players, right-hander Hunter Bell (Centreville) and catcher Nick Ericsson (C.D. Hylton), who were part of VCU’s 2019 recruiting class. This past season, the Rams rostered three players from Northern Virginia schools - third baseman Brett Norwood (Chantilly), right-hander Sam Ryan (Fairfax) and catcher Matt Stallings (West Springfield) - who helped them go 39-19 under coach Shawn Stiffler. 

Boone’s commitment continues a busy recruiting period for members of the Marucci Stars travel program. Six Stars players have committed to Division I programs this summer, including rising seniors Boone as well as Colgan left-hander Everett Catlett (Georgetown), Potomac catcher/pitcher Braden Mack (Cornell), McLean right-hander Teddy Merritt (High Point) and Osbourn Park infielder Jed Barrett (Virginia Military Institute) and one rising junior in Madison outfielder Collin Tuft (Virginia). 

Freedom’s Cook, Rock Ridge’s Clarke Among PBR’s Top ‘21 Recruits

Two-way standout Casey Cook (Freedom-South Riding) and left-hander Brandon Clarke (Rock Ridge) are among the state’s top 10 players in Prep Baseball Report’s latest Class of 2021 rankings, released last week. 

Cook is ranked No. 3 and Clarke is No. 5 in the updated rankings. Jay Woolfork from Richmond’s Benedictine is PBR’s top-rated player from schools in Virginia and Washington, D.C. 

Cook, a shortstop and right-handed pitcher who has committed to North Carolina, hit .465 with a .545 on-base percentage, 20 hits, 14 RBI and 10 stolen bases before an injury cut his season short. He plays with the Marucci Stars travel program during the offseason. Clarke, who has reportedly had his fastball clocked as high as 89 MPH, remains uncommitted. He is playing this summer for the North Carolina-based Dirtbags travel program.  

Local Players Invited to PBR’s Futures Games in Georgia

Four area players have accepted invitations to attend Prep Baseball Report’s Futures Games at the LakePoint facility in Cartersville, GA, an event that drew over 250 college coaches last summer. 

Stafford outfielder Elijah Lambros, Yorktown right-hander Nathan Knowles, Lake Braddock outfielder Ryan Cuadros and Fredericksburg Christian catcher J.T. Carter will be among the uncommitted rising juniors and select rising sophomores invited to attend the event. 

From July 31 to Aug. 3, the four players will play three games and participate in a showcase workout that includes a 60-yard-dash, batting practice and defensive evaluations. 

Photos of, clockwise from left, Griffin Boone by Joey Kamide, Freedom’s Casey Cook by Joey Kamide, and Lake Braddock’s Ryan Cuadros by Gregg Zelkin