Cardinal District Preview: Potomac Favored, But Deep League Full of Potential Spoilers

March 16 - If ever there were a player who defined workhorse, it’s Brody Mack.

Potomac’s do-it-all senior, who has signed to play next year at William & Mary, led Northern Virginia players in wins (11) and innings (81.0) as the Panthers’ left-handed ace last spring. At the plate, he was just as big a threat, hitting .435 with 36 RBI, the second-most among area players, en route to NOVA Nine Team honors and while helping Potomac win the Region 5D championship and advance to the Class 5 state final.

Some of Mack’s supporting cast, notably first-team all-state outfielder T.J. Reney and versatile shortstop Brandon Cleveland, are gone, but the Panthers remain the favorite to win the district in coach Mike Covington’s 26th season, receiving six of the seven first-place votes by the league’s coaches. Mack, who compiled a 1.13 ERA in 2018, will be joined on staff by seniors Josue Cumba (4-0, 0.74 ERA) and Nate Saber (3-1, 2.82), and his younger brother, junior catcher Braden Mack, along with all-state third baseman Julian Cumba (.383, 24 steals) will join him in the lineup.

Nipping at the Panthers’ heels is third-year Colgan, which received the remaining first-place vote after earning the program’s first winning season and regional berth last year. How big of a contender coach Mike Colangelo’s club is this spring will begin with junior all-state outfielder Ryley Johnson, an East Carolina recruit who hit .482 with 23 steals last year. The Sharks also return senior Brady Carter, their ace and also a second-team selection as a third baseman last spring.

Defending league champion Forest Park will have to replace the 1-2 pitching combo of Robbie Stoss and Tommy Wells, and will need junior Griffin Boone, a first-team all-district second baseman last season, to step into a leadership role while senior Nick Davis slides into the role as coach Steve DeNard’s ace.

While the Bruins look to replace two quality arms, Woodbridge returns a very good duo on the mound in seniors Magnus Ellerts and Jack Lamb. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Ellerts was a first-team All-Region 6C selection after going 5-2 with a 1.82 ERA and 81 strikeouts to just 19 walks in 50 innings, and Lamb recorded a team-high four saves and should take on a bigger innings load this year.

C.D. Hylton continues to rebuild three years after making its most-recent state tournament appearance, and coach Jason Ritenour’s team will be led this year by junior Ethan Marotske, a second-team all-region pick after hitting .390 last year who can play all eight defensive positions.

Gar-Field is in rebuilding mode after graduating one of the area’s best two-way players in Marty Neal as well as a number of other key contributors. Junior Gavin Bassett (.318) will need to have a big campaign if the Indians are to make a push for a second straight regional appearance. At Freedom-Woodbridge, first-year coach Joe Terrien takes over as the program’s ninth coach in 10 years and will be playing catch-up after being hired just before the start of the season.

Coaches Poll
1. Potomac (48)
2. Colgan (36)
3. Forest Park (34)
4. Woodbridge (32)
5. C.D. Hylton (21)
6. Gar-Field (17)
7. Freedom-Woodridge (8)
* points awarded via votes by league coaches, descending from 7 for 1st place, 6 for 2nd place, etc.

Mag’s Predictions
District Champion:
Player of the Year: Ryley Johnson, Jr., OF, Colgan
Pitcher of the Year: Brody Mack, Sr., LHP, Potomac

Potomac Panthers
Head Coach:
Mike Covington, 26th year (441-191)
2018 Record: 22-5 overall, 9-3 district
Key Losses: CF T.J. Reney; SS Brandon Cleveland; LF Matt Celio; RHP Blake Gatewood
Key Returners: Sr. LHP/OF Brody Mack; Sr. 3B Julian Cumba; Sr. RHP/UT Josue Cumba; Sr. RHP Nate Saber
College Bound: Brody Mack (William & Mary); Jackson Lowrey (SUNY Purchase)
Coach’s Comments: “We have good team speed and pitching depth, and should compete for the Cardinal District championship this spring.”

Colgan Sharks
Head Coach:
Mike Colangelo, 3rd year (17-27)
2018 Record: 12-11 overall, 6-6 district
Key Losses: IF/RHP Ethan Laird; 1B Nick Fontana; C Vinny Lampasona; OF Matt Kane
Key Returners: Jr. OF Ryley Johnson; Sr. RHP/3B Brady Carter
College Bound: Ryley Johnson (East Carolina); Jackson Horton (Ferrum)
Coach’s Comments: “We should be competitive, but [we are] young. We have only three seniors. We’ve got a great group of players and I’m looking forward to a enjoyable season.”

Forest Park Bruins
Head Coach:
Steve DeNard, 5th year (55-32); 15th year overall (N/A)
2018 Record: 13-11 overall, 8-4 district
Key Losses: RHP/3B Robbie Stoss; RHP Tommy Wells
Key Returners: Jr. IF Griffin Boone; Jr. IF Dominick Proctor; Sr. RHP/IF Nick Davis
College Bound: Nick Davis (Roanoke)
Coach’s Comments: “We are returning a young team with three returning infielders coming off a 2018 district title.”

Woodbridge Vikings
Head Coach:
Jim Hoffman, 3rd year (29-13)
2018 Record: 13-7 overall, 8-4 district
Key Losses: OF Bryce Ross; C/IF Hunter Steel; OF Jakobe Anderson
Key Returners: Sr. RHP Magnus Ellerts; Sr. RHP Jack Lamb; Sr. C Will Pope; Sr. 1B Ian Briddell; So. 2B Hiett; So. SS Chris Hund
College Bound: Magnus Ellerts (Harford CC); Jack Lamb (Bryant and Stratton CC); Will Pope (Chesapeake CC)
Coach’s Comments: “We are  looking forward to this season, we have a mix of seniors and talented youth. We let a few close games with the lead slip away from us last year against very good teams and look for consistency. We are surrounded by good teams and good coaches in our district and will have to remain focused to be successful.”

C.D. Hylton Bulldogs
Head Coach:
Jason Ritenour, 5th year (53-36); 14th year overall (194-114)
2018 Record: 9-12 overall, 5-7 district
Key Losses: 1B Daniel Hupart; OF Ethan Semones
Key Returners: Sr. C Nick Ericsson; Jr. UTL Ethan Marotske
College Bound: Nick Ericsson (Virginia Commonwealth); Kaileb Swanger Vanderveen (Winston-Salem State); Malachi Groff (Arkansas Pine Bluff)
Coach’s Comments: “We have a good mix of experience and youth. Must get better offensively.”

Gar-Field Indians
Head Coach:
Nick Grove, 2nd year (15-7); 6th year overall (57-47)
2018 Record: 15-7 overall, 6-6 district
Key Losses: RHP/SS Marty Neal, RHP Dominic Hoyle; OF Miles Lawhorn
Key Returners: Jr. RHP/IF Gavin Bassett; Jr. RHP/IF Drew Early
College Bound: None committed
Coach’s Comments: “We will be very young and inexperienced. This is definitely a rebuilding time for the Indians. The team lost seven starters from last year's regional qualifier. We will will be counting a large contingent of new varsity players who have very limited playing time at the high school level. The season could be a very rough one for the Indians, but the team will compete and play hard every time out. The goal for this team is to be competitive in games and improve on a daily basis as we build toward the future.”

Freedom-Woodbridge Eagles
Head Coach:
Joe Terrien, 1st year (0-0)
2018 Record: 1-18 overall, 0-12 district
Key Losses: C Reese Hall
Key Returners: Sr. RHP/UT Josh Hopkins; Sr. RHP/SS Juan Cardenas
College Bound: None committed
Coach’s Comments: “We are looking towards the future. Everything we do is building towards tomorrow. With only a week to practice before the season started, we are way behind every other team. We will focus this year on the fundamentals and building up the program.”

Photo of Potomac’s Brody Mack by Joey Kamide and of Colgan’s Brady Carter by Johnny Kraft