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