Patriot District Preview: Can Rams Challenge Bruins’, Spartans’ Reign?

March 17 - In a league won by Lake Braddock or West Springfield in each of the past five seasons and nine of the past 11 years, Robinson poses the greatest threat to shake up the league hierarchy in 2019.

The Bruins and Spartans clashed five times last year, with Lake Braddock winning the first three contests - including in the Patriot District championship game - and West Springfield avenging the losses in the Region 6C final and again in the Class 6 semifinals en route to its fourth state title.

Both teams took significant hits to graduation - losing a combined 12 players who earned all-district honors - but the depth of the two programs remains a strength as they each are expected to be among the area’s top teams this spring.

The Bruins, who received first-place votes from five of the district’s six coaches, will turn to senior right-handed pitcher and first baseman Lyle Miller-Green for leadership after the loss of catcher Matt Thomas, the state’s Player of the Year and a member of the NOVA Nine Team, as well as two second-team all-state selections in pitcher Rojo Prarie and first baseman Jack Darcy. Miller-Green hit .416 with five home runs and 29 RBI and was 2-0 with a save, a 1.68 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 25 innings last year.

The task of reloading falls to former McLean coach John Thomas, who takes over for longtime coach Jody Rutherford after four seasons as Lake Braddock’s pitching coach. He’ll start the year by deploying Miller-Green in a closer’s role, hoping his trio of young lefties - sophomores Andrew Schaeb and Mike Weidinger and junior Jay Cassady - can mature quickly.

Across town in Springfield, the Spartans must replace two-way stars Jared Lyons and Calvin Pastel, each of whom earned first-team all-state honors last year. Eighth-year coach Jason Olms, who has earned a reputation for having his teams playing their best come the postseason, will turn to another two-way player in Alec Reilly to anchor a staff that will throw to two catchers in David Giorgis and Jeffrey Beavers who will play collegiately.

Robinson, meanwhile, opens a new era of its own under Mike Gallagher, the former head coach at Hayfield and Bishop Ireton who takes the reigns from John James after he left to become the director of student activities at Lee. The Rams have entered the previous two seasons with high hopes, only to have injuries to key players and disappointing campaigns by others derail those hopes. For this year’s club to take the next step and contend for a district championship, it’ll need big seasons from senior Ethan Rothstein, a James Madison recruit, and junior outfielder Malik Kabra, a first-team all-region pick last year who will begin the season as the designated hitter after offseason labrum surgery.

South County returns experience in the form of senior middle infielders Bryce Hickman (.333) and Jacob Baines and a young core led by sophomore third baseman Max Bondurant (.327) and three juniors - catcher Mike Robinson, right-hander and first baseman Tyler Gauthier and utility man Tre Williams. The Stallions might be a year away from contending, but will be in the mix for one of the district’s four regional berths.

W.T. Woodson was also hit hard by graduation, and then again by preseason injuries. Three of coach Brett McColley’s top returners - infielder Richie Dudley (labrum), catcher Drew Dougherty (labrum) and right-hander and outfielder Zach Adams (elbow) - enter the season out or limited. Dougherty is playing through his injury but limited mostly to DH duties, while Dudley and Adams are out for at least the first month of the season.

Fairfax returns one of the league’s top players in senior shortstop Dylan Wilkinson (.403), a Maryland-Baltimore County recruit who was a second-team all-region selection last year. But despite returning 12 seniors, coach Rick Freeman’s club will have an uphill battle as it seeks its first regional berth since coming over from the Liberty District two years ago.

Coaches Poll
1. Lake Braddock (34)
2. West Springfield (30)
3. Robinson (26)
4. South County (16)
5. W.T. Woodson (11)
6. Fairfax (10)
* points awarded via votes by league coaches, descending from 6 for 1st place, 5 for 2nd place, etc.

Mag’s Predictions
District Champion:
Lake Braddock
Player of the Year: Ethan Rothstein, Sr., C/OF, Robinson
Pitcher of the Year: Lyle Miller-Green, Sr. RHP/1B, Lake Braddock

Lake Braddock Bruins
Head Coach:
John Thomas, 1st year (0-0); 8th year overall (108-53)
2018 Record: 21-5 overall, 10-0 district
Key Losses: C Matt Thomas; RHP/OF Rojo Prarie; 1B Jack Darcy; RHP Connor Glynn; 3B Peter Buschman; 2B Ryan Baker; OF Will Reid; RHP Brad Burgee; OF Chris Ginn
Key Returners: Sr. RHP/1B Lyle Miller-Green; Sr. SS Bobby Leitzel
College Bound: Lyle Miller Green (George Mason); Bobby Leitzel (Marymount); Noah Adcock-Howeth (Mary Washington)
Coach’s Comments: “We will go where our young pitchers take us this year. We need to develop guys who are willing and able to go to the mound with an attacking mindset. Right now, we have a bunch of young arms who are afraid to give up hits. Our toughness level isn't very good on the mound. If and when that improves, we can play with anybody.”

West Springfield Spartans
Head Coach:
Jason Olms, 8th year (120-54)
2018 Record: 24-5 overall, 7-3 district
Key Losses: 2B/RHP Jared Lyons; RHP/OF Calvin Pastel; SS Brett Stallings; 1B Nick Johnson; OF Rob Cable; OF Kyle Mittauer; RHP Kyle Martin; 3B Sam Treasure
Key Returners: Sr. C David Giorgis; Sr. CF/LHP Alec Reilly; Sr. RF Justin Nelson; Sr. C/3B Jeffrey Beavers
College Bound: Alec Reilly (Christopher Newport); Bryce Haynes (Virginia State)
Coach’s Comments: “We will lack a lot of experience with several new faces playing new positions, but we will put ourselves in a position to compete with anyone if we remain unselfish, pay attention to detail, control the controllables, and bring our best effort and attitude to the field each and every day.”

Robinson Rams
Head Coach:
Mike Gallagher, 1st year (0-0); 8th year overall (82-100)
2018 Record: 9-10 overall, 2-8 district
Key Losses: 2B Alex Lemery; 1B Cam Price; SS Jack Quinn; OF Jackson Russell
Key Returners: Sr. C/OF Ethan Rothstein; Jr. OF Malik Kabra; Sr. OF/RHP Max Henry; Sr. RHP/2B Danny Checkosky; Sr. OF Andrew Kanellis; Jr. RHP Kristian Asbury
College Bound: Ethan Rothstein (James Madison); Andrew Kanellis (Vasser); Danny Checkosky (Roanoke); Max Henry (Marymount)
Coach’s Comments: “We should be solid and ready to compete for a district title with Lake Braddock and West Springfield. We have 12 seniors on the roster. Malek Kabra and Warren Holzemer will also have big roles.”

South County Stallions
Head Coach:
Scott Nelson, 1st year (0-0)
2018 Record: 9-12 overall, 5-5 district
Key Losses: RHP/OF Jack Cone; LHP Ryan McElligott; IF Kellum Stripling; RHP Dylan Buzbee
Key Returners: Sr. IF/RHP Jacob Baines; Sr. IF/RHP Bryce Hickman; So. 3B Max Bondurant
College Bound: Zach King (Mary Baldwin)
Coach’s Comments: “Our young and talented core should mesh well with a few seniors to keep us competitive in a tough district. Our progress throughout the year will be determined by how quickly our young guys improve and if we get consistent pitching out of a staff that graduated 80 percent of our innings from 2018.”

W.T. Woodson Cavaliers
Head Coach:
Brett McColley, 5th year (47-43); 9th year overall (63-99)
2018 Record: 14-11 overall, 5-5 district
Key Losses: C Brian Hennessey; RHP Brett Clements; RHP/OF Hunter Hoopes; IF Chris Dudley
Key Returners: Jr. C/2B Drew Dougherty; Jr. IF Richie Dudley; Sr. RHP/OF Zach Adams
College Bound: Zach Adams (Mary Washington)
Coach’s Comments: “We are young and inexperienced at the varsity level. Injuries have hit our returning varsity players with experience very hard.”

Fairfax Rebels
Head Coach:
Rick Freeman, 16th year (154-168); 25th year overall (254-248)
2018 Record: 4-17 overall, 1-9 district
Key Losses: SS/2B Thomas Aguila; OF Wyatt Brooks
Key Returners: Sr. SS Dylan Wilkinson; Sr. OF Bryce Johnson; Sr. 2B/OF Xavier Herring; Sr. C J.T. Thomas
College Bound: Dylan Wilkinson (Maryland-Baltimore County); Xavier Herring (Mary Washington); Bryce Johnson (Davis & Elkins); J.T. Thomas (Frostburg)
Coach’s Comments: “We have 12 Seniors this year. We should have better depth on the mound and hope to be more competitive in the Patriot District. This is a hard-working group that has been together for a long time. Really fun group of kids.”

Photos of Lake Braddock’s Lyle Miller-Green and West Springfield’s Alec Reilly by Fred Ingham