Prep Notebook: Independence Tabs McDonald as Program’s 1st Coach

May 3 - Loudoun County’s newest high school has hired a familiar face as its first baseball coach.

Independence, slated to open in Ashburn this August, yesterday named former McLean, Marshall and John Champe skipper Joe McDonald to its post. The school’s athletics director, Ryan Rogers, announced the hire with a post on Independence’s athletics Twitter handle.

McDonald, on his personal Twitter handle, wrote: “Honored to be selected as the head baseball coach at [Independence]!!! Can’t wait to get started!”

It will be his fourth stop as a head coach at the prep level, having served in the same capacity with the Highlanders from 2001-05, the Statesmen from 2009-12 and most recently with the Knights from 2013-17. He was twice named the Liberty District’s Coach of the Year, earning the honor at McLean in 2004 and Marshall in 2012. McDonald was also the first coach at Champe, who he led two appearances in league championship games. He has a career record of 119-148 in his 14 seasons.

Additionally, McDonald has served as the vice president of the Loudoun South Little League, was a founding coach with the Aldie Senators travel program, and he currently coaches with the EvoShield Canes travel program.

The Tigers will be affiliated with the Loudoun County-based Dulles District and aligned in Region 3B.

Flint Hill’s Verbanic Eyes Win No. 400 Tomorrow at Westfield

Tom Verbanic led Westfield’s football program to two state championships in 2003 and 2007. Tomorrow afternoon, when the Flint Hill coach returns to the campus where he built a gridiron juggernaut to coach his team against No. 7 Westfield, he’ll be doing so hoping to pick up his 400th career victory as a high school baseball coach.

The contest will also feature another reunion of sorts: Westfield’s coach, Rob Hahne, was a freshman letterman in Verbanic’s first and only season as the skipper at Langley in 1984. Verbanic would depart for Fairfax after that spring, later serving as the Rebels’ baseball coach from 1985-2000 and their football coach from 1989-99. When Westfield opened in the fall of 2000, he began an 11-year run as the Bulldogs’ football coach while also serving as an assistant for a number of years on Chuck Welch’s baseball staff.

Verbanic retired as a football coach after leading Flint Hill to a second straight VISAA Division I state title last fall, finishing with 234 career wins in 29 seasons. He enters tomorrow’s game with a baseball coaching record of 399-234 and with his next win he will become Northern Virginia’s seventh coach to win the 400-win mark.

The Huskies (14-8) have won 10 of their last 12, while the Bulldogs (15-3) have posted an area-best 11 shutouts. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m.

After Snapping Marshall’s 47-game District Win Streak, Justice Eyes Playoff Run

Last year, Justice won its first regional tournament game in 33 years. Last week, the Wolves snapped Marshall’s 47-game winning streak against National District opponents. Once considered a middling program in Northern Virginia, coach Randy Lightle’s club continues to emerge and could be a dark horse in the Region 6C Tournament later this month.

Justice (12-6 overall, 9-2 district) enters tonight’s regular season finale at Falls Church (6-8, 3-6) having locked up at least the No. 2 seed in the league tournament, which means the Wolves wouldn’t have to face the five-time defending league champion Statesmen (12-6, 10-1) until the championship game.

Leading the way have been senior shortstop Archer Rutledge (.470, team-high 31 hits) and sophomore second baseman Nick Guerra (.464, 2 HR, 29 RBI), and senior catcher Quincy Wilkins and Guerra have also taken on secondary roles on a pitching staff paced by senior Teddy Coates and sophomore lefty Dean Kampschror. Coates has pitched in 12 of the Wolves’ 18 games, making four starts while compiling a 3-2 record with a save, a 2.76 ERA and 22 strikeouts to 12 walks in 25.1 innings.

Kampschror, who committed last summer to pitch at the University of Virginia, is 2-0 with a 0.37 ERA and 25 strikeouts with nine walks in 19 innings. He’s been used primarily in a relief role in recent weeks after a heavy workload early in the season. Lightle’s club also got a recent lift with the return of senior Jack Primrose, who went five innings to earn the win against Marshall in his first start in over a year following shoulder surgery.

MLB Commissioner’s Office to Present Savino With PDP League Jersey

Next Thursday, Potomac Falls junior left-hander and outfielder Nate Savino will be presented by a representative from the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s Office with the jersey that he will wear at the Prospect Development Pipeline League in Florida this summer.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound southpaw is one of 80 players nationally who were selected to participate in the league, which is a joint MLB and USA Baseball initiative and will serve as the primary identification event for the USA Baseball 18U National Team. The teams will take place over a month in June and July, with games held at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.

Approximately 40 players will be invited from the PDP League to attend the 18U National Team Trials, which will be conducted in late August in Los Angeles. The final 20-man roster will travel for team training in Asia and then compete in the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Busan, South Korea in early September. Clemson University coach Jack Leggett will serve as the national team manager.

Next week’s jersey presentation is open to the public and will be held beginning at 5:45 p.m. on the Panthers’ field at the Sterling school.

Photos of, clockwise from top left: Tom Verbanic courtesy of Flint Hill Baseball, Joe McDonald by Fred Ingham, Nate Savino courtesy of Potomac Falls Baseball, and Archer Rutledge courtesy of Justice Baseball