Quick Hits: In '04, Mason's Gibbons Outdueled ODU's Verlander

October 21 - Quick hits is a new weekly feature of the magazine, consisting of news and notes from around Northern Virginia baseball. 

The Latest: Most of the area’s senior pitchers have made their college commitments. One uncommitted arm to watch is Colgan right-hander Jared Dingus, who should find a landing spot soon … Three area head coaching openings remain: Jefferson has begun interviews while Park View and Gar-Field are currently accepting applications … Paul VI Catholic’s new turf baseball diamond is beginning to take shape in South Riding. The school will move to its new campus next August and the Panthers will debut at the field in March 2020 … Marymount coach Frank Leoni and his staff have landed four area recruits from the Class of 2020: West Springfield right-hander Coleman Grehawick, Briar Woods right-hander Kyle Lewis, Colonial Forge infielder Robert Moffett, and McLean right-hander Alexander Pawlowski … Christopher Newport coach John Harvell, who has recruited numerous area players over his two decades as the skipper at the Newport News school, was married on the Captains’ field over the weekend.

Remember When?: On Apr. 3, 2004, George Mason’s Eric Gibbons outdueled Old Dominion’s Justin Verlander in the Patriots’ 4-3 win over the visiting Monarchs. Gibbons, who has since served as the pitching coach at Oakton and Champe, scattered 10 hits while allowing three runs (two earned) in 7.1 innings. Verlander struck out nine but was reached for four runs on six hits. He would become an eight-time All-Star, won the American League’s Cy Young and MVP awards in 2011, a World Series ring with Houston in 2017 and married supermodel Kate Upton. On Wednesday, he’ll face the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg in Game 2 of the World Series.

Snooze Button: Riverside coach Sam Plank sent a clear message to his players who passed on the Rams’ early-morning weight lifting session on Friday: “16 players missed lifting this morning. Thanks to all the guys who wanted to get better! #Choices,” read a post on Riverside’s baseball Twitter handle

World Series: The Nationals begin play tomorrow night in the World Series against the Houston Astros. Here’s the schedule: Tuesday: Game 1 in Houston at 8:08 p.m. (Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole); Wednesday: Game 2 in Houston at 8:07 p.m. (Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander); Friday: Game 3 in Washington at 8:07 p.m. (Patrick Corbin vs. Zack Greinke); Saturday: Game 4 in Washington at 8:07 p.m. (TBD vs. TBD); Sunday: Game 5 in Washington at 8:07 p.m.* (TBD vs. TBD); Tuesday, Oct. 29: Game 6 in Houston at 8:07 p.m.* (TBD vs. TBD); Wednesday, Oct. 30 in Houston at 8:08 p.m.* (TBD vs. TBD). * if necessary

Hungry?: Tomorrow from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Briar Woods program will be holding a fundraiser at the Chipotle located at 43660 Yukon Drive in Ashburn. During that time, the restaurant will donate 33 percent of it proceeds from customers who mention they’re there to support the Falcons. 

On Deck: The Metro Baseball Academy will be holding its annual open house on Sunday, Nov. 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its facility in Lorton … Prime Time Baseball will be holding the grand opening of its new 7,200 square foot facility in Alexandria on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is open to the public … The magazine will be releasing its All-Decade Team this coming weekend, consisting of Northern Virginia’s best from 2010-19. 

Scoops: If you’d like to submit a note for consideration in our Quick Hits, email us here

Photos of Eric Gibbons, left, courtesy of George Mason Athletics and Justin Verlander, right, courtesy of Old Dominion Athletics

Mag Study: VHSL Baseball Player Participation Down 4.5% Since 2014

October 19 - Participation numbers among Virginia High School League schools fielding baseball programs have seen a steady decline in each of the past five seasons. 

Since 2014, the state’s public schools have seen a 4.5 percent drop in the number of players taking the field, down from 9,392 six years ago to 8,968 this past season. On average, the VHSL’s 309 programs rostered 29.02 players in 2019, a decrease from 30.39 in 2014. 

Locally, 66 public schools in the magazine’s Northern Virginia coverage area have fielded programs during that span - Colgan, Rock Ridge and Riverside have opened since 2014, so are not included in the study - and those programs have seen a smaller drop in numbers. They combined to field 2,258 players in 2014 and 2,203 in 2019, a 2.5 percent drop. The average Northern Virginia program carried 34.21 players in 2014 and 33.38 this past season.

Six area schools - Centreville, C.D. Hylton, Edison, Lee, Patriot and Stonewall Jackson - saw double-digit drops in numbers from 2014 and 2019. Patriot’s drop is a bit skewed, as the Pioneers had a state-high 53 players in 2014 and still rostered an above-average 40 players this past spring. Centreville, had 34 players in its program during a season in which the Wildcats earned a Class 6 state tournament berth. C.D. Hylton, which was in the state tournament as recently as 2016, saw its participation numbers reach an all-time low of 24 players this past season. 

Low 2019 player turnout at Lee (18), Manassas Park (18), Stonewall Jackson (17), Park View and Freedom-Woodbridge (10) prevented the schools from fielding junior varsity teams. In 2020, Freedom-Woodbridge will field only a junior varsity team and won’t compete at the varsity level. 

Find more information on participation numbers at VHSL and Northern Virginia programs in the tables below.

Photo of C.D. Hylton coach Jason Ritenour by Caitlyn Verberg

VHSL Player Participation
Includes 2014-19 Seasons
Year Players Programs Per Program
2014 9,392 309 30.39
2015 9,324 308 30.27
2016 9,293 308 30.17
2017 9,239 310 29.80
2018 9,098 309 29.44
2019 8,968 309 29.02

Northern Virginia Public Schools
Player Participation Numbers
School 2014 2019
Annandale 35 31
Battlefield 38 42
Brentsville 30 31
Briar Woods 34 35
Broad Run 28 32
Brooke Point 29 33
C.D. Hylton 34 24
Centreville 46 34
Champe 16 29
Chancellor 26 28
Chantilly 38 40
Colonial Forge 35 42
Courtland 28 29
Dominion 30 36
Edison 37 27
Fairfax 38 36
Falls Church 30 31
Forest Park 35 34
Freedom-SR 25 35
Freedom-W 17 10
Gar-Field 28 25
George Mason 36 34
Hayfield 39 36
Heritage 29 35
Herndon 39 33
Jefferson 32 32
Justice 26 29
Kettle Run 37 30
Lake Braddock 41 42
Langley 43 42
Lee 30 18
Loudoun County 33 28
Loudoun Valley 31 27
Madison 46 48
Manassas Park 27 18
Marshall 43 43
Massaponax 25 32
McLean 32 39
Mount Vernon 27 25
Mountain View 36 39
North Stafford 28 32
Oakton 45 42
Osbourn 40 33
Osbourn Park 41 33
Park View 15 13
Patriot 53 40
Potomac 30 30
Potomac Falls 28 29
Riverbend 35 33
Robinson 38 40
South County 34 39
South Lakes 42 43
Spotsylvania 28 33
Stafford 38 35
Stone Bridge 35 36
Stonewall Jackson 31 17
T.C. Williams 33 43
W.T. Woodson 46 37
Wakefield 29 32
Washington-Liberty 42 38
West Potomac 36 38
West Springfield 46 48
Westfield 43 36
Woodbridge 36 35
Woodgrove 32 35
Yorktown 45 39
NOTE: Includes schools fielding programs from 2014-19. Colgan, Rock Ridge and Riverside have opened since 2014.

Gar-Field's Grove 'Voluntarily Reassigned', Becomes Patriot's New Coach

October 18 - Nick Grove, who spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Gar-Field, has been ‘voluntarily reassigned’ by Prince William County Schools to fill the vacancy at Patriot. 

The school made an announcement earlier this afternoon after PWCS human resources informed applicants that no interviews would be conducted. “We fully support this decision and welcome him to our school,” the school wrote in a release. “Coach Grove will meet with interested baseball players in the near future.”

Added Gar-Field via its athletics Twitter handle: “Head coach Nick Grove has accepted a voluntary reassignment to be the next head baseball coach at Patriot. Coach Grove has been a great asset to our program and will be missed. We’re excited for him and [Patriot].”

Grove, 34, was hired by Gar-Field in November 2017 and guided the Indians to a 19-24 record in his two seasons. In his first season, they posted a 15-7 record, winning the Division II championship at the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and advancing to the Region 6C Tournament before falling in the first round to W.T. Woodson. This past spring, Gar-Field slumped to a 4-17 record.

The Pennsylvania native is 61-64 overall in six seasons as a high school head coach, previously serving as the skipper at Hughesville (PA) from 2008-10 and Sunrise Mountain (NV) in 2013 before relocating with his family to Northern Virginia. 

“I want to say thank you to all of the players I have fortunate enough to coach at Gar-Field,” Grove wrote via text message. “These players showed large amounts of improvement in my two years with them, and this would not even be possible without their commitment to the program and our philosophies.

“I am very excited about this opportunity. I have been coaching since I was 22-years-old, and have always dreamed big. I have always wanted to coach at a top-of-the-line program, and I am extremely humbled that I am the new head coach at Patriot.”

A social studies teacher at Gar-Field, Grove holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Grand Canyon University. He pitched collegiately at Spartanburg Methodist College, a Division I junior college in South Carolina, and then at Division II Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. 

At Patriot, he inherits a program that went 67-24 over the past four seasons under former coach Josh Steinberg. On Sept. 18, Steinberg was dismissed without legitimate cause by the school’s director of student activities, Brad Qualls, in a move that upset parents and players in the program. 

The Pioneers will field a talented core this spring that includes three Division I recruits: senior right-hander and infielder Riley Eikhoff (Coastal Carolina), sophomore catcher Mason Balsis (Virginia) - a transfer from Osbourn Park - and sophomore first baseman and left-hander Eli Serrano (N.C. State).

Photos courtesy of Gar-Field Athletics

Nick Grove File
Year School Record Pct
2008 Hughesville (PA) 10-11 .476
2009 Hughesville (PA) 15-5 .750
2010 Hughesville (PA) 15-8 .652
2013 Sunrise Mountain (NV) 2-16 .111
2018 Gar-Field 15-7 .682
2019 Gar-Field 4-17 .190
Overall 61-64 .488

Hawks' New Home Field Will Be Ready for 2020 Season

October 17 - After it had to move its practices and home games off campus last spring, it appears Hayfield will be getting its yard back for the 2020 season. 

Constant wet conditions on the Hawks’ field began last fall and when a solution couldn’t be found, a decision was made late in the winter to shift the program’s practices and home games 10 miles southwest to the turf field at South County Middle School. This spring, a conclusion was made that an entire new playing surface would need to be installed. 

“After being on a field for so many years, you get an idea of how wet it should be after it rains,” Hayfield coach Mike Shore said. “Me and my assistant coaches were like, ‘Why isn’t it dry? It’s still wet’. I suspect the biggest reason is that we’re lowest part of our campus, and I think the Bermuda grass just got so sick and dense that the water had nowhere to drain. It just sat like a lake.”

After months of planning, work started earlier this week, with Game Day Inc. working from early each morning to tear out the old playing surface, level the grounds, and now begin the process of laying sod and cutting out where the dirt will remain. All told, Shore said the project will cost in the neighborhood of $65,000. 

The Hawks’ new field will be ready for them to get back on in time for tryouts in February. In the meantime, Shore said they have access once a week to practice at South County Middle School while continuing their offseason weight training program. The program also has access to indoor batting cages that were installed in the school’s auxiliary gymnasium. 

Shore credits the work and support of his director of student activities, E.W. Nowland, and principal, Ed Grimm, along with Fairfax County Public School’s DSA, Bill Curran, with pushing the process through to ensure the Hawks would be back on their field next season. 

“They’ve been nothing but great and supportive through the whole process,” the coach said. “[Nowland] did a good job keeping me in the loop as best as he could.”

Shore indicated the renovation may include moving the outfield fence in several feet from left-center field to right-center field to allow for a better drainage system to be installed. If that is the case, a higher fence would be needed. The field’s current dimensions are 330 feet down both lines, 345 feet to the gaps and 370 feet to center.

“The kids are excited, they’ve been excited, and I’m getting excited that they’re actually here working on it so we can see some progress,” Shore said. “I’ve had some parents reaching out saying they’ve been driving by and seeing the work done and asking if there’s anything they can do. 

“There has been a lot of excitement and that will only grow as things get closer to be completed.”

Photos courtesy of Hayfield Baseball

At PWCS School Board Meeting, Davila Goes to Bat for Steinberg

October 17 - Rich Davila, who served as Patriot’s junior varsity coach this past spring, spoke during the public session at last night’s PWCS School Board Meeting in Manassas. 

Davila emphasized to the school board that he was speaking to defend former Pioneers coach Josh Steinberg and not to criticize the handling of the situation by the school’s principal, Mike Bishop, and director of student activities, Brad Qualls. 

“When I heard of Josh’s dismissal, my first thought was both of my boys and how I was going to explain to them that you can be better than just about everyone in your field, earning multiple coach of the year honors, be a credit to your school and community, treat everyone - from parents to umpires to opposing coaches and players - with the utmost respect, and still get fired for such petty things as weeds on the warning track … and not attending a booster club meeting.” 

Steinberg was dismissed on Sept. 18, ending a four-year tenure that included a 67-24 record and two league championships. He led the Pioneers to the 6A state tournament in 2017, when he was named the 6A North Region Coach of the Year. He’s also been named his league’s coach of the year twice.

Davila’s motivation in attending the meeting and speaking centered around his two sons, his youngest of whom will attend Patriot next year and hopes to play for the Pioneers’ program. Many current Patriot parents reached by the magazine have stated they are hesitant to speak publicly about the situation for fear it could be held against their sons by administration or the next coach. 

That’s not the case with Davila, who remains outspoken in his displeasure of Steinberg’s ouster. 

“I’m here for my sons, one who graduated from Patriot High School this past year, and one who is an eighth grader at Marsteller Middle School,” Davila said. “I have taught my sons to stand up and be heard when you seen an injustice being done, so here I am. Josh is a great educator and coach, as both my sons will tell you. My oldest took his economics class and loved every minute of a very dry subject. And my youngest is coached by Josh on his travel baseball team, and I’m sure some will think this is the reason that I support Josh, to get better playing time for my boy. My boy plays what he earns, and that’s why I support Coach Josh.”

As he concluded his remarks, Davila left the school board with the following statement: “‘Whenever you have a chance to make things better, and you don’t, you’re wasting your time on this earth’. That’s my favorite quote spoken by Hall of Fame player Roberto Clemente. 

“I couldn’t stand by without being heard. Coach deserved better than what he got.”

Photo and video courtesy of PWCS

PWCS School Board May Have Patriot’s Coaching Search in Holding Pattern

October 16 - Multiple sources have indicated the situation surrounding the head coaching position at Patriot will be among the topics covered at tonight’s Prince William County School Board meeting. 

The school board’s interest in the matter and tonight’s discussion, which would be held during the meeting’s closed session, could be one of the factors delaying the school’s search for a new coach. Five of the applicants for the position confirmed that as of last night they had not heard from the school’s director of student activities, Brad Qualls, indicating the process could be in a holding pattern.

The advertisement for the position on the PWCS website closed 17 days ago, on Sept. 30. Coaching candidates are generally contacted the week following the closing of an advertised position, with interviews scheduled soon thereafter.

The Pioneers’ vacancy was created on Sept. 18, when Qualls and an assistant principal at the school met with coach Josh Steinberg and informed him that his contract would not be renewed for the 2020 season. School officials did not respond to multiple inquiries requesting reasons for the dismissal, citing an inability to comment on personnel matters. 

The magazine has confirmed several of those reasons given by Qualls, some of which included: weeds on the field’s warning track, attendance at boosters club meetings, players spotted in batting cages without helmets, and hats not being ordered in the past on the DSA’s Oct. 1 mandated deadline. No reasons provided by Qualls were related to on-field success, issues with parents or players, spring break incidents or bad language used by the coach - examples of common reasons for a school to part ways with a coach. 

Qualls initially met on Sept. 9 with Steinberg, who went 67-24 over his four seasons, and attempted to gain the coach’s resignation. Steinberg declined and later that day he contacted the school’s principal, Mike Bishop, who indicated he was unaware of Qualls’ intentions. Bishop refuted that inference along with the magazine’s reports in a letter he sent to parents and players and posted on the school’s athletics website on Sept. 23. In that letter, the principal wrote that “there are times you need to make decisions that some will not like. This happens to be one of those occasions.”

That is overwhelmingly the case among current and former Patriot players. In a survey circulated by the magazine, 100 percent of the 33 players that responded said they didn’t support Qualls’ decision to dismiss the coach. Of the 41 parents who responded, 36 said they didn’t support the decision. 

Two members of Steinberg’s staff, varsity assistant Keith Howell and junior varsity coach Rich Davila, resigned and have publicly supported the coach on social media. Two other assistants, Sean Cheetham and Matt Holman, have at least temporarily been retained and are leading offseason practices on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2:30 p.m.. Both are listed on the school’s athletics website.

Bishop, who has been under fire in the past for unrelated issues and at one point had a lawsuit filed against a former PWCS school board member, was reached by the magazine after releasing his letter. He hung up the phone once he realized who had called him. A video detailing Bishop’s role in Steinberg’s dismissal was posted yesterday, the latest in a series of documentations related to the principal.

The handling of the situation by Bishop and Qualls has raised a number of questions in and around the Nokesville school and in the Northern Virginia baseball community. 

Now, the PWCS school board seems to have some of its own regarding Steinberg’s ouster and the circumstances surrounding it. Public backlash over the dismissal of the popular and successful coach, a teacher at the school, has included dozens of public comments of support and several parents contacting school board members. It’s unclear if any of those parents plan to attend or speak at the public session tonight. 

Steinberg has maintained a desire throughout the magazine’s coverage not to comment on the matter. 

Note: The magazine does not identify applicants for coaching vacancies, as some are currently assistant or head coaches at other area high school programs and may not want their candidacy made public. 

New Statesmen Skipper: Marshall Promotes Assistant Noyes

October 14 - Marshall has promoted Mike Noyes to become the eighth coach in the storied program’s history.

The school’s director of student activities, Joe Swarm, confirmed the hire earlier today. 

Noyes has spent the past six seasons as an assistant under former coach Aaron Tarr, who resigned last month to take an assistant coaching position at Georgetown. Under Tarr, the Statesmen went 116-49 and won the previous six National District championships. 

“We are excited to keep consistency in a program that has had success, unfortunately that does not happen enough in high school sports these days,” Swarm wrote in an email to the magazine. “Mike has done a great job here at Marshall developing players with Aaron Tarr and Aaron speaks very highly of him. I know he understands the history of the baseball program here and the importance of continuing the positive outreach to the baseball community.”

Noyes, a former U.S. Marine who played baseball and football at George Mason High School and graduated from Virginia Tech, previously served as an assistant at McLean from 2008-11 and coached Falls Church Post 194 in 2014. He has also coached football locally for a number of years and currently serves as McLean’s defensive coordinator. 

Noyes is employed by the City of Falls Church in the recreation and parks department. 

The Statesmen return a talented core from last spring’s 16-7 team that advanced to the Region 6D quarterfinals before falling to Battlefield. That group includes senior right-hander Robert Kelley, a Maryland-Baltimore County recruit who went 7-2 with a 1.03 ERA and 90 strikeouts to 21 walks in 61 innings as a junior. He struck out 14 over 6.2 innings in the district final against Justice and tossed a three-hit shutout in the first round of regionals against Chantilly. 

Marshall, which fielded its first team in 1963, has won 12 district championships and three region titles over its 57-year history. The Statesmen advanced to state championship games in 1975, 1986, 1987 and 2015 but are seeking their first title.

Photo of Mike Noyes by Jim Halling

Stars Founder Carroll Continues to Pile Up Wins, Open Doors for Area Players

October 13 - In 2008, Carson Carroll had an idea that put in motion the foundation of what has grown to become the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area’s premier travel baseball organization. 

Carroll, who had been coaching with the Vienna Mustangs program and later served as the junior varsity coach at Oakton, wanted to create a new program that would compete on a national level and create opportunities for area players to be seen by college coaches. 

So the former UC Irvine standout and minor league infielder along with Bill Grossman and Jeff Willis went to work. They met with legendary former West Springfield coach Ron Tugwell and Rob Hahne, who would become the director of the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League. Tugwell and Hahne had a travel program, the Virginia Cardinals, that Carroll wanted to team up with.

From that meeting, the Stars were born. 

“That was at the start of showcase baseball, and it was, ‘You’ve got to get out to these events and in front of these colleges and then they’ll start recruiting the kids’,” Carroll said. “So we said, ‘Ok, let’s do it’. It just kind of developed from there.”

The program has since taken on a handful of monikers - the NVTBL Stars, the Prospect Stars, the DeMarini Stars, and now the Marucci-sponsored Stars Showcase Baseball … we simply refer to them as the Marucci Stars. 

“It started with that 2011 recruiting class, that was a really good group and they did well in their events,” Carroll said. “But we realized it was just kind of a progression where it’d start off with winning a pool and next thing you know, you’re making a run. I always expected that team with Luke Willis and Kenny Towns and [Michael] Katz to win every game.”

Eight years ago, Carroll added former Major League outfielder Mike Colangelo to the program’s leadership. They’ve since switched roles, with Colangelo becoming the owner of the Stars and Carroll the general manager. Eventually, Colangelo’s Patriots of NOVA high school program and Virginia Stars youth program would be absorbed. A few years later, in 2015, the Stars added the recently-retired Shawn Camp, another local native who had just completed his 11-year Major League pitching career. Camp has since departed and is the new pitching coach at George Mason, where he and Colangelo starred in the mid-1990s. 

The trio created a Big Three of sorts, and the Stars reached new levels while growing their reputation in recruiting circles.

“The key move was merging with Colangelo,” Carroll said. “When the Stars merged with Colangelo, you looked at those teams right out of the gate, and it was crazy. In 2016 alone, we had 50 D1 commits in our program. So there are several points along the way that helped the program get to where it is.”

The organization has had a wealth of talented players and coaches join the fold as it has grown its brand. The top 2012 team that went 10-1 and advanced to the semifinals at the Perfect Game WWBA 18U National Championship included future pro players such as Joey Bartosic (Oakton), Logan Farrar (Woodbridge), Alec Grosser (T.C. Williams), Andre Scrubb (C.D. Hylton) and Tyler Zombro. Carroll’s team the following summer was led by Brian Mims (Forest Park) and Nick Feight (Battlefield), two additional future draft picks. And the 2016 graduating class just had four players - Logan Driscoll (Lake Braddock), Jake Agnos (Battlefield), Jamie Sara (West Potomac) and Carter Bach (Centreville) - drafted following their junior years in college. 

The constant has been Carroll, who has coached the program’s top teams for over a decade and helped develop over 300 Division I players and two dozen future draft picks. While leading the Stars in major tournaments and showcase events, he has built a reputation as a tough out while skippering the regional program against powerhouse teams that draw players from across the country.

That continued last week, when his team advanced to the semifinals at the Perfect Game WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, FL. It marked the 13th time in 29 appearances at Perfect Game qualifiers and national tournaments - which include the Underclass event, the WWBA National Championship in Cartersville, GA and the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, FL along with associated qualifiers - that Carroll has led teams to bracket play. At one point from 2015-17, he led his Stars teams through pool to elimination play eight straight times at those events. 

The longer the 60-year-old does it, the more the numbers and milestones pile up. He guided teams to a 25-game unbeaten streak in pool play at the WWBA National Championship from 2014-18 and has gone undefeated in pool play 10 times at Perfect Game national-level tournaments. His teams’ 10 losses in elimination play at those tournaments have come by a total of 22 runs. They’ve also had success at other major tournaments at Diamond Nation in New Jersey and the Cincinnati Flames Tournament of Champions in Ohio.

“When you get in those play-to-win tournaments, I don’t care what kind of team you give Carson Carroll, he finds a way to win,” Colangelo said. “He took a team of 13 kids down to Fort Myers [last week] and beat teams like the East Cobb Astros or Orlando Scorpions that are bringing players from different states and a 100-mile radius and with a 22 to 24-man roster.

“He watches for little things that may give him an advantage in a game. I’ve been in the dugout with him or in the stands watching him, and there will be two or three plays a game where something will happen that will give them a momentum swing back to them or even more momentum. He takes that winning approach to those tournaments probably better than any coach around.”

Carroll’s track record of developing talent and desire to help players get to the next level has made him a go-to for college coaches. “It’s like they’ve hired him,” said Grossman, who coached with Carroll with the Mustangs and Stars from 2004-17. “I’ve seen it. ‘Carson, we need a left-handed pitcher’ or ‘We need a solid lockdown middle infielder’. And so many times he’d say, ‘I got one’. And a couple weeks later, I’d hear about the kid committing somewhere.”

Carroll’s energy is still evident each time he gets to the field at a time in his life when most are content to retire to the couch. He was able to pull double-duty for years traveling around the country to tournaments while working for the government (he’s since retired), and has been fortunate to have an understanding and supportive sidekick in his wife, April. Their three sons - Chad, Tyler and Mitchell - all played at Oakton and for the Stars before playing Division I ball, and Chad is now the coach at Gonzaga (D.C.). 

Players continue to respond to a man who is quick to give them the credit, but who also holds them accountable. “If the player performs, they get offers. But if the player doesn’t perform, they don’t,” Carroll said. “The players commit themselves. What we try and do is help the process along by trying to get coaches out there to see them. And those are the moments that make me feel good.”

Added Grossman: “What always attracted me to him was that he had that fire and passion, and you just fed off of it. Kids who thrived really fed off it. He doesn’t hold back, as soon as a mistake is made and there’s something to improve it’s out of his mouth. He’ll get in your face, but in the next five minutes you’ll see him down the line talking to that same kid with his arm around him. I could tell every year that kids respected him because of that.”

That respect also exists from his peers.

“He’s such a good coach that kids find a way to reach their potential and a lot of times overachieve. He’s able to get that out of kids,” Colangelo said. “He’s just a winner. I’ve always said it, ‘Winning coaches find a way to win, losing coaches find a way to lose’. 

“He just finds a way to get the job done and put himself in a position to win.”

Photo of Carson Carroll by Sabeena Hickman

Carson Carroll File
Records at Perfect Game National Events
Year Won Lost Tied Pct
2009 3 1 1 .600
2010 9 2 0 .818
2011 6 2 1 .667
2012 13 3 0 .813
2013 8 2 0 .800
2014 9 1 1 .818
2015 16 5 1 .727
2016 18 4 1 .783
2017 14 5 1 .700
2018 10 4 0 .714
2019 13 5 1 .684
Overall 119 34 7 .744

Riverbend Taps Alum Byrd as Next Coach

October 13 - Five years after the Free Lance–Star named him the All-Area Player of the Year as a senior at Riverbend, Eric Byrd is returning to his alma mater as the Bears’ head coach. 

A two-sport athlete at the Fredericksburg school - he was also the quarterback of the football team - Byrd went 6-1 with a 1.09 ERA and hit .362 during his final season in 2014. He went on to pitch at the Virginia Military Institute, where he graduated last year with a degree in international studies. 

Byrd, 23, works as a Virginia State Trooper and is based in Stafford County. 

“Short on experience but he has that something special,” the school’s athletics director, Tim Stimmell, wrote via text message. “He has told me since he was a senior in high school someday he was going to take over the program.”

Byrd becomes the fourth coach in program history. Stimmell skippered the Bears from their first season in 2005 until 2014, when he stepped away to focus on his duties as AD. Stephen Morin took over from 2015-16, and Angelo Sciandra went 21-44 over the past three seasons. 

Riverbend was 7-15 this past spring, upsetting Thomas Dale in the Region 6B quarterfinals before falling in the semifinals to eventual region champion James River, 7-6, in extra innings

Three area head coaching vacancies remain open at Jefferson, Marshall, Park View and Patriot. 

Photo of Eric Byrd courtesy of VMI Athletics

Riverbend Bears
Head Coaching Records
Coach Years Record Pct
Tim Stimmell 2005-14 144-76 .655
Stephen Morin 2015-16 25-17 .595
Angelo Sciandra 2017-19 21-44 .323
Overall 2005-19 190-137 .581