1. MENCHVILLE MONARCHS
COACH: Phil Forbes
LAST YEAR: 21-4, 15-3 (T-1st), lost to Salem in Eastern Region semifinals.
TOP RETURNEES: 3B/P Tanner Woods, OF/P John Woodard, IF/P Emory Chopp, C Eric Weinreich, 2B/P Leroy Simmonds, OF Hunter Martin.
TOP NEWCOMERS: IF/P Austin Fields, IF Chris Meadows, LHP/IF Joe Tuzzolo, C/OF Shamoy Christopher, C/IF Clinton Stroble, RHP/IF Landon Woods, OF Connor McCarthy, OF/IF Hayden Storm, RHP Thailer Villarreal, OF Jah-neel Warner.
OUTLOOK: The Monarchs lost their top two pitchers but have plenty returning from a team that came within two runs of getting back to the state tournament. Woods (.313), Martin (390) and Simmonds (.368) are returning starters. Menchville also has plenty of talent coming up from last year’s 16-1-1 junior varsity team. As always, the Monarchs’ strength should be pitching depth, even despite the loss of Garrett Chrismon and Malik Mitchell. Menchville also has players who can play multiple positions. What the Monarchs’ don’t have is much power. But a lot of singles and doubles can overcome that.
THE COACH SAYS: “I believe with the number of pitchers we have, we’ll be OK with the new pitching rule. Each one of our pitchers should be able to give us a good two, three innings. Anybody who says they can pitch, we want to give them long looks.”
2. HAMPTON CRABBERS
COACH: Danny Mitchell
LAST YEAR: 18-7, 15-3 (T-1st), lost to Kellam in Eastern Region quarterfinals.
TOP RETURNEES: SS/P Steve Hux, SS/P Patrick Jackowski, 3B Patrick Kyle, P/1B Kevin Matthews, CF/P Darius Harris, C Graham Johnson, C J.J. Spellar, DH/1B Levi Halsey.
TOP NEWCOMERS: OF Tyquan Wilkins, OF A.J. Young, OF Cal Key.OUTLOOK: Last year’s co-championship season came a year earlier than Mitchell expected. But with six returning starters, the Crabbers should be in the hunt again. Hux, last season’s PD Player of the Year, was 9-3 on the mound and .378 at the plate. He’ll move from third to short with the graduation of Cody Seals. Kyle is back at third base, where he’s a solid glove and hitter, and Harris gets to just about everything in the outfield. Matthews (4-2) will be a strong No. 2 to Hux on the mound, and Jackowski and Harris should round it out.
THE COACH SAYS: “I like the experience level, but sometimes that leads to complacency. That’s the one thing I’m worried about. I want to make sure they’re still hungry. We won last year by sneaking up on people. We won’t be able to do that this year.”
3. WOODSIDE WOLVERINES
COACH: Kevin Hare
LAST YEAR: 14-6, 13-5 (4th)
TOP RETURNEES: IF Justin Burrell, IF/P Jordan Carter, IF/P Tim Perry, OF Austin Rouleau, C Roman Degnan, IF Seth Woodard, P/OF Josh Welcher, IF Shane Arceo, UTL Torin Porter.
TOP NEWCOMERS: P/OF Nick Arendas, IF Brandon Sadler, IF Jason Setliff, IF Matt Arendas, IF Shane Westfall, P/IF Sam Skabla.
OUTLOOK: The Wolverines have a strong group returning led by Burrell (a team-high 39 RBI), Carter, Perry, Rouleau and Degnan. Degnan will switch from the outfield to catcher with the graduation of Anthony Rouleau. Woodside also loses its top pitcher in Kyle Westfall (5-3), but Carter and Perry should be effective. One point of emphasis is a strong start. The Wolverines came out of the gate 0-2 in each of the last two seasons.
THE COACH SAYS: “I like the overall team speed and good mix of upper and lower class(men). The question is how quickly this mix settles. The key is to get off to an unusual start for (us) by winning some games early in the season. If the weather cooperates and games don’t get backed up, (we) should be in the mix at season end.”
4. KECOUGHTAN WARRIORS