I distinctly recall junctures last year when selecting teams five through seven were a challenge. At this early point in the season, it remains a difficult task, only now it’s because of an abundance of options rather than a scarcity. There’s a crowd of about 10 teams that could be significant contenders for playoff spots and/or league titles. Time will tell if any differentiate themselves. So here’s the latest attempt at ranking them, complete with a lot of shuffling from last week (get used to it; I got a feeling it’ll happen a lot over the next six weeks).
1. Bonner-Prendergast (4-2) Last week: No. 1
At least there’s stability at the top. The Friars shellacked a decent Carroll team twice by a combined score of 25-1 this week. Don’t read too much into the loss against Springside Chestnut Hill Saturday: Bonner-Prendie didn’t use any of their top few pitching options (a District 12 doesn’t need to take chances out of league to boost seeding like a District One team might), and the Blue Devils may be the best team in the Inter-Ac. Until a league stumble, the Friars look to be the class of the county.
2. Strath Haven (5-0) Last week: No. 3
The Panthers passed the first big test of the season with a 7-3 handling of Radnor this week. We’ll see how they follow that success Thursday against Garnet Valley, with Dalton Mayberry likely waiting for them. As long as Kevin Mohollen continues to hit at the torrid pace he has this young season, I have to believe they’re a dangerous team.
3. Penncrest (2-2) Last week: No. 2
It wasn’t the best of weeks for the Lions. John Geffre got rocked by Conestoga in a loss Tuesday, and the lineup went quiet Saturday against Garnet Valley. I don’t think the Lions have yet played to their potential, but I still rate the potential as quite high.
4. Garnet Valley (4-1) Last week: NR
“But Garnet Valley beat Penncrest this weekend, and they have a better record!” I know; I was there. But until the sample size is bigger to prove me wrong, I think the Jags have the biggest drop off between pitchers No. 1 and 2 – that’s as much due to how dominant Dalton Mayberry can be as how inexperienced the rest of the staff is. The lineup is developing well; they have a bunch of guys who can come through on any given day, Sean Sarbaugh being the latest.
5. Cardinal O’Hara (5-2) Last week: No. 4
The Lions beat Roman Catholic and gutted out an eight-inning win over Archbishop Ryan without ace and All-Catholic selection Mark Onimus, who’s being rested with arm issues. Chris Fusaro and Will Latcham have ably filled the void, but we’ll see where they stand in the Red Division pecking order this week when the play La Salle twice.
6. Haverford School (6-5) Last week: No. 5
Kevin McGowan (11 extra-base hits in 11 games) is ripping the cover off the ball. The early-season juggling of the staff should eventually yield results once the league slate opens. I don’t see the Fords as being as deep as last year, but they are arguably more talented pound-for-pound.
7. Marple Newtown (3-1) Last week: No. 6
The Tigers have one of the most dangerous weapons in the county in the form of Ciaran Cahalane. The reliever has two saves this season, pitching five scoreless innings of relief in those games. The rub, though, is that the plan of having a live arm out of the bullpen only works if the likes of Seth Bower, Jake McGee, Corey Power, Matt Young et al. make it so that Cahalane’s presence isn’t needed in the rotation.
Honorable mention: Radnor (2-4; losses to Marple and Haven see the Red Raiders drop out of the Super 7); Interboro (4-0; those wins in the league have come by a combined score of 57-6); Springfield (2-2; any sustained absence of Joe Sheeran from the lineup would be tough to endure); Archbishop Carroll (2-5; hey, they beat Springside Chestnut Hill, which Bonner-Prendie couldn’t do); Episcopal Academy (4-2; a thrilling win over Radnor helps gauge the Churchmen to some degree).