The baseball season has begun in South Carolina and Florida and other warmer climes, and is rumored to be starting shortly here in the still waterlogged Northeast. A season in which the first day of games is snowed out isn’t a great omen, although for a county that has yielded a lone state playoff berth in three seasons, perhaps the portend of an out-of-the-ordinary season could be beneficial. To realize that promise, it’s going to take something special from the assembled group, and it’s just possible that the remarkable talent that exists in the current classes could put together the pieces to make that happen. Here’s a quick appraisal of where the county teams stand (with some team-by-team previews soon to come.)
The Friars lose just three significantly-contributing seniors from last season’s less than stellar year, at least by the elevated standards Joe DeBarberie has set for this program. This season, they have plenty returning, led by Rider commit Richie Tecco and incumbent staff ace Nick Bralczyk on a deep pitching staff.
I’ve said plenty about the Lions’ chances in the preview, and the abundance of returnees makes them a logical choice for the frontrunner among the Delco Central League contingent on paper (that’s with a nod to defending PIAA Class AAAA runner-up Conestoga and Class AAA runner-up Harriton). What stands out most notably for the Lions is the pitching depth: Rob Brown, All-Delco Matt Briner and Tyler Kight are a formidable top three, something made all the more vital by the way in which the weather seems destined to condense this schedule into a six-week sprint full of four-game-week endurance tests.
3. Haverford School
In years past, there’s rarely been a problem pinpointing an ace among the Fords pitching staff. The only time there’s been confusion has been because of too many claimants to that title. The picture this season is more muddied though, with a handful of innings eaters but no one emerging yet as the go-to guy. This year’s lineup doesn’t have many questions, as you’d expect from a team forced to field and infield full of underclassmen last year (and inexperienced ones, at that, beyond All-Delco Kevin McGowan). This team will produce runs; the question is if they’ll stop teams from scoring.
4. Strath Haven
Brian Fili seems to have his team on this odd two-year cycle in which he has a really young team one year and a veteran one the next. Two years ago, that led to a perfect regular season under the stewardship of Donovan Davis, Kevin Bosco, Dave Splain and company. This season may not quite reach those levels, but when you have six pitchers with meaningful varsity experience, led by aces Ashton Raines and Will Carey, that’s an important foundation for success.
5. Cardinal O’Hara
The Lions lost six players last season who are playing college baseball at a varsity level, which is a remarkable class. But there are enough holdovers to think that the dropoff from last year’s 14-8 campaign won’t be too steep. Chris Fusaro returns as the staff ace, and there’s enough pop in the middle of that lineup to navigate the Catholic League’s new one-division set-up.
6. Garnet Valley
A lineup led by two Division I commits in All-Delcos Ben Faso and Jeff Shanfeldt is going to be daunting, especially when a highly-touted sophomore like Liam Bendo is thrown in the mix. Replacing last year’s pitching will be a major question.
You just can’t ever sleep on the Raiders any more. They return their top two pitchers in All-Delco Sean Corelli and Garrett McGurl, and the core up the middle is mainly intact. There are still young pieces that need to mature, and the battle for innings at the end of the rotation remains an open competition, but the Raiders are well ahead of where most teams start their early-season reckoning.
Honorable mention: Marple Newtown (Grant Wallace and Ricky Collings are a pair of names to watch, the former having committed to Neumann. Steve Smith is about to reap the benefits of all those illustrious Broomall-Newtown Babe Ruth squads, which should be fun to watch); Interboro (there are a lot of returnees on this team, led by Neumann commit Sean Menold, as they hope to regain their Del Val title); Chichester (the defending Del Val champs are unlikely to give up the crown without a fight); Episcopal Academy (the Churchman have a couple of pitchers in Cam Van Hoorebeke and Kyle Virbitsky that have a couple of years of valuable varsity experience).