SECTIONAL BASEBALL: PATRIOTS AND TIGERS ON A COLLISION COURSE
We are closing in on another sectional baseball season and all indications (and statistics) are telling us Union County (TEC Champions) and Hagerstown are headed for a showdown in the championship of the Centerville sectional May 28.
Baseball is a game of statistics and both of these teams are clearly the two best teams statistically in that sectional that also features Northeastern, Centerville, Winchester and Lincoln. But, as you know, tournament time is also a time for upsets. Today we will look at all six teams by the numbers to find out who has the “best” chance of playing for a sectional title.
THE LONGSHOT: Lincoln
After a year off Lincoln hired Former Earlham Pitcher Matt Brankle to revive the Golden Eagles baseball program and in a short amount of time, Lincoln became competitive in the Tri-Eastern Conference. The problem is it will take a little time before this very young program gets to where Coach Brankle wants it to be. Lincoln played this season with only two seniors and one junior. Eight freshmen saw extensive playing time this season. After watching Lincoln a couple of times this season, there is no doubt they are headed in the right direction. Lincoln will have to play perfect baseball to win this sectional. Cameron Gwin is their best overall player hitting .435 with 19 RBI. Gwin is also their best pitcher with an ERA of 1.83, but he won’t be enough. Lincoln gets Hagerstown in the opening round. The Tigers beat Lincoln in their only meeting this season 12-0. The Golden Eagles are 0-5 against the field this season.
WITH A BREAK OR TWO…WHO KNOWS!!: Centerville, Winchester and Northeastern.
Yes, I put three teams in this category because all three have enough talent to beat the favorites…if they play well. Let’s start with:
I have seen the Bulldogs several times this season. They have been inconsistent in all three phases of the game, but when they are playing well, they can be dangerous. Nolan Witte is the player the Bulldogs count on to get this team rolling. Witte leads Centerville in hitting at .345 (on a team that is hitting .262 overall). Witte also leads the team with 19 RBI. Chris Pritchett supplies the power with 2HR and 19 RBI. Brennen Kean also has 19 RBI. Centerville averages around six runs per game, but pitching is a huge concern. Witte is the ace with an ERA of 2.58, 42K’s and a 2-2 record. Dalton Stevens is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.55, but he has just a couple of starts this season and hasn’t thrown since May 10 against Knightstown. Cameron Newman is next at 6.91 ERA and a 2-5 record. Centerville’s team ERA is 5.10.
So, if the Bulldogs are to win this tourney, they must find more pitching. Against Northeastern this season, Centerville beat the Knights 8-7 at home. Oran VanSkyock went 2-4 with an RBI and Chris Pritchett went 2-3 with 3RBI. Witte picked up the win in relief striking out seven in 6.1 innings pitched. The Bulldogs are 3-5 against the field this season…0-3 vs. Hagerstown (0-2) and Union County (0-1) and have been outscored in those three games 22-1.
The Knights remind me a lot of Centerville….they can be good and they can be inconsistent. They too lack enough pitching to make a serious run in this tournament. Hitting wise the Knights feature three very good hitters including Connor Bray (.429BA, 2HR, .673SLG%, 22RBI and 20SB), Justin Bane (.390BA, .609SLG%) and Quantrell Gammon (.341BA). Northeastern hits .301 as a team with an OB% of .379. One other key for the Knights is their running game with 54 stolen bases.
Now to pitching. Northeastern has a team ERA of 5.97…OUCH!!! Colton Alexander is the ace of this staff with a 3-3 record and an ERA of 3.63. After that, Northeastern will count on Senior Hunter Kirkland (2-4 6.53).
Like Centerville, the Knights will have to find more pitching to make a serious run in this tournament, but knowing Coach Steve Bray, they won’t go away quietly. Against the field this season Northeastern is 2-4. Against the favorites, the Knights are 0-3…being outscored 24-3 (lost to Union County 7-2 and to Hagerstown 10-0 and 7-1).
The Golden Falcons are another team that has played up-and-down baseball this season. They have had close games including a 1-run loss to Muncie Central, a 1-run loss to Union City..twice, a 1-run loss to Adams Central and a 3-run loss to Hagerstown. On the other side, Winchester blew out Centerville 11-1, Muncie Burris 17-1 and Tri 8-0. In blowout losses, the Falcons lost to Monroe Central 11-2, Northeastern 12-2, Wapahani 16-0 and Union County 12-1. Ok, this has been a roller coaster ride.
Winchester will rely on Ross Cully (.389), Jacob Lahey (.365) and GlenAllen Anderson (.338) at the plate. The Falcons drop off dramatically after those three (.264 hitting as a team).
Like Centerville and Northeastern, Winchester lacks pitching depth. Lahey is 2-2 with an ERA of 2.58. Anderson is 4-3 with 33K’s. Lukas Mills is 1-3 with an ERA of 4.40. After those three, it’s a crap shoot.
One other area of concern for the Golden Falcons is defense. Winchester has committed 43 errors this season.
NOW THE FAVORITES: HAGERSTOWN AND UNION COUNTY
Let’s start with HAGERSTOWN.
The Tigers are used to winning under Brad Catey. Since Coach Catey took over for Lloyd Michael in 2013, the Tigers have won 116 games and lost only 33. Hagerstown should reach the 20-win plateau before the sectional begins next week. Hagerstown has outscored their opponents 151 (7.2 per game) to 39 (1.9). The pitching staff also has nine shutouts. So let’s start there…pitching.
This is an impressive staff with a team ERA of 1.53, 156 K’s in 133 innings pitched and only 42 walks. They are deep and talented led by Cody Swimm. Swimm is 3-1 this season with an ERA of 1.13 and 41K’s. He also has four saves and has allowed only 12 hits in 30 innings pitched. Drew Pyle has been impressive going 3-0 with an ERA of 1.20 and 38K’s in 23.1 innings. Brady McMillen is 5-0 with an ERA of only 1.52. We aren’t done yet. Derek Davis is 5-1 with an ERA of 2.85 and 28K’s in 27IP. And don’t forget about Noah Dale. Dale is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.91.
Hitting is also very impressive. Hagerstown is second only to Union County in hitting at .335. Swimm leads the Tigers at .453BA, 640SLG%, 20RBI….Mason Hicks (.390BA, 4HR, 23RBI .644SLG%), Owen Golliher (.373BA, 18RBI), Drew Pyle (.351BA), Clay Cochran (.347BA) and Trent Weiss (2HR, 24R).
Hagerstown’s OPS is .883 and their slugging % is .456. The one concern is the amount of runners left on base (171, 8 per game).
Hagerstown met Union County on April 26th. Union County beat the Tigers 5-3 as Hagerstown left nine runners on base after collecting 13 hits against Patriot pitching. Camden Rhodes went 2-3 on the day. Swimm, Hicks and Pyle also had two hits.
Hagerstown is 6-1 vs. the field.
The Tigers have every chance to win this sectional with the pitching they have.
Now UNION COUNTY.
The TEC Champs are loaded on both sides of the baseball. Coach Jeff Mathews has a veteran squad led by perhaps one of the best hitting teams in the state. The Patriots are hitting .389 as a team heading into the final week of the regular season. Their offensive numbers look more like numbers from a video game. Here is what they throw at you night after night…Zander Kottka (.509BA, .690SLG%, .554OB%, 1.245OPS, 31RBI), Joey Weller (.450BA, .616SLG%, 18RBI, .538OB%, 1.155OPS), Nate Webb (.438BA, .593SLG%, .609OB%, 1.203OPS), Mason Miller (.408BA, .684SLG%, .500OB%, 1.184OPS), Leighton Schulte (.404BA, 2HR, .649SLG%, 18RBI, 1.198 OPS), Jacob Stansberry (.417BA, 2HR, .708SLG%, 1.189OPS), Mook Shepler..back after injury (.389BA) and Preston Scott (.367, 21RBI, .474OB%). The Patriots also love to run with 72 stolen bases…Webb 18, Scott 12 and Schulte 10.
Pitching is also strong led by Weller (8-0, 0.92 ERA, 70K’s in 45.2IP), Kottka (3-0, 1.09ERA) Miller (3-1, 1.52 ERA, 31K’s in 23IP, 3SVS) and Noah Hartley (4-1, 2.23ERA, 31K’s). As a staff, Union County has an ERA of 1.68, 173K’s and only 63 walks in 150.1IP.
The Patriots won the TEC for a reason. Veteran leadership, solid hitting and excellent pitching. They beat Hagerstown this season 5-3. Donovan led the Patriots going 2-3 with 2RBI. Weller went five innings, giving up 11 hits and three runs. Miller picked up the save. But, as we mentioned in the Hagerstown preview, the Tigers left nine runners on base after collecting 13 hits. Hagerstown also committed three errors.
If everything plays out as the numbers indicate, Hagerstown and Union County will play for the sectional title. If they do, it promises to be a great baseball game. You might want to get there early.
TEAM LEADERS (AVERAGES BEFORE END OF REGULAR SEASON)
Union County .389
Union County 220
ON BASE PERCENTAGE
Union County .494
Union County 77
Union County 1.68
Union County .941
5:00….Hagerstown vs. Lincoln
8:00….Centerville vs. Northeastern
5:00….Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
8:00….Union County vs. Winchester