Can East Rock defend its C36 championship? Sandlot storylines for 2017

Snow pushed it back slightly, but high school baseball season is here.
Here are storylines surrounding each of the city/county teams as they dive into their 2017 campaigns:

How far can Spotswood’s baseball seniors take the Trailblazers?

After earning the second seed for the Conference 29 tournament in 2016, Spotswood bowed out of the postseason early with an upset loss to seventh-seeded Fort Defiance, which went on to make the 3A West Region tournament.

But each of the five Blazers who eclipsed .300 last season at the plate are back for this season as part of SHS’s nine-member senior class under fifth-year coach Marcus Davis.

“I’ve heard a lot about Spotswood this offseason,” Armstrong said.

Cameron Irvine, a shortstop and pitcher who said he’s received interest from Division I teams, highlights that senior class. He batted an area-best .569 (37-for-65) in 2016 with one of SHS’s two home runs.

Adam Dofflemyer had a team-best 17 RBIs while hitting .339, while Elliott Lam batted .345, Chanz Ludholtz hit .317 and Jared Morris finished with a .302 average.
Morris, who slugged the team’s other home run, is back for his senior season, as are Ty Lam, Elliott Lam, Ludholtz, and King University signees Dofflemyer and Nathan Rebich.

On the mound, the Blazers graduated Tucker Garrison, who went 5-3 with a 1.98 ERA in 35 innings in 2016.

But Dofflemyer is coming off a junior season of 33 innings, a 4-2 record and a 1.70 ERA, while Ty Lam went 6-3 in 36 innings with a 1.56 ERA.

Six-foot-9 junior Daniel Ouderkirk, who had three saves in nine appearances last year, figures to be another viable option for Spotswood this year on the mound.

“Spotswood should be pretty strong. They’ve got a good group returning, so it should be a lot of good games,” Tysinger said with a laugh.

Will East Rockingham baseball defend its Conference 36 championship?

After beating Page County on the road for the Conference 36 title last year, the Eagles took a deflating 15-2 loss to Strasburg at home in the 2A East Region tournament quarterfinals.

David Scott, beginning his seventh year as the ERHS coach, says last season is in the past, though.

“This is a whole other group and a whole other year,” Scott said. “We’re starting fresh.”

The Eagles are looking to replace a senior class that included Eriq Jackson and Jerrick Diehl, who each hit better than .310 while Diehl was the team’s leader in innings pitched.

ERHS also is without current seniors Javon Butler and Jaylen McNair, who are Glenville State football commits and contributed in multiple ways for ERHS baseball last year.

But East Rockingham does return senior Zack Hall, who recorded a 1.73 ERA in 36 1/3 innings pitched, and sophomore Nick Jenkins, who was 3-0 on the mound and tossed a gem to beat Page in the C-36 finals.

Offensively, the East Rock lineup figures to revolve around seniors Jacob Merica and Trenton Breeden.
Merica led the Eagles with a .420 average, five triples and 19 RBIs last year, while Breeden hit .380 with 13 RBIs.

“We have more guys in our lineup that can hopefully get some balls in some gaps and more extra bases than we’ve had in the past, maybe,” Scott said. “And I think that’s a credit to how hard they’ve worked in the weight room. We’ve got a group of kids who have really worked hard in the weight room, and that’s created some better hitting potential for us.”

Can Spotswood softball go deeper in the playoffs despite its youth?

In 2015, a year after finishing 2-17, the Trailblazers were eliminated from the Conference 29 quarterfinals in Missy Hand’s first season as coach.

A year ago, the Trailblazers reached the C-29 consolation game, missing out on a chance to make the regional bracket. But they finished 11-12, earning Hand the Valley District’s Coach of the Year honor in her second go-round at the helm.

“Spotswood is going to be solid, as well,” Cantrell said. “Nobody better underestimate them. Coach Hand does a great job over there getting her kids to believe in themselves and getting them to play at the same level as TA and Broadway play at. I really look for them to shake things up in our district this year.”

Now SHS retains juniors Taylor Carpenter and Kirsten Fletcher, who were all-region honorable mentions a year ago, as well as catcher Haileigh Lutz.

Carpenter, an outfielder, hit .467 with 28 runs scored for SHS, while Fletcher hit .441, struck out just six times, and had a 4.10 ERA and 11-12 record in 137 innings.

“She can give anybody a tough day on a good day for her,” Curry said of Fletcher. “Spotswood’s got a great coach down there. She takes a lot of interest and she works hard with her kids.”

Is East Rockingham softball experienced enough for a lengthy playoff run?

With no seniors last year, East Rockingham went 11-10 with its first season under Ronnie Dovel ending in the Conference 36 semifinals.

Now the Eagles have a more experienced roster with three seniors, although a junior may be their most dangerous hitter.

Reagan Ream, an outfielder, hit .517 with three home runs last season, earning first-team all-state recognition.

Meredith Dean, now a junior, and second baseman Jaclyn Gooden, now a senior, received second-team all-state honors in 2016. Gooden batted .484 with two homers, while Dean hit .455 and played a sharp outfield.

Infielders Kaitlyn Todd and Madison Shifflett, a basketball standout, join Gooden as ERHS’s senior class.

Other pivotal returners for East Rock appear to be sophomore pitcher Courtney Shifflett and junior catcher Serenity Bishop.

East Rockingham, after making the state tournament in each of its first three seasons of existence from 2011-13, hasn’t been back.

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