2016 in Review: Teams That Exceeded Pre-Season Expectations

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By John Nolan
Virginia Assistant Director and Content Manager

As 2016 winds to a close, we will take a few looks back at the high school season, as well as look ahead to next year. Last week, we took a way to early look at some of the most talented private schools for the upcoming 2017 season and a look back at some teams that met their 2016 Pre-Season expectations. Today we will look back at the teams that exceeded our pre-season expectations for them in 2016 and made deep playoff runs.

This discussion begins with VHSL 6A State Champion Chantilly. The Chargers were just outside of the rankings at the start of the season and didn’t crack them until the middle of the year despite finishing 2014 and 2015 as the State Runners-up. The Chargers saw seniors Jared DiCesare (George Mason) and Forrest Wagner (Roanoke) emerge as twin aces during the season, giving them a one-two punch to go with a fundamentally sound defense and line-up that executed situations well all year. Chantilly beat Battlefield three times over the course of the spring, including in the North Region Championship and the in 6A State Championship game which saw the Chargers rally to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh and win on senior Jared Enders’ (Holy Cross) walk-off single.

Collegiate’s 2016 season was really the tale of two seasons, the portion where senior Will Allocca (Virginia) was injured, and the portion where he wasn’t. The Cougars had plenty of talent on the rest of the team, but things just didn’t click until he returned. Once he did, they finished the season with thirteen straight wins, capturing the VISAA Division I Championship. Another factor in the Cougars’ improvement down the stretch was the emergence of junior ace Evan Justice (NC State), who threw two complete games in the State Tournament, allowing just one run. Seniors David Angstadt (William & Mary) and Ben Greer (Washington & Lee) were also key two-way contributors in the Collegiate School’s run.

Kettle Run started the year at No. 24 in our rankings, but we had them buried in the insanely deep 4A West region. The Cougars had a good record in 2015, but faltered late in the Regional Tournament, something that this year’s squad did not do, as they beat Jefferson Forest in extra innings and ran away from Salem with a late offensive explosion to punch their State ticket. Kettle Run gave 4A State Champion Hanover all it could handle in the State Semifinals, bringing a landmark season to an end. Senior centerfielder Brenton Doyle (VMI) and fellow senior Hayden Lilek were the catalysts to a lineup that also saw the emergence of juniors Samuel Ewald (VMI), Noah Goins, and Tyler Shaffer (Catholic). Lilek and junior Will Meriken (Roanoke) made for a strong combination on the mound.

Speaking of landmark seasons, the 2016 Mountain View Wildcats continued to build on the success they had in 2015, leading to a lot of firsts for the program. The Wildcats clinched their first State Tournament berth in program history with a ten-inning win over Halifax County and won the 5A North Region over Conference 15 rival Potomac. The Wildcats rode a veteran core that had played together for a while and were led by seniors Dylan Hall (Virginia Tech), Jacob Menders (Shippensburg), Nathan Neff (Concord), Jacob Pollock (Shippensburg), and Alex Smith (Naval Academy).

The other half of the two surprises from Conference 15 was Potomac. The Panthers started the season unranked but proved to be a giant killer early in the season, beating 6A squads C.D. Hylton and Patriot and nearly beating Battlefield as well. That ability to pull the on-paper upset continued in the 5A North Region tournament as the Panthers went on the road to beat both Briar Woods and George C. Marshall to earn their State Tournament berth. Potomac played fundamental defense and got very good seasons on the mound from seniors Brandon Caycedo (Marymount) and Jonathan Caicedo (Mary Washington). Fellow senior Alex Burke (St. Bonaventure) doubled as the closer and helped anchor a lineup that was really keyed by the emergence of junior shortstop Evan Antonellis.