Prep Baseball Report

Looking Ahead: 2017 VA/DC Public Schools 1A - 4A

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By John Nolan
Virginia Assistant Director and Content Manager

As 2016 winds to a close, we have taken a few looks back at the high school season, as well as look ahead to next year. In November, we took a way too 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 as well as some teams that far exceeded their 2016 Pre-Season expectations. This week we will take a way too early look at some of the most talented public schools, starting with the smaller classifications.

Abingdon won Conference 32 in 2016 and was poised to make a deep run in the 3A West Region tournament before they were upset in the Quarterfinals. The Falcons bring back most of their talent from last year’s team and should be among the favorites to compete for the 3A State Championship with an explosive lineup that features senior catcher Will Harless (Radford) and junior infielders Thomas Francisco (East Carolina) and Cade Hungate (Florida State).

The Spartans won Conference 48 and the 1A West Region in 2016, falling in the State Semifinals. Eastside brings back ace senior lefthander Austin Smallwood this spring as he looks to build on a dominant 2016 season that saw him strike out over 110 batters in just over sixty innings.

Fort Chiswell
The Pioneers won Conference 46 in 2016 and were the 1A West runners-up. The rode the back of senior ace Bryson Booher (Concord) last year and will be hurt by his graduation, but the rest of Fort Chiswell’s young roster will be back with senior Dallas Beasley and junior Chance Davis leading the way for the Pioneers.

Hanover just graduated a senior class that won three State Championships in four years, including the 2016 4A State Championship. That senior class had a ton of talent and in theory, the Hawks should take a step back this year after graduating a class of that caliber, but Hanover will be loaded again in 2017. The lineup will feature senior outfielder Josh Plummer (Tennessee) as well as junior infielders Jack Dragum (Virginia), Camden Grimes, and Nick Zona (Virginia Tech).

Kettle Run
The Cougars won Conference 22 in 2016 and finished as the 4A West Region runners-up. The Cougars fell in the State Semifinals to eventual State Champion Hanover in a tight game. The Cougars lost two key pieces to graduation, but bring the bulk of their team back and should again be a threat in what is shaping up to again be a very good 4A West Region in 2017. Seniors Sam Ewald (VMI), Noah Goins (Patrick Henry), Max Lilek, and Tyler Shaffer (Catholic) will form the core of Kettle Run’s lineup, with all having been important parts of the 2016 run. Ewald, Goins, and fellow senior Will Merriken (Roanoke) will lead an experienced Cougar rotation.

Liberty Christian Academy
While Liberty Christian is a private school, they compete in VHSL so we will view them as public for our purposes. The Bulldogs transitioned to VHSL and entered the 4A West last year, winning the Region and advancing to the State Championship game before losing a classic to Hanover. Despite losing a lot to graduation, the Bulldogs will still be led by a pair of talented 2018s in outfielder Kyle Horton (South Carolina) and catcher Wes Clarke (South Carolina). The Bulldog senior class is deep and features Conor Austin (Covenant), Pearce Howard, Hunter Johnson, and Grant Johnson. Their experience should help the Bulldogs remain a force in their second year in VHSL.

The Pioneers won Conference 21 West in 2016 and reached the 4A West semifinals before falling to Liberty Christian. While they lost their top-of-the-order sparkplug, Alex Amos (Pittsburgh), to graduation along with important arm Trey Braithwaite, as well as incumbent ace Anthony Simonelli (Coastal Carolina) to injury, Millbrook should still be a major threat in 4A West. The lineup will be anchored seniors Conor Hartigan, Kyle Keenan (Villanova), Nathan Jaye (King), Ryan Kennedy (Kennesaw State), and Gavin West (Shepherd). The rotation will have a good one-two punch with Kennedy and fellow senior Austin Murphy (VMI).

Turner Ashby
The Knights won the 3A West in 2016 and lost a few big arms to graduation, but they still have some good pieces to build around in senior pitcher Justin Showalter (James Madison) and senior catcher Cody Warner (VMI).

The Bearcats captured their third straight 2A West Region championship in 2016, but fell short of making it a State three-peat as well, losing in the State Semifinals to Goochland. The Bearcats were young last year and should be able to continue their success as they bring back senior Brayden Rawson, who emerged as an ace last year.

The Dukes reached the 1A State Championship game in 2016 and will be bringing back senior ace Hunter Williams (Radford), who dominated Fort Chiswell in the State Semifinals.

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