One of the things Potomac Falls High baseball coach Joe Terango has loved most about this year’s team is its pure love of the game. When game time approaches, the Panthers are one fired-up, ready to go group of ball players.
"They’re very excited just to have the opportunity to play a baseball game," said Terango.
That passion and desire to play has carried over into the win column for Potomac Falls, which finished the regular season with a 16-3 overall record and a perfect 14-0 mark in the Dulles District.
The Panthers, who have been led by a core group of seasoned 12th graders, defeated Freedom, 5-1, in a first round district tournament playoff game last Friday evening at home. The victory improved the No. 1-seed Panthers to 17-3 on the season and set up a district semifinals meeting versus Dominion earlier this week. Broad Run and Loudoun County were meeting in the other semifinals game. The two semifinals winners will meet for the district tournament title on Thursday night (May 21) at 7. The title game will take place at Heritage High School.
Potomac Falls, by winning the regular season district title, automatically earned a seeding at the upcoming Region II, Div. 2 tournament. The Panthers will receive a first round bye at regionals and are scheduled to host a semifinals game next Wednesday (May 27). Their semifinals opponents will likely be Sherando (Stephens City) or Brentsville District (Nokesville). Should Potomac Falls advance to the Region II championship game, it could well meet unbeaten Orange High.
While the Panthers have already clinched a region playoff berth, Terango said his team is still highly motivated to capture this week’s district tournament title. They last won the district tournament in 2007 with a finals victory over Heritage. Last year, Potomac Falls went 17-8 overall, finished second in the district, and qualified for regionals.
<b>IN FRIDAY’S WIN</b> over Freedom, Potomac Falls received a nice boost with the return of starting pitcher Mike Detaranto, who has missed much of the season with arm problems. But Detaranto, a senior who won eight games his junior season, has been working hard to get back into the line-up. He pitched a scoreless first inning against Freedom before departing the game. Terango had planned to remove Detaranto, the Panthers’ No. 2 starter since his sophomore season, early just to be safe.
"He looked good," said Terango. "He didn’t look like his old self, but he looked comfortable."
Potomac Falls pitching ace Jake Kline has been the team’s No. 1 starter the past three years. But Detaranto has been a solid No. 2 man and was a key factor to the Panthers’ success in both 2007 and last year.
"He’s always been in the shadows [of Jake]," said Terango, of Detaranto. "He’s never had any accolades at all. Kline has been the horse. But Mike has won some big games for us. He has three [quality] pitches and good control."
Following Detaranto’s one inning of work against Freedom, junior Taylor Jernigan gave the Panthers good relief work from the second inning on into the fifth. Terango, however, took Jerigan out after Freedom’s first two batters of the fifth reached base.
He then put freshman Jackson Rogers into the game. Jackson, Potomac Falls’ JV pitching ace, was making his first varsity appearance of the season. He was greeted with a flair single that loaded the bases. At that point Terango, whose team was ahead 5-1, was having second thoughts about his decision to bring in the ninth grader. But Jackson showed lots of fortitude by getting out of the jam scoreless with the Panthers’ four-run lead still intact. He went on to close out the game for the Panthers.
"I wanted to get him a couple of innings before we go deeper into the tournament," said Terango. "After he gave up that flair [base hit] I questioned myself [about putting him in]. But then he buckled down."
Offensively, Potomac Falls highlights included an RBI double by Matt Hoover that tied the game at 1-1 in the early innings, and a two-run single by senior Rob Malan in the third inning that gave Potomac Falls a 3-1 lead. Potomac Falls took advantage of a few Freedom errors later in the game to tack on a couple more runs.
<b>SEVERAL POTOMAC FALLS</b> players have put together outstanding seasons this spring. Kline, the ace right-hander, was 6-1 over the regular season. Kline has committed to play baseball collegiately next school year at Fairmont State University (West Va.).
"He works hard every day and is in tremendous shape," said Terango, of his No. 1 starter. "He keeps the ball down [in the strike zone]."
Malan, the team’s shortstop, is batting .430 out of the No. 3 spot in the line-up. He is a stellar defensive player and a run-producer on offense.
One of the team’s catalysts has been senior catcher Mike Spring, a third-year starter. Spring, as clean-up hitter, has hit over .400 with 29 RBIs and four homers.
Senior center fielder Chad McMichael has been superb defensively.
The Panthers have also received solid play from the following sophomores: first baseman Ryan Miller (.400 batting average, 20-plus RBIs); second baseman and leadoff hitter Ben Sweger (30 base hits, 20-plus runs scored); leftfielder Ryan Mahoney (over .400 batting average); and third baseman Matt Rubino, a transfer student from Pennsylvania who has played solid at the hot corner position.
Potomac Falls received a huge season from senior left handed pitcher Eric Dimsey, who took over the vacant No. 2 spot in the rotation left by the injured Detaranto. Dimsey went 3-0 over the spring.
"He came into the season in tremendous condition and was real solid," said Terango. "He has decent velocity. He’s very crafty and gets his breaking ball over for strikes and gets the ball down."
Terango said his team has received great play and leadership from its seniors.
"I knew the potential we had coming in this season and that we’d have the opportunity to win a few baseball games," said Terango. "I knew our seniors would come through."