Kevin Ford’s Chantilly High baseball team might not be as experienced as last year’s Chargers’ squad that finished 18-6 and advanced all the way to the Northern Region semifinals. But the fifth year Chantilly head coach believes that, in time, the 2010 edition of Chargers’ baseball will become more adjusted against the quality varsity competition it faces and ultimately become a pretty good team in its own right.
“We certainly have some guys who don’t have a ton of varsity experience,” said Ford, whose ‘09 team saw its season and hopes of advancing to the state AAA playoffs abruptly end with a 2-1, extra innings loss to West Springfield in the region semifinals. “But we have some talented players and we will be OK as the year goes along. It might be a while to get things going.”
Chantilly, following a 10-1 loss at non-region opponent Loudoun Valley (Purcellville) earlier this week on Monday, stood at 2-1 in the early season. The Chargers, in non-district games last week, defeated both Yorktown, 6-1, on Wednesday, March 17 and Edison, 8-2, the following day. The Yorktown game took place at Barcroft Field in Arlington while the Edison game was Chantilly’s home opener.
Matt DeWitt, Chantilly’s senior catcher and the team’s lone returning starter, accumulated four hits, including a pair of doubles, over those first two games. On the mound against Yorktown, starting pitcher Bill Boyle, a senior who was 3-0 with a save and a 4.20 ERA last year, gave his team an outstanding outing, allowing one hit and striking out five over five shutout innings. Boyle, who walked two, ended up with a no-decision.
Chantilly also received a solid starting pitching outing against Edison from senior CJ Irwin, who allowed two runs (1 earned) and four hits over four innings of work to notch the win.
“We’ve played well,” said Ford, of his team’s first two games. “The only thing I’m a little concerned about is our aggressiveness offensively. We faced two [starting pitchers] who were able to mix it up with their pitches and kept us off balance. I think it was more us not having seen a lot of breaking pitches [thus far]. I think it will come around."
DeWitt, a team tri-captain along with Boyle and senior first baseman Adam Fridy, is coming off a solid 2009 season when, as a junior, he batted .257 with seven home runs and 28 RBI. He also had a solid season behind the plate, working well with the pitching staff and using his strong throwing arm to keep opposing base runners in check.
“Not too many people run on him,” said Ford, of his clean-up hitting catcher. “He does a pretty good job catching and throwing. He is quick and able to get rid of the ball. He’s not afraid to throw the ball around and keep [base runners] honest. He’s always thinking [ahead] and of what’s going to happen and he has good skills at blocking the ball. I know what I’m going to get with him in there, and it’s good.”
Boyle, Chantilly’s top starting pitcher this season, was the Chargers’ No. 3 starter last year, when he accumulated 23 innings of work both as a starter and out of the bullpen when needed.
“He relieved at times in pressure situations,” said Ford, of the 6-foot-3 inch workhorse, pitcher who has the endurance to pile up the innings. “He’s really smooth [in his delivery] and can get the [fastball] up there. He moves the ball around and has a decent breaking ball. He’ll keep going [inning after inning].”
<b>CHANTILLY’S BASKETBALL</b> success this past winter, in which the Chargers went all the way to the state semifinals, resulted in Chantilly baseball being a little shorthanded over the opening weeks of practices. Five of Ford’s players were a part of the Northern Region champion Chargers’ basketball squad.
Ford said all five players came to baseball practice the day following Chantilly basketball’s season-ending loss to IC Norcum High in Richmond on March 10.
“They came out the next day,” said Ford. “They were itching to go which was nice to see.”
One of those players who went directly from the hardwood to the ball diamond is junior shortstop Jamie Danehower, who served as a utility player and late innings defensive replacement on last year’s roster. This year, he is the Chargers’ starter at shortstop. Danehower, according to Ford, has good range and a good throwing arm. He will bat in the No. 2 position in the Chantilly batting order.
“He’s extremely athletic,” said the coach. “He definitely gets to a lot of balls. He’s a hard-nosed player and keeps working and working.”
Another player to keep an eye on is junior Sam Zimmerman, who could help the Chargers both as a middle infielder (second baseman and shortstop) and in the outfield this season.
This Friday and Saturday, Chantilly will begin play at the Marshall/Woodson High spring break tournament. The Chargers will play a Friday game against George Mason High School. The game was originally set to be played at 3 at Marshall High School, but after school transportation logistics might mean a 4 p.m. start instead. On Saturday night, the Chargers will travel to Woodson High for a 7 p.m. game against the home team Cavaliers.