The Whitman baseball program has never won a region championship. With a talented roster and postseason success each of the last three seasons, the Vikings are looking to leave their mark in 2012.
Whitman reached the 4A West Region final in 2009, but fell short against Quince Orchard. The Vikings reached the semifinals in 2010 and 2011, but lost to Gaithersburg each season. This year, there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite to win the region, but Whitman figures to be near the top of the list based on talent and experience.
The Vikings lost only three seniors and return one of Montgomery County’s top players in senior shortstop/pitcher Michael Flack. In addition, senior left-handed pitcher/first baseman Ryan McGill returns after missing the majority of last season due to a foot injury, and pitchers Mike West and Gabe Steinberg give Whitman depth on the mound. Factor in the toughness of second baseman Sam Avayou and head coach Joe Cassidy said, "Everyone here is very excited" and the Vikings are eager to make program history.
"You can go through the whole county and [most schools], even if it was a long time ago — Churchill’s been there, heck, even the [less successful programs] got there at some point — Whitman’s never been there," Cassidy said of the state tournament. "It’s a desire for these guys: Let’s be the first group to do that."
"You can go through the whole county and [most schools], even if it was a long time ago — Churchill’s been there, heck, even the [less successful programs] got [to the state tournament] at some point — Whitman’s never been there. It’s a desire for these guys: Let’s be the first group to do that."
— Whitman baseball coach Joe Cassidy
While Whitman has the tools to be a contender and the desire to make history, Cassidy pointed out Whitman’s lack of hardware should keep the Vikings — and others — grounded in their predictions.
"People are just assuming we have a lot of talent and it’s ours to win," he said. "But as I said, we’ve never won anything here. We hope to."
Flack was selected to the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches preseason all-state team and was listed as one of the state's 10 best position players by ESPN.com. Last year, Flack batted .491 with three home runs, five doubles, 23 runs scored and 25 RBIs in 18 games. On the mound, he went 6-2 with a 3.37 ERA.
"He’s been a starter ever since he was a freshman," Cassidy said, "and he’s gotten better every year. … He’s been a leader since he was a ninth grader."
As a sophomore, McGill went 3-1 with a 1.87 ERA before missing most of his junior year due to injury. He will play first base when he’s not pitching.
Last year, Avayou hit .356 with one home run, 19 runs scored and 12 RBIs. He will start at second base.
"Sam’s not a typical Whitman kid," Cassidy said. "He’ll get in your face and he’s got a little toughness in him that some of the Bethesda kids don’t, which is good, which is what I think we need. He’s not going to back down from anybody."
Josh Biel is the Vikings’ catcher. Drew Aherne will play center field, Mike Yang will be in left field, Andrew Castagnetti will play third base, Dan Duffy will be the designated hitter or play first base and Pat Hisle will play right field, shortstop or pitcher.
Whitman opens its season at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21 at Poolesville. The Vikings’ first home game is on March 23 against Blair.