The Yorktown baseball team had its streak of three consecutive National District championships snapped with a 17-16 loss to Hayfield in the 2011 district final. But the Patriots responded by beating Chantilly in the opening round of the Northern Region tournament, giving Yorktown its first regional win since 2004.
Led by the battery of pitcher John Yoest and catcher Red Dowdell, Yorktown enters the 2012 season with hopes of returning to the top of the district and advancing past the regional quarterfinals.
Dowdell is a senior who will play his college ball at Virginia Military Institute.
"Red brings a lot of experience out there, brings a ton of ability. [He’s a] great catcher," head coach Mike Ruck said. "[Offensively], he drives the ball well and he’s the consummate team player. He’s the kind of guy you want to be the leader because he’s among the most talented guys on the team and the district, yet he likes every kid whether the kid plays on varsity or the kid plays on JV."
Yoest is a junior right-hander who started last year as the team’s No. 3 starting pitcher before working his way into the role of staff ace. This year, Yoest enters the season in the rotation’s top spot.
"We had no choice," Ruck said, "but to give him the ball in big games."
Yoest said his approach would be the same no matter what spot in the rotation he occupied. However, there is additional pressure to perform during his junior season for recruiting purposes.
"It’s the same mindset," Yoest said. "Coaches put who they want on the mound, who they feel most comfortable with, and this year I just happen to be filling the role [of No. 1 starter]. … Your junior year is your recruiting season. You definitely need to put up the numbers. There’s definitely a different element to it — to being on the mound as a junior. … I enjoy the pressure."
Shortstop Will Young and center fielder Daniel Whitaker are also expected to be key contributors for the Patriots.
Yorktown will open the season on the road against Oakton at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 15. The Patriots start district play on March 20 at Falls Church.
— Jon Roetman