Joe Siedler, 2018, Chesapeake-AA High School
by Pat O’Malley
Fate was Joe Seidler’s enemy and never his friend in his Chesapeake-AA high school days.
In three varsity seasons as a starter, Joe Seidler played in a pair of state finals plus a state semifinal, making it to the coveted Final Four all three seasons, was consistently the Cougars’ leading hitter, won more games (25) pitching than anyone else over the last decade including, 11 as a sophomore and was named a VSN Player/pitcher of the Year twice.
Yet, he did not attain what he wanted most but likely deserved because of his talent and hard work – a State Championship.
But such is life and Joe can handle it.
His life fate dealt him a crushing blow 11 years ago when he was 10 and lost his dad/coach and namesake to cancer at the young age of 41. Big Joe had been a solid hard working outfielder at Northeast for the late Harry Lentz, who won three state titles and was 348-200 (.635) in 28 seasons at the Pasadena School.
“Everything I do, I do for my dad,” Joe often said during sparkling four-year varsity career at the Lake Shore school. “He started me in baseball.”
Big Joe coached young Joe from toddler and up rendering the ups and downs of the game of baseball and urging what it takes to win and be successful.
“I credit my success to my dad,” said Seidler. “He has been my inspiration.”
Seidler has been a credit to his dad in what he has accomplished in his name. After starting on the Cougar JV in his freshman year, Seidler was up on the varsity at mid-season, won two games on the mound. It was just enough grooming to set him off like a Saturn rocket the following season.
In his sophomore season in 2016, people around the Anne Arundel County prep baseball scene were saying things like, “Who is this guy? ….You’ve got to see that Chesapeake pitcher …. This kid is only a sophomore …. that Seidler kid is for real.”
With parents and fans flocking to the Chesapake games, Seidler would ring up some really gaudy numbers both ways – on the bump, with the bat and his unheralded defensive plays at the corners (1B and 3B) that kind of went un-noticed.
“I always took pride in my defense,” said Seidler, who was intense and often made plays that were tough to make. His concentration and instincts were his forte in the field at the corners. “Anyway I could help the team, I wanted to do it.”
Seidler went 11-0 until the 3A State Championship game at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander would win three post season games to enable the Cougars to advance to the State championship game for the first time since they won it all in 2014. The last two playoff wins came in pressure games for the kid 10th grader.
With a three-hitter, 8 strikeouts and two walks, Seidler shutdown a very good Mount Hebron team, 3-2, for what would be his first of three consecutive 3A East Region Finals in order to advance to the Final Four. Chesapeake got to the big game with a 4-3 triumph over Damascus in the 3A semis as Seidler notched his 11th win by hurling 2-2/3 innings of hitless and scoreless relief.
Facing Huntingtown of Calvert County in the finale, Seidler was cruising with a two-hit, 2-0 shutout going into the top of the seventh. Seidler committed one of the cardinal sins a pitcher can do by walking the leadoff batter in the last inning and all hell broke loose as the Hurricanes rallied for four runs to win their first State title by 4-3.
Seidler and the Cougars were crushed.
“It was hurtful for everybody,” Seidler recalled. “It was a game of good pitching and good defense.”
He finished with an area leading 11-1 record, an 0.68 ERA and yielded only 43 hits while striking out 63 in 71.2 innings. Seidler also led the Cougars in batting with a .395 batting average, two home runs and 19 RBIs. He had emerged as the ace on a 21-4 team and relished the tag starting immediately to look forward to 2017.
The crushing loss in 2016 did not effect the play of Seidler and the Cougars. In fact, it lit a fire under them to get back. Seidler had the matches and he lit up his junior campaign by going 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA. Named a Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Preseason All-State pitcher-1B, Seidler really broke loose with his bat exploding for a .432 clip (32-for-74), three dingers, 10 doubles, two 3-baggers and 25 RBIs. Opponents feared his aluminum bat as much as they did his right arm.
Seidler became the first baseball player to repeat with VSN Player of the Year honors in 2017 but another hurtful setback awaited.
After notching his second straight 3A Region crown with a four-hit shutout of River Hill by 5-0, Seidler and the Cougars were back in the big show. Advancing to the grand 3A finale, that 4-3 score proved to be a jinx as the Cougars went down again by the identical count at the hands of Poolesville of Montgomery County.
“We lost two of our top players about a week before the playoffs and it definitely hurt us offensively,” said Seidler. “The two got into trouble for pranks and coach King didn’t put up with it and disciplined them.
“In addition, we didn’t start that game until 10 p.m. because of the rain. It rained a couple of hours and we were tired from the wait and anxiety we had to play.”
Chesapeake coach Ken King put things in perspective afterwards saying, “Joe is a terrific high school player,” said King, who led the Cougars to an overall 20-4 in 2017 as one of just three metro area teams to post back-to-back 20-win logs. “His leadership has allowed us to play in back-to-back state championship games.”
A second consecutive spot on the MSABC Preseason All-State Team and other media plaudits, got Seidler and company geared up for another run in 2018. On the way to a 6-2 season with a 1.76 ERA, Seidler delivered again by pitching his third straight victory in the Class 3A East region final, with a four-hitter to stop Reservoir, 4-1, to move into the 3A State Final Four a third consecutive season.
With his bat, Seidler batted .378 with three more home runs and 18 RBIs.
Unfortunately for Seidler and his teammates “fate” would really sting in 2018 on a team that was senior laden. The region final would be Seidler’s last win as a Cougar.
Seidler’s four pitches – fast ball (topped out at 87 mph), curve ball, slider and change – had really improved over his three years, but the team’s chances had not. Chesapeake dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Huntingtown in the 3A State semis played at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harman’s.
It was over for good.
“When some of us on that team get together, we still talk about those days and how disappointing it was for all of us, but…,” said Seidler.
A personal highlight for Seidler in his final season occurred early in April of 2018 when he avenged three losses to 4A powerhouse Severna Park, since blanking the Falcons, 1-0 as a sophomore. Seidler’s last loss to the Falcons came by 13-8 as he was lit up for nine of those runs.
“I really wanted this game. I wanted them bad,” Seidler said afterwards. “I came out looking for a ‘W.’” Recently, Seidler said, “It’s one of those memories I will always cherish.”
Seidler closed his high school career in July of 2018 by playing in the prestigious Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
While the end of the regular season was not what Seidler and his mates were looking for, he can look back on a career that stands with the premier players over the last decade.
Seidler posted a career record of 25-5 with a 1.49 ERA over four seasons and swinging the aluminum, he had a career clip of .389 with nine dingers and 72 RBI’s.
Radford was to be his next level team, but it didn’t work out for him. Seidler was disappointed that he was red-shirted and left the school and returned home. He enrolled this year at Chesapeake Community College and is playing pitcher/first baseman for the Eastern Shore junior college while pondering his future.
His biggest fan, his mom, Denise Seidler and the family packed up and left Anne Arundel County for Denton which they now call home while still supporting and cheering for Joe Seidler, Jr.