The 2017 baseball campaign is in the books. It was one to remember for Matt Hentschel, Mike Kelly and Joe Seidler.
Seidler followed an impressive sophomore campaign in 2016 to make history this spring. The Chesapeake-Anne Arundel junior is Player of the Year.
Hentschel rebounded an injury-riddled 2016 campagin to emerge as the ace for the area’s premier program. The Calvert Hall College senior is Pitcher of the Year.
Kelly engineered arguably one of the most improbable postseason runs in recent memory. The first-year Loyola Blakefield coach is Coach of the Year.
2017 VSN BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JOE SEIDLER, CHESAPEAKE-ANNE ARUNDEL
The VSN Baseball Player of the Year was the leader, ace pitcher and leading hitter, and an outstanding corner defensive player when not on the mound for Chesapeake-Anne Arundel. His name is familiar because he was the 2016 Co-Player of the Year as a sophomore.
Joe Seidler is the first repeat winner as VSN’s top baseball player. A 6-foot-2 and 190-pounder who bats and throws right, helped the No. 4 ranked Cougars (20-4 overall) to a second straight Class 3A state final. The Pasadena school was the only area public school team to reach a state final a second straight year and joined No. 2 Archbishop Spalding (21-8) and Class 1A semifinalist and fifth-ranked Patterson Mill (21-3) as the only teams with back-to-back 20-win seasons.
“Joe is a terrific high school player who is a leader when in the field and on the mound,” said Chesapeake’s seventh-year coach Ken King. “His leadership has allowed us to play in state championship games in each of the last two years.”
Seidler, who is 19-4 in three varsity seasons with a repertoire of fastball, curve, slider and change, was 6-2 (four of his wins were over ranked teams including a 5-0 shutout of No. 8 River Hill in the 3A East Region final) this spring, tying sophomore Dylan Young for most wins.
While leading Chesapeake in innings pitched (55), strikeouts (49) and least walks (14) while yielding 42 hits, Seidler posted a 2.02 ERA. The only blemishes on his pitching record this season was a 4-3 loss to Montgomery County’s Poolesville in the state final and a regular season decision to 4A state semifinalist and No. 3 Severna Park.
As the No. 3 hitter (usually reserved for a team’s best hitter), Seidler led the Cougars in batting average (.420; 34-for-84), hits (34), RBI (25), doubles (10) and home runs (3). He also had two triples and scored 18 runs, as King did not insert a courtesy runner for him because of his ability, speed and IQ.
Seidler was also superb defensively at first base and third base. He made the routine plays consistently and when called on also made the difficult plays, such as the backhand stabs on either corner and the picks at first base to prevent throwing errors.
The outstanding junior credits his success to his late dad, former Northeast standout, Joe, Sr., King and his coaching staff and his teammates, many of whom he has played with since age six.
“I’ve known all of these guys since I was a little kid and we had high hopes coming into this season, but we didn’t execute in the state championship game,” said Seidler, who will play with the Mid-Atlantic Red Sox this summer. “It was a little more disappointing this year than last, but we will get over it (state final loss) and come out next year to win the state championship. Our pitching staff should be outstanding in 2018.”
Seidler has drawn interest from several Division I programs including Towson and UMBC.
2017 VSN PITCHER OF THE YEAR
MATT HENTSCHEL, CALVERT HALL COLLEGE
Pitching is physical and mental, and Matt Hentschel’s repertoire of fastball (four-seam and two-seam), curve ball and a 4.0 GPA in the classroom made him the area’s most effective hurler, especially down the stretch for top-ranked Calvert Hall College. Hentschel’s brain and ability to excel under pressure, earned him VSN’s Baseball Pitcher of the Year honors.
Hentschel, a 6-foot-1 and 190-pound righthander, was 10-2 with a 1.55 ERA for the MIAA A Conference regular season champion for the Cardinals, who won an area-best 27 decisions. Five of his wins came over VSN ranked teams including two over MIAA A Conference Tournament champion and No. 10 ranked Loyola-Blakefield
His 10 wins fell one short of the school record 11 set by current Cardinals’ pitching coach Andy Bair in 1994 (11-0). Bair pitched briefly in the minors after turning down a scholarship to Miami.
“Matt is a great choice as pitcher of the year because he stepped up to win a lot of big games for us,” said veteran Calvert Hall coach Lou Eckerl. “He came off a rough junior season (injury riddled 1-2 campaign) and did the job for us. He didn’t overpower anybody, but with his smarts knows how to pitch. The kids love to play for Matt.”
Longtime Cardinals’ third base coach Brooks Kerr echoed Eckerl’s remarks.
“Matt is a fierce competitor,” said Kerr.
Hentschel worked 58.2 innings giving up only 37 hits, striking out 57 and walking a miniscule 11 batters. As they like to say nowadays, he “pitched to contact,’’ and was a master at it.
In his last six appearances, Hentschel went 5-0 with four complete games including wins over No. 2 Archbishop Spalding (21-8), No. 11 Gilman School (22-11) and Loyola in the A Conference double elimination tournament. The trio of wins in the tournament came within a week, the first a complete game win over Gilman, 8-1. Two days later, Hentschel got the win in relief in a 7-5 decision that eliminated three-time defending champion Spalding. On May 21 a brilliant two-hitter on only 72 pitches to blank Loyola, 9-0, at Harford Community College to force the “if necessary” game with the latter Dons.
The must-win game against Loyola was Hentschel at his best, throwing 9 ground ball outs and striking out six for 15 of the 21 outs in the seven-inning game and walking only one. His command was impeccable and his savvy and smartness setting up the hard-hitting Dons was uncanny as he made them hit his pitch the majority of the time. Loyola’s junior No. 3 hitter AJ Holcomb, who has committed to Virginia Tech, had the only two hits.
“The Spalding and Loyola wins came under high pressure and were my biggest thrills this past season, but it was a big disappointment when we didn’t win the next day,” said Hentschel, referring to a 8-3 loss to Loyola in the final game. “It was definitely not the outcome we expected. We had great camaraderie and went into the season expecting great things with 15 returning seniors (seven of them starters). I got the loss by 4-2 to Gilman in our third game, but then we went on a roll winning 12 in a row and later we put together a nine-game winning streak before losing to Loyola in the tournament.”
Calvert Hall defeated Loyola twice in regular season by scores of 4-3 and 13-0 on the way to the regular season title and top seed before a stunning 2-1 upset loss in nine innings to the fourth-seeded Dons in the A Conference tourney.
“Overall I was happy with the season, just disappointed we didn’t win at the end for our coaches, coach Lou and coach Kerr who never stopped working to make us as good as we could be,” said Hentschel. “And having coach Bair as our pitching coach this year was a plus. He helped me a lot.”
Hentschel, who posted a 14-4 career mark for The Hall, was an all-MIAA A Conference selection. He will play for Division III Emory University in Atlanta next spring.
2017 VSN BASEBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
MIKE KELLY, LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD
Guiding an incredible finish that had not been done in 71 years, Loyola Blakefield coach Mike Kelly took his Dons from “underdog”status to “big dog” status in the MIAA A Conference. The first-year bench leader is VSN’s Baseball Coach of the Year.
Kelly, who succeed Jimmy Crowley at Towson school after being an assistant the previous five seasons, led the fourth-seeded Dons to victory in the MIAA A double elimination postseason tournament, the first baseball title for Blakefield since 1946. Loyola (9-9 in regular season conference play) opened with a 5-3 victory over fifth-seed John Carroll School and proceeded to knock off the top two seeds and perennial contenders in 27-time champion and No. 1 Calvert Hall College and three-time defending champion and second-ranked Archbishop Spalding to get it done.
The 10th-ranked Dons would do it despite their leading pitcher having only 4 wins for the season in senior Jack Glock (4-1) and his junior brother, Will Glock notching his first win of the season (1-1) in the grand finale. And only two Dons batted over .300 in senior Miguel Mateo (.355; 22-for-62) and junior AJ Holcomb (.310; 26-for-84).
One stat however that did not show up on the pitching and hitting sheet and Kelly’s Dons had it – heart and belief in each other as players and coaches.
“We never stopped believing that we could do it,” said Holcomb, an infielder who is considered to be one of the best hitters in the metro area and who has verbally committed to Virginia Tech. “We love Coach Kelly and his staff. He interacts well with us and we knew we could do this. We worked hard to get ready for the playoffs.”
Loyola stunned MIAA A Conference followers by outlasting favorite and regular season champion, Calvert Hall, 2-1, in nine innings and followed with a 3-1 win over Spalding to move into the finals as the only unbeaten team. At the well-manicured Harford Community College diamond in the Thomas Run Sports Complex, Calvert Hall, out of the losers’ bracket, dominated the Dons in a 9-0 romp.
That left the winner-take-all final the next day at the Harford CC. You would have been hard pressed to find any neutral or even some Loyola fans to bet against the Cardinals because of how impressive they were the day before. Loyola had lost three in a row twice near the end of the season and went into the playoffs having lost six of their last seven games.
“All season we preached playing flat-line – be the same win or lose all the time,” said the 50-year old Kelly who played for legendary coach Charlie Sullivan at Poly in the mid-1980’s before going on to play shortstop for another legend in Elliott “”Oppy”” Oppenheim at Dundalk Community College. “I didn’t like the way we played that Sunday. I thought we were a little tight and made mistakes, we didn’t normally make. We hit the ball hard but they made the plays and we were down 3-1 in the sixth inning of the last game. Then Will Glock drew a walk after an out and AJ (Holcomb) doubled to deep left to put runners on second and third and that was our wake-up call.”
The Dons rallied for seven runs off three Calvert Hall pitchers with RBIs coming from Chris McDonald, Brent Peterson, Dom Dinoto, Trevor Henigan (2) and Jack Reinhardt, one other run on an error to make it 8-3. Matt Wyatt came on in relief to get the last six outs , retiring the Redbirds in order in the final frame to set off a wild celebration that would later include 89-year old Larry Smith – one of four living members from the Dons’ last A Conference championship team in 1946.
“James Moses, who was our centerfielder before a knee injury ended his season, researched the ’46 team to find out who was still around, and Larry was thrilled to share it with us,‘’ said Kelly whose team pulled off a rarity becoming the first to win the championship with an overall losing record (13-14).
So what does Kelly and his Dons do for an encore?
“We need to outwork everybody again,” answered Kelly, who was MVP of the 1988 Dundalk CC team that went 33-11 in 1988, missing the JUCO World Series by a game and would later assist Oppenheim for four seasons.
That’s an understatement because Mike Kelly delivered to a jubilant Loyola Blakefield right on time. And he didn’t wait 71 years.