Mike Sunderland's Amazing Inter-Ac Preview
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   The objective of this column is to provide an insightful, detailed look into Philadelphia High School baseball, by viewing and reporting on games that I see, as well as by offering my own additional opinions and commentary on the season.  I will focus specifically on the Catholic and Inter-Ac leagues, as those are the leagues that I know best from my previous experience.  During my junior and senior years of high school, I developed a strong desire to learn as much as I can about each and every opponent.  I am hoping this focus on detail will extend to this column, as I will intend to provide light and insight into this season.  Although for a good part of the season I will be hours away from Philadelphia here at Holy Cross College, I still feel I will be able to produce an interesting view of the upcoming season.  While I am here at school, I will provide my own commentaries based on my knowledge of players, teams etc.  During Easter break I plan to catch a few games, as well as during May, when I am let out of school.  I plan to catch numerous games in May and June, when the season is heating up and the champions are decided.  I hope you enjoy this column.  It is my goal to highlight the skills of numerous players and teams, as well as provide the same publicity for area baseball players that are present for football and basketball players.  If you have any questions or comments or just want to discuss some topic with me, you can reach me at Msuds4@aol.com.


Overview:
  
Once again look for Malvern Prep to be at the top of the Inter-Ac, but they will receive some competition from such talented teams as Germantown Academy, Penn Charter, and Haverford School.  Malvern returns arguably the best 1-2 pitching duo in the entire Delaware Valley, in star pitchers Paul Keldsen and Will Romanowicz.  This is an amazing pitching duo, as both pitchers bring high velocity, decent off speed pitches, experience, and knowledge of pitching.   That pitching combination should be absolutely dominant at times this season, and should make Malvern one of the most competitive teams around.  However, look for a very talented Germantown Academy team to be pushing Malvern closely.   For the past few years, everyone knew that GA was talented but young and that they would be a very solid team eventually.  That time is now, as GA has a talented junior class including Sean Grieve, Kevin Gordon, Matt Bruderek and Pete Vernon.  Penn Charter also brings back some very decent veterans, including Taylor Baum, Matt Ryan, Zack Zeglinski, and Ryan Nanni.  Look for PC and GA to give Malvern some very tough competition.  Haverford School, coming off a 7-3 second place finish, returns two solid pitchers in Tom Close and Mike Fitzpatrick.   Haverford should be competitive as well.  Also, Episcopal Academy and Chestnut Hill Academy will not bow down to anyone.  All in all, it makes for a very competitive year on the Inter-Ac.  Behind two of the best pitchers around, look for Malvern to be right at the top of the standings, although talented squads from GA and PC may push Malvern closely.

Team by Team:

   Malvern Prep: Malvern possesses the deadly pitching duo of Paul Keldsen and Will Romanowicz.   Keldsen was the Inter-Ac co-MVP last year (with teammate Stephen Burns).   Keldsen was amazingly dominant throughout all of last year.  Last year Keldsen did not allow an earned run in Inter-Ac play until May 14. He has decent velocity and excellent control.  He is a true ace pitcher, a horse that a team can rely on in big games.  Add Keldsen to Will Romanowicz and you have an unbelievable pitching duo.  This is truly a team with two top-notch aces.  Romanowicz is rated by Baseball America as the best junior high school prospect in the entire state of Pennsylvania.  There is professional baseball potential written all over him.  Romanowicz brings absolute gas, and like Keldsen, has solid control and off speed pitches.   The one debate Malvern may have concerning pitching is to decide which ace should get the ball in a crucial game (a problem any team around would love to have).   No matter how the hitting fares, Malvern will almost certainly be in every game they play this year due to their fantastic pitching duo.  Opposing teams will have to learn to hit Keldsen and Romanowicz to stand a chance against Malvern this year.  Besides this extremely talented pitching duo, Malvern brings some talented individuals back to the diamond.  SS D.J. Reagosa returns this year.  Reagosa had a very solid sophomore season, earning second team All Inter-Ac honors.  Expect Reagosa to ignite Malvern’s offense this year.  Also returning is junior outfielder Dan Plunkett, who nabbed Honorable Mention All Inter-Ac as a sophomore.  Infielder Joe Illgas received second Team All Inter-Ac honors last year and will add to the Friars' offense. Sophomore 3B Wyatt Roland also returns, as does junior OF Ryan Burton.   All in all, Malvern returns several talented position players with decent experience, despite the losses of such players as Joe Milani, Mike Treston, and Matt Skellan.  Malvern’s offense should be fairly productive, with the return of such players as Reagosa, Plunkett, Burton, Illgas, and Roland.  Combine this with arguably the most lethal high school pitching duo around, and you have the makings for an excellent team and terrific season.
   Projection: With the level of talent returning for Malvern (especially the pitching talent), expect Malvern be at or near the top of the Inter-Ac all year long.   I believe that Malvern will be one of the top rated baseball teams in Southeastern PA this year.  Keldsen and Romanowicz will lead the Friar’s to a successful season, as long as they remain healthy.  Malvern has a very realistic chance to defend their Inter-Ac crown, but don’t discount upstart teams from GA or Penn Charter.

   Germantown Academy: For the past few years, GA has always possessed a young but very talented team.  Now these talented players have a few years of experience under their belts and have the potential to make a lot of noise in the Inter-Ac this year.  GA has a fantastic junior class.  P-OF Sean Grieve is a junior that has already proven his talent.  As a sophomore he was named first Team All Inter-Ac and enjoyed a very productive year.  Grieve doubles as both a consistent leadoff hitter/ centerfielder and a strong, lefty pitcher.  Grieve is a smart hitter who knows how to work the entire field.  He is an excellent opposite field hitter.  He has a very strong arm from centerfield and is fast.  On the mound, he mixes in a fastball of decent velocity with solid off speed pitches.  GA also returns a first Team All Inter-Ac player in 3B Kevin Gordon.  Gordon is very similar to Grieve at the plate in that they both are able to utilize the whole field.  Gordon is a very good spray hitter who hits for high average.  Grieve and Gordon together combine to give GA a very solid top of the order, a top of the order that can hit for a high average and have a high on base percentage.  Junior SS Matt Bruderek also is a returning experienced veteran.  Bruderek also sees some time on the mound as well.  Bruderek  received second Team All Inter-Ac last year. Another quality returning pitcher is junior lefty Pete Vernon.  Vernon is very crafty and knows how to pitch.  He has good control and will keep his team in the game.  He has a rubber arm and is a returning Honorable Mention All Inter-Ac player.  Vernon possesses a deadly pickoff move.  Another solid returning junior player is catcher Alex Kaplan, who received Honorable Mention honors last year.   Junior Joe Matteo possesses a solid bat.  This is a team with a ton of returning, experienced talent.  Expect GA to have a breakout year this spring.
   Projection: GA returns a wealth of talent in Grieve, Gordon, Vernon, Bruderick, Kaplan, and Mateo.  This core group of juniors has played together and has gained experience through the years.  This is a team that should have a very solid year.  The talent and experience are there this year for GA.  Malvern has a very dangerous team, but GA should be able to battle them.  Look for GA and Penn Charter to battle for second, but it is not unrealistic to think that GA might knock off Malvern, or at least provide some very stiff competition.

   Penn Charter: PC returns a solid core of veterans.  Headlining the returnees is senior 1B Taylor Baum.  Baum is a big, strong first  baseman that can really slug.  He has tremendous power and is one of the best returning hitters in the Inter-Ac.  Baum gives PC a big, powerful hitter that is to be feared in the middle of their lineup.  Baum will also see more time on the mound this year, with the graduation of Gerry Sasse.  Baum has a very strong arm and throws gas. At the top of the lineup will be 2B Zack Zeglinski.  Zeglinski is an athletic 3-sport star that will be the spark plug of this PC team.  Zeglinski can run and is a solid hitter.   His double play partner will be SS Matt Ryan.  Ryan is also a 3-sport star, who is a tremendous quarterback.  Ryan is very smooth and consistent from his SS position.  The double play duo of Zeglinski and Ryan should be the best in the Inter-Ac.  Ryan will also be counted on for his offense this season.  Ryan will see some time on the mound, in addition to Baum.  Another solid returning player is OF Ryan Nanni.  These four players give PC a solid core of veterans to work from.  However, there are still many holes to be filled.
   Projection: PC should be right up there with Malvern and GA this season.  PC brings back a strong core of talented players, which will keep them competitive.  I feel that PC will be constantly battling GA for second place, but like GA, there is a chance that PC can knock off Malvern if they play extremely well as a team.

  Haverford School: Haverford had a very successful season last year, finishing 7-3 in the Inter-Ac and second overall to Malvern.  Haverford returns two solid pitchers in lefty junior Tom Close and lefty senior Mike Fitzpatrick.  Close had a very solid sophomore season, nabbing second team All Inter-Ac honors while pitching in many key games.  Close will also see time at first base.  Close and Fitzpatrick give Haverford a decent 1-2 pitching punch, a commodity that is quite valuable in high school baseball.  They should keep Haverford competitive in most games.  Sophomore right-hander Mike Fitzgerald also returns on the mound.  All in all, Haverford has a fairly solid pitching staff, which is the foundation for a winning season. Junior OF Noah Cooper returns to the fray this year as well for Haverford.  Cooper was a second Team All Inter-Ac selection last year and will be counted to lead the offense.   There are some holes to fill on the offensive side for Haverford.   They appear to have a solid pitching staff that will keep them in games, but their offense may be a question mark.
   Projection: I feel that Haverford will be competitive this year once again.   They have decent pitching, which should keep them in many games.   However, whether or not their offense puts up runs will be the factor that determines whether they are among the top of the league or whether they have a good but not spectacular year.

   Episcopal Academy: Episcopal is coming off a solid 6-4 season.  However, I think they will be especially hurt with graduations.  EA loses star SS Adam Murray, who is now at Duke.  Murray was a dynamic player that led this Episcopal team.  They also lose such productive players as Ted Oberwager and Tucker Heckscher.  These losses will hurt this Episcopal team.  However, they do return a top-notch, impact player in P-3B Jason Brown.  Brown had a tremendous junior season, notching first team All Inter-Ac.  Brown is a solid pitcher, who pitched in many key situations last year.  He also is a fine hitter.  This year, Brown will be the main man on the mound and his continued success is vital for this team.  With the loss of Murray, he now will be the most feared hitter in EA’s lineup, so he will be counted on to produce.  Episcopal also returns junior infielder Dan Williams, a second Team All Inter-Ac selection last year and senior catcher John Finnegan, an honorable mention pick last year.   Brown, Williams, and Finnegan form a decent returning core for Episcopal to build from.  These three experienced players must step up as leaders and produce to ensure Episcopal’s success this season.  Players must step up on the mound after Brown and also in the field, but there are some ingredients already set in place that could produce success for EA this season.
   Projection: EA has a few decent returning players but there are also many holes to be filled, in the field and on the mound.  Whether these holes are filled will be the key to Episcopal’s success this year.  This may be a rebuilding year for the Churchmen, but if new players are developed this season, this team should not be counted out from competing with the rest of the league.

   Chestnut Hill Academy: CHA finished last year in the basement of the Inter-Ac, ending the season with a 1-9 record in league play.  On paper, this year does not look much better.   They lose two very decent players from last year, 1B-P Spencer Smith (first team all league) and SS Chris Primavera (honorable mention all league).   They return a solid player in 2B-P Gilly Lane (a player that has survived the harsh rigors of Flourtown-Erdenheim Little League to his credit).   Lane is a nice sparkplug that has some surprising pop for someone his size.   He will bat near the top of the order this year for CHA, and needs to be a catalyst for the team to compete.  Lane also has a fairly strong arm and will need to log some serious innings this year on the mound.  The rest of the lineup for CHA is up in the air, and will most likely be filled by some new players.  CHA will not have a great amount of experience, and these new players will need to produce to enable the team to compete.
   Projection: This could be another very rough season for CHA.  On paper, it does not appear that they have the same level of talent as other teams in the league.  However, no one knows what can happen in the Inter-Ac.   I am sure not too many people thought that Haverford would finish in second place last year, ahead of such teams as Penn Charter.  CHA will need to develop new players to have a decent year, but it looks now that they will be young and inexperienced.