Starting tonight – and ending Saturday evening – the top eight public school baseball teams in Maryland will step on Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen to compete for their respective class championships in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
They represent eight different counties. Six have won previous state finals titles while two others are looking for their first – marking what should be a great and emotional weekend of baseball.
Class 4A Final
Severna Park Falcons vs. Howard Lions, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
One run separated Severna Park and Howard in last year’s state semifinals. The Lions, who won 4-3, advanced to the championship game – where they fell to Northwest, 8-0.
The two teams battle it out again, but this time on the biggest prep stage. Severna Park is looking for its fourth title in program history while Howard hopes to capture its first.
“It is a big accomplishment for the program and players to make it to back to the state championship game for a second consecutive year, and this year we are looking for a different result in the championship game,” Howard head coach Nick Hoffner said. “I am really proud of the players and what they have accomplished this season.”
Aside from being crowned state champion, the Falcons have made it to the finals on two other occasions. The latest: 2015, when Severna Park’s Kody Milton was a freshman. Now a senior – and a Maryland commit – Milton hopes to cap his career with the victory as his dad and varsity coach, former major leaguer Eric Milton, watches from the dugout.
Class 1A Final
Boonsboro Warriors vs. St. Michaels Saints, Saturday, 1 p.m.
It’s Déjà vu between Boonsboro and St. Michaels. The two teams met last year in the state title game. The Saints captured their fifth championship with a 12-1 victory – and, of course, they’re looking to go back-to-back.
“It’s a great honor to be back in the state final game,” St. Michaels head coach Brian Femi said. “We are replacing five seniors from last year’s team, which I feel was the best one in the history of our school. Our club has worked hard in the offseason to improve their abilities for our current season. They are a group of guys who puts the team first. … It’s amazing what you can accomplish when your players commit to that philosophy.”
Boonsboro has been state semifinalists or better 12 times since 1975. The Warriors were crowned in 1985 and 2002.
Class 2A Final
Century Knights vs. La Plata Warriors, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Century captured its first regional title earlier this week against Hereford. Now, the Knights have an opportunity to win their first state championship in their first appearance. For head coach Mike Marrale, it’s personal. A number of his players – including his son, Old Dominion commit Michael Marrale – have played together since T-ball.
“The success of this team goes back many years from now,” Marrale said. “I started coaching T-ball when these kids were five years old. I didn’t coach all of them, of course, but the members of this team have been coached well by many coaches and parents that know what they’re doing.”
Previous coaching and the team’s chemistry has made this run possible.
“I have never seen a group of young men that are having so much fun (on and off) the ballfield,” Marrale added. “They go to dinner together, they go fishing together and they try to outdo each other on the ballfield. I have never had a team that is so enthusiastic in the dugout. I have never had a team that is so confident in what they do. They are not afraid to fail.”
Century’s opponent, La Plata, has found continued success in the postseason. Like Boonsboro, the Warriors have been state semifinalists or better a dozen times. They were crowned state champions in 2008 and 2016.
Class 3A Final
Thomas Johnson Patriots vs. Huntingtown Hurricanes, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Thomas Johnson is making its first championship game appearance since 2002, which was the year the school earned its third title. They’ve been semifinalists three times prior.
“We’re excited at the opportunity to represent not only Thomas Johnson High School, but Frederick County in the state championship,” head coach Billy Gross said. “For me, this game means a lot because I’ve been to the 3A state semifinals twice already, once as a player in 2005 and in 2014 as a coach, but both seasons ended there.
“Our players are just as excited as the staff at this opportunity to play in this game. … They know how special this is and don’t want it to end, even though they know it ends one way or another.”
Last year, Huntingtown fell to Poolesville, who went on to win the state title against Chesapeake-AA, in the semifinals. A year prior, the Hurricanes lost in the championship game. So, head coach Guy Smith realizes the importance of this game, no matter the outcome.
“The memories that a high school athlete has after playing for a state title are next to none,” Smith said. “The entire community gets behind the team for one game. … These kids have worked so hard throughout the year and now they get to see the benefits.”
Kiple wins ‘Prep Ballplayer’ vote
Century’s Ethan Kiple used two home runs and seven RBIs last week in the Class 2A West sectional final against Winters Mill to take home our penultimate ‘Prep Ballplayer’ crown of the 2018 season.
Kiple, a Harford Community College commit, tallied 43 percent of the more than 10,000 total votes.
Tyler Russo, of Glenelg Country School, took second while Archbishop Curley’s Paul Nixon — also a Harford CC commit — placed third.
We’ll have one more ‘Prep Ballplayer’ vote next week. Competition will be tight as three candidates will be chosen from the MIAA ‘A’ and ‘B’ conference finals, which were played Monday, as well as the MPSSAA state semifinals and upcoming title games. The winner will be announced Friday.