Mission Impossible for Potomac State Baseball in 2012?

Catamounts open season Friday at Pepsi Classic in South Carolina

Zach Markel

Potomac State's Zach Markel returns from last season to lead the Catamounts in 2012. Markel hit .338 with 45 RBI's in 2011. 
Photo by Raymond Burner

By Roy Harper- Potomac State College

Keyser, WV- Last season Potomac State College's Baseball team did exactly what they planned to do. They won the Region XX Baseball Tournament that they hosted at Golden Park. They then won the Eastern District Finals that they also hosted. After that they had a successful run at the Junior College World Series where they finished third.

This year the plan is the same, just the directions may be different.

"Our goal each year is to get to the series," said Head Coach Doug Little. "This season will be more of a challenge. Last season everything fell into place for us. We hosted both the regional and district finals, we were an experienced team to start the season and everyone stayed healthy."

In 2011 Potomac State won their tenth Region XX Championship in the last twelve years and advanced to the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction Colorado for the fourth time in the last eight years. The Catamounts also went to three straight series' in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

With just one returning starter from last year’s team that finished 3rd at the JUCO World Series, Head Coach Doug Little knows there may be some growing pains for his young squad.

“We can’t hide the fact that we are not as experienced right now as we were last year at this time,” said Little. “But I don't think anyone will feel sorry for us, so we have to work hard and find a way to overcome this. Every team faces adversity and we look forward to the challenge.”

The only starter that returns from last season is 1st Baseman Zach Markel. The Elizabethville, PA native hit .338 drove in 45 runs with 8 doubles in 49 games last season.

“We will lean on Zach to be a leader for us and hit in the middle of our order. He has worked really hard in the off- season and we feel he is going to have a fine season,” Little added.

Little and his staff may draw on some experiences from 2009 and 2010 when the Catamounts were in similar situations. In 2009 the Catamounts started the season with just one full-time starter from the previous year. The Catamounts also went through some growing pains in 2010 when they fielded a squad with few returning players with experience. Both seasons however Potomac State was still able to claim Region XX Championships.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us,” said Head Coach Doug Little. “We play in one of the toughest Regions and Districts in the country. With so many new players it is always difficult to know how the team will perform, but, this group has worked really hard, done what we’ve asked them to do and we are looking forward to the challenges this season.”

Despite the lack of starters returning, the Catamounts do have some experienced players that will be counted on heavily this season.

T.J. Weisenburg and Stephen Miele, both from Martinsburg, WV return this season after playing valuable roles last season as part time starters.

"T.J. and Stephen both have tremendous potential to be big-time players, and we will need them to have solid seasons if we want to be successful", said Little.

PSC also has five players, Fabio Arcelay, Kyle Mann, Brent Messett, Jake Potter and Demetreous Taylor who re-shirted last season that have a chance to make an impact. "Those guys were with us all last season and the extensive time they have put in has paid off."

In addition Potomac State added four transfers who could find themselves in the mix for Little. Ryan Conner (Frankfort, KY), Billy Demersky (Mahopic, NY), Ryan LaRose (Martinsburg, WV) and Joel Rosencrance (Clarks Summit, PA), all will help add experience to an otherwise young squad.

Little feels like this freshman class is that was recruited was talented enough to handle the responsibility.

The freshman class will be lead by a talented duo in Zach Stolipher (Martinsburg, WV) and Mike Eisel (Wooster, OH).

If PSC hopes to get back to Grand Junction, Colorado again this season, it will, as always, depend on its pitching staff. While the 2012 staff lacks big-time experience to start the season Little likes where this staff may end up.

"We have a good collection of arms that I think can do some good things. If they can learn to compete and command the strike zone they will give us a good chance to win."

Two returners that will anchor the staff are Brendan Miller (Hendricks, WV) and Jordan Bray (Niagara Falls, Ontario). Miller went 3-1 with one save last season striking out 39 in 35 2/3 innings pitched. Bray went 3-0 with one save and struck out 21 batters in 23 1/3 innings of work.

"Both of these guys have good arms, both will be counted on and we will need both of them to be leaders and be willing to face the best teams on our schedule."

Little also is glad to have Devin Bowles (Fairmont, WV) back in the mix for the 2012 season. Bowles pitched for the Catamounts in 2010 working 31 1/3 innings but missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Another option on the mound for Little this year is a handful of two-way players.

"I think there is a trend in college baseball to have more two-way players on your roster than there used to be." Last season PSC was able to use both Ben Miller and Nate Antone effectively in that role. This season Little will have six options of position players that can also be used on the mound, especially in the middle or at the end of games.

Potomac State begins its 55-game schedule on the road February 24-26 at the Pepsi Invitational Tournament in Florence, SC where the Catamounts will play four games against Pitt Community College, Chattanooga State Community College, Florence Darlington Tech and Cecil College. Pitt finished 38-13 last season including winning the Region X Championship. Since 2000 Potomac State and Pitt have faced off a total of nine times with Pitt holding a 5-4 advantage.

Two years ago, Pitt swept the Eastern District Finals in two games from Potomac State by scores of 6-0 and 9-2 to advance to the 2010 World Series. Ironically, both teams had the identical number of hits is each game; eight each in game one and 11 each in game two.

Then last season Potomac State downed Pitt two games to one in a highly entertaining series at Golden Park. Andy Smithmyer pitched PSC to a 2-1 win in game one, then Pitt's Christian Pfaff threw a two-hitter to even the series at a game apiece. Potomac State then won 6-4 in a ten-inning game to punch their ticket to the World Series.

"We play Pitt four times in our first nine games this season, they a very talented and well-coached team. Playing a tough schedule only makes us better."

Potomac State will hope for an early home opener with a double-header at Golden Park on February 29 with CCAC-South.

This year’s schedule will also find the Catamounts facing off with some familiar opponents including several against Region XX foes. Potomac State will face Hagerstown Community College, (32-22) and Chesapeake College, (21-26) in a home and home series for two games each; PSC will face Harford, (44-13) at home on April 1 and Anne Arundel Community College, (30-21) for a twin bill at Arnold, MD on April 15.

"We are looking forward to getting started. Our guys have been working hard since August and they know that we will only be successful if we continue to keep up that effort throughout the season," said Little. College baseball is a grind, but this is the part of the year that we look forward to the most."

For entire 2012 Potomac State Baseball schedule, click here.