BE Baseball 2016: Great Expectations
The annual theme of the Bishop England baseball program just might be “great expectations.” Always one of the top programs in the Palmetto State, the Bishops are ranked No. 4 in the state preseason poll of Class AA teams, according to the state baseball coaches’ association.
The Bishops struggled early last year, but gained momentum and experience, posting a 16-14 record while reaching the Lower State Championship Series.
The Bishops have leadership and experience with seven seniors on the 2016 roster. There is young talent as well. It will be a matter of blending team chemistry, work ethic and talent as the Bishops aim for their first state title since 2011.
“We feel this team can be as good as we have had in a few years,” said veteran coach Mike Darnell, who has a 213-68 career record as a coach. “It will be determined on our effort and enthusiasm. There is enough talent on this team to be successful, but we can’t just come out to the park and win games. We have to play excited and like our hair is on fire in order to get the most out of the talent we have. Our team is an emotional team and we need to play that way in order to be successful.”
Ninety Six is ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, while Waccamaw is No. 2 and Mid-Carolina is No. 3. The Bishops are No. 4 and Buford is No. 5.
The Bishops are counting on solid pitching. Fifteen of the 19 players on the roster all have pitching duties included on their baseball resumes. Throw in good team speed and fundamentals, and that is the list of the team’s strengths.
“I don’t see us standing at the plate and out-hitting people,” Darnell said. “We are going to have to hit and play defense every single day if we want to be successful. We are starting a new shortstop (freshman Chris Dengler), but I don’t really see that as a weakness. He is very confident and athletic at that position. We are hoping Chris can hold that spot down for the next four years.”
Gunnar Finnseth and Jeffrey Brown are two of the team’s leaders. They had the talent and work ethic to receive baseball scholarships to play at The Citadel.
Finnseth, a lefty, will be one of Darnell’s aces on the pitching mound. He came on strong as a hitter for the Bishops last year, and will be counted on at the plate as much as he will on the mound.
Brown will play center and right field. He is projected to the team’s leadoff, and is vital to Bishops success at the plate.
“He is one of the fastest players we have had here at BE,” Darnell said. “With our style of play, it is very important that he has a high on-base-percentage and can use his speed as much as possible.
Leo Albano was one of the top players by the end of his freshman season last spring, with key hits and pitching efforts in the playoffs. He also is the starting quarterback on the football team and is a starter on the basketball team.
“With him being the quarterback in football and a starter on the varsity basketball team, I don’t feel baseball will be difficult for him,” Darnell said. “Being the quarterback in football is probably the most stressful of the three. He is a very confident kid and not much fazes him.”
Edward Bolchoz will also be a key contributor. He plays first base and is a pitcher. He will bat in the middle of the lineup. Charlie Coste (2B-SS) provides depth while Will Harper and Walker Leavitt are two relief specialists. Paul Provost is an outfielder who is slated to bat No. 2 in the order.