BE baseball team hopes to earn first state title since 2011

The Bishop England High School baseball team has a demanding schedule, impressive talent and a strong tradition. Mike Darnell, one of the state’s most successful coaches, hopes to take those three ingredients and blend them together to produce the program’s first state title since 2011.

“We are expecting good things from the team this year,” said Darnell, who has a career record of 233-79. “We have a lot of individual talent but putting it together as a team will determine how far we go. Moving up to (Class) AAA brings with it playing some very good teams. Some of the teams who moved from AA to AAA a handful of years ago are still in AAA. Teams we battled with when they were AA will be the teams we must beat in order to be successful in AAA.”

The Bishops’ schedule will be a challenge. They play in the International Paper Baseball Classic (IPBC) in Georgetown and the Hanahan Invitational Tournament. The Bishops also will compete in a tourney in Savannah. They will play some of the state’s biggest schools, and for good measure play St. Ignatius, a strong program from the Cleveland area.

The IPBC, which features the elite teams in the state, will be the first big hurdle of the season.

“We are excited to be playing in the IPBC,” Darnell said. “It is definitely an honor. Hopefully we don’t go 0-4. Every team will be good so there will be no room for error. Mistakes during those four days will be magnified as much as any time during the season. It will be a good indicator for what we need to improve on while giving us an opportunity to evaluate some guys who are competing for starting time during the regular season.”

The most familiar name on the roster just might be Leo Albano. That’s because he also excels in football and basketball.

“We have not had him as long as some of our juniors who have been in the program since 7th grade,” Darnell said. “Since he plays three sports his name is mentioned more than anyone else. We expect Leo to do the same things he has done for the past two years: pitch, play centerfield and hit leadoff for us. If he continues to improve as he has the last two seasons he will be fine and make us a better team.”

But teams don’t win championships solely because of one player, and that’s the case at BE. Pitcher Shawn Runey will play at the next level, while Will Bastian, Matthew McManus, Greg Sanders, Chris Dengler and Geoffrey Gilbert are underclassmen who all can play numerous positions.

Pitching is deep with Joseph Bolchoz, Connor Burke, Harrison Griffith, Ryan Gaffney and Sean Jervey battling for innings.

The Bishops have five state championships in the 2000s. Will they add another crown in 2017? What will it take?

“Playing as a team and doing the little things which have made us a good program in the past,” Darnell said. “We try to hang our hats on pitching and defense. We will play the inside game and be aggressive on the bases. If we can do those things we will have a chance.”

Daniel Island Publishing

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