Baseball: Westminster gunning for a second straight county championship – Carroll County Times
It doesn’t take Westminster baseball coach Mark Winebrunner long to go through a roll call of returning players to his starting lineup.
It’s as easy as one, two, three.
That’s the total number of Owls who return from last year’s 16-4 team that lost to Damascus in the third round of the playoffs.
All three seniors — center fielder Jordan Price, first baseman Ryan Mills, and designated hitter Dylan Lane — will anchor the Owls’ lineup this spring.
Winebrunner, who served as JV coach for six years before taking over the varsity in 2012, says it’s the youngest varsity team the program has fielded in his 12 seasons at the school.
“It’s definitely a transition year,” said Winebrunner, who has a 65-34 record at Westminster. “The starters that are back are strong, but we’ll be running six sophomores and juniors out there every day. We may have two freshmen on the team as well. The fact that they are young and we can teach them is exciting for us.”
Winebrunner will build his pitching staff around senior right-hander Justin Cotter, who went 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA last year and struck out 18 batters in 37 innings while yielding 38 hits.
He was working behind two hurlers, Justin Buberl (4-2, 4.41 ERA) and Brandon Martin (5-0, 3.81) who graduated, in the team’s starting rotation. Both Martin (Fordam University) and Buberl (Waynesburg) are now pitching in college.
“He throws strikes and lets the defense play behind him,” Winebrunner said of Cotter, who has an effective three-pitch repertoire, including a fastball, curveball and change-up. “He doesn’t let his pitching counts get really high early in games. If the defense plays well behind Justin, he should do well again this year.”
Westminster did well last spring, going 11-3 against county opponents and defeating Francis Scott Key in the Carroll County Athletic League championship game. Westminster, FSK (15-6), and Century (11-8) were the only county teams to finish above .500.
Cotter, a three-year varsity player, spent the offseason training with the idea that he could develop into be the team’s No. 1 pitcher.
“I felt the need to lead the staff, and show them how to pitch deep into games,” Cotter said. “I worked on my control and location of my pitches. I feel I am throwing strikes more consistently.”
Junior right-hander Billy Scanlon figures to be another one of the team’s top starters. He’s a control-type pitcher like Cotter, Winebrunner said.
“We like to say we have an ace every year,” Westminster assistant coach Jesse Barnes said. “I would put him as the ace for next year for sure. I would say he and Cotter will share it this year.”
Sophomores Ryan Clatterbuck and Jake Sell, freshman Connor Thompson, and Mills will supply the rest of the pitching.
“With the new pitching rules, I am trying to find a few extra arms,” Winebrunner said of a new national rule that the state has adopted and it uses the number of pitches to determine how often a hurler can throw.
Whoever stands on the mound, should have a solid outfield defense behind them.
Price, who batted .364 last year with four doubles and 11 RBIs, spearheads an outfield that also features Clatterbuck and junior Nick Henneman.
“We have a lot of speed in the outfield,” Winebrunner said. “They can definitely go get the ball. They all have above-average arms as well.”
Mills., who hit .372 last year, should get infield help from Cotter (3B), Scanlon (3B), Sell (2B), senior Josh Kosmicki (C), and junior Josh Saltz (SS).
“I think they are pretty sound defensively,” Winebrunner said. “The middle infield is new. They are working on communication. Skill, it’s there. I just think it will take just a little while to jell together, but they are progressing.”
Cotter foresees having at least a winning season.
“We have a lot of new guys, but they are good players,” he said. “We want to show we are same Westminster team we have always been. We are always hanging out together so we have the chemistry. I think that plays a big part in having a good season.”