By Matt Cohen
Photo taken by Matt Cohen
The Maryland high school playoff brackets were released on the morning of Tuesday, May 8. Teams all across the state are gearing up for what they hope to be a deep playoff run. The games begin on Thursday, May 10, and it all comes to an end at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland on Saturday, May 26.
Below is a preview as well as predictions for the entire 4A playoffs, as well as previews and predictions for 3A and 2A regions involving Montgomery County teams.
4A Playoffs Preview
The 4A West region is the only region made up entirely of Montgomery County teams. The number one overall seed in the region is Bethesda-Chevy Chase, with a record of 13-5. B-CC has caught fire in the second half of the season, to vault up to the number one seed. In the final game of the regular season, B-CC came back to defeat Quince Orchard 2-1, in a game that determined which team would have home field for the entire region tournament.
B-CC got off to a slow start, highlighted by blowing an 11-2 lead against Paint Branch. Since then, however, B-CC has been on a roll, winning nine of their last 10 games, highlighted by wins over Rockville, QO and Whitman. Thomas Baer and Hughes have both been excellent this season on the mound, making the Barons forget about the fact that ace James Springer has been out for weeks, and may not be back at all.
Whitman’s 10-0 loss to Damascus on the final day of the season dropped it down to the four seed in Section I. The Vikings will face Walter Johnson in round one. Walter Johnson eliminated Whitman in the playoffs last year, and the teams split their two regular season meetings this year.
Churchill has come back from a 0-4 start to the season, winning eight of their last 11 games to clinch the two seed. Churchill will face Kennedy in round one before likely meeting Einstein in round two. Round two will produce a Bethesda battle, as the winner of the Whitman/WJ game will face B-CC.
Wootton backed into the one seed in Section II on the final day of the regular season. Quince Orchard’s loss to B-CC gave them the same record as Wootton, and Wootton held the head to head tie breaker. The Patriots get a first round bye before facing the winner of Clarksburg and defending 4A state champ Northwest.
With a win over B-CC, Quince Orchard would have had the number one seed for the entire 4A West region, but the loss dropped it to the two seed instead. Quince Orchard also gets a bye before facing the winner of Gaithersburg, which has lost its early season momentum, and Richard Montgomery.
Ultimately, B-CC, Whitman, Wootton and QO are the only teams capable of winning what is an otherwise weak region. Because Whitman fell to the four seed, the Vikings and Barons will each likely be tested earlier than expected. Wootton and QO can’t face each other until the section championship game, but unless Northwest or Gaithersburg pulls an upset, that will likely be the matchup.
The winner of the 4A West region will face the winner of the 4A North region.
The 4A North region is made up of one good section, and one great section. The number one overall seed for the region are the 17-1 Sherwood Warriors of Montgomery County.
The good section is Section I, which has Dulaney as the one seed. Dulaney, a Baltimore County school, finished with a record of 14-2. The home field advantage Dulaney has as the one seed in their section could prove important, as they went undefeated at home this season. The two seed in the section is Howard, with a 15-5 record. Howard, a Howard County school, is the favorite in the section being the two seed. Howard’s schedule was more difficult than that of Dulaney.
Though the winner of Section I may not get much further than that, as they have to face the winner from the great section of this region, Section II. Section II features two teams with legitimate state title aspirations, the two likeliest teams on that half of the bracket to win it all: Sherwood and Urbana.
Sherwood is the one seed in the region at 17-1, while Urbana is the two seed in Section II, with a 14-4-1 record. Both teams are led by high major D1 commits. Sherwood’s junior first baseman, Michael Bouma, is committed to Maryland, while Urbana’s senior pitcher, Trey Lipscomb, who is committed to Tennessee. Outside of potentially three seed Blair, which gave Sherwood a true test in the regular season, there isn’t a team in Section II that is strong enough to beat either Sherwood or Urbana. Those two teams will more than likely meet in the section championship game, which may serve as virtually the state semifinal game for that half of the bracket. The winner of the potential Sherwood vs Urbana game will more than likely win the 4A North, and will likely beat the winner of the 4A West in the state semifinals at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda, Maryland.
Like the 4A North region, the 4A East region features one section that has two teams with real state title hopes. That section is Section I, with top seed Arundel and two seed Severna Park. Arundel and Severna Park are both strong contenders to bring home the state championship, with Arundel having been the preseason pick to win it all by Prep Baseball Maryland in the preseason. Arundel and Severna Park have split their regular season games this season. Severna Park eliminated Arundel in the section final last year, and Severna Park went on to the state semifinals.
Ultimately, like the 4A North region, there isn’t really a team that can beat either of Arundel or Severna Park. The winner of the game when those two play will win the 4A West region, and, also like the other side of the bracket, that one section final may serve as the virtual state semifinal game.
Arundel’s offense has been led by Matt Hagemann, Moises Aristy, Noel Aristy and Garrett Standard. Arundel’s strong pitching staff is led by Will Schubert and Dan Ownby, while Champ Wert has had a great sophomore season on the mound.
Severna Park is led by Kody Milton who has yet another amazing season. Milton is hitting an insane .517, with five home runs and 19 RBI. The Falcons offense is one of the most potent in the state.
The all-Prince George’s County region is probably the weakest 4A region. CH Flowers and Bowie emerge as the biggest favorites, with Bowie having had the best overall record in Prince George’s County according to County Sports Zone. Many of the PG County teams sit around or below .500 this season, while Bowie and CH Flowers are the only two teams with really strong records.
CH Flowers is the one seed in Section II of the 4A South while Bowie is the three seed in that section. The two will likely meet in the section final, as Eleanor Roosevelt doesn’t have enough to take out Bowie this year.
4A Playoffs Predictions
Whitman will handle WJ in round one, setting up one of the more exciting second round matchups in the state, as B-CC and Whitman will face off. This game will virtually serve as the section final game. I personally am not a believer in this year’s Churchill team, and I think Einstein is more talented than them. Joey Curtin’s three pointer nearly gave Einstein a playoff win over Churchill in basketball before Reed Moshyedi bailed the Bulldogs out. Moshyedi is on the lacrosse field this spring, and won’t be able to help the Bulldogs beat Einstein this time.
B-CC will win a fun game against Whitman, and ultimately win Section I.
Wootton and QO will meet in the section final of Section II, despite the test Gaithersburg should give QO. I could see Northwest sneaking up and upsetting Wootton, but Wootton will win that game more likely than not. I predict QO will get its revenge against Wootton in the section final, and advance to play B-CC.
The Barons barely beat QO on the final day of the regular season, led by a gem from Brendan Hughes, the Barons third starting pitcher. B-CC has too deep of a rotation this year that it really doesn’t matter who they pitch against QO.
B-CC has gotten great offensive production from its seniors, six of whom are hitting above .300. Sebastian Mieses, Jamie Mills, Adwyn Viera and Drew Packs have all been great at the plate this season, and all have come up with clutch hits during this season. Kevin Dunne has been strong in a smaller sample size, hitting .464, and getting an important RBI against QO on May 7.
B-CC will beat QO in the region championship, and get to the state semifinals.
As mentioned earlier, the winner of the Sherwood versus Urbana game will win this region. Both teams get a first round bye, and relatively easy projected second round matchups, though again, Blair could pull an upset against Urbana. Ultimately, I believe both Sherwood and Urbana will take advantage of the bye to set up their rotations to have their aces, Ben Vok for Sherwood and Lipscomb for Urbana, throwing in that game. Ultimately, I believe the Sherwood offense is stronger than Urbana’s and will be enough to get by Lipscomb.
Bouma leads the way for the Warriors, hitting .500 with four home runs and 23 RBI. The Warriors have also gotten great offense from rising freshman star Jake Becker and designated hitter JP Yore.
Sherwood will beat Urbana, and blow past Howard on its way to Shirley Povich Field
Arundel and Severna Park will meet in the section final for Section I. Kody Milton is one of the best players in the state, though his Falcons don’t have the same firepower from a year before where they reached the state semifinals.
While Arundel lost a few key pieces form a year ago, they still have enough to make a deep playoff run. Their game against Severna Park will be one of the best games of the entire playoffs. Both teams have strong pitching and hitting. During the regular season, the two split their two matchups. Severna Park won a higher scoring game, 11-9, while Arundel won a game with stronger pitcher, 6-2. Arundel’s key to winning this game will be keeping it a pitchers duel, where they have an advantage, whereas Severna Park will want to get Milton and their high powered offense rolling. I believe Arundel will come out on top in this marquee game.
I believe Leonardtown will win a somewhat weak 4A East Section II, but they won’t be able to get past Arundel in the region championship game. Arundel will advance to the state semifinals.
In basketball the 4A South region was mostly crapshoot with so many talented teams. Wise and Roosevelt were the favorites in basketball, both with a potential to win a state championship. Bladensburg wound up being the surprise team to come out of the region.
The region will have just as much parity in baseball, though the talent level of the teams is not what it was during basketball season. Bowie and CH Flowers have easily the two best records in the region.
Bowie did beat CH Flowers 18-3 back in April. Bowie is 14-2-1 while CH Flowers is 13-3-3.
Bowie will beat CH Flowers yet again when they meet in the Section II final. Two seed Parkdale will come out of Section I, beating Bladensburg and one seed Northwestern.
Bowie will beat Parkdale in the region final, and advance to the state semifinals.
The matchups: #1 B-CC vs #1 Sherwood; #1 Arundel vs #3 Bowie
B-CC versus Sherwood is the more exciting of these two games. This will be the third time that B-CC and Sherwood have played each other this season. The Barons beat the Warriors in the state semifinals in the 2017 boys soccer playoffs, but on the diamond, the Warriors will come out on top.
Sherwood won one run games in each of the two regular season matchups between these two, winning 5-4 the first time and 7-6 the second. The two games between them were both battles from start to finish. The second game turned into a home run derby of sorts, as six were hit total in the game, three of them came from Bouma. Sherwood also was able to beat B-CC with two different pitchers, Trevor McCormick in the first game and Vok in the second, though Vok did have his worst game of the year against B-CC. While B-CC may have the stronger pitching staff, the Warriors have the stronger lineup, and they will beat B-CC for a third time in 2018, advancing to the state finals.
The Arundel versus Bowie game may not be as much of a nailbiter, as Arundel is a significantly better team. Arundel should cruise by Bowie and into the state title game.
The matchup: #1 Sherwood vs #1 Arundel
The 2018 4A state championship game will come down to Sherwood of Montgomery County and Arundel of Anne Arundel County. Sherwood and Arundel appear pretty evenly matched on paper. It’s hard to predict exactly how this game will pan out. It could just as easily be a pitchers duel as it could be a shootout. Ultimately, I think the Arundel pitching may be able to do just enough against Sherwood’s lineup, while their offense has a slight upper hand. Arundel will squeak past Sherwood, and bring home the state title.
2018 State Champion Pick: Arundel
3A Playoffs Preview/Predictions
The 3A West region is the only region in 3A featuring Montgomery County teams. Rockville is the region’s number overall season. Magruder, Watkins Mill and Blake are the other 3A Montgomery County baseball teams, all of whom are in Section I of the 3A West.
Rockville has emerged this season as a state title contender with a 14-2 regular season record. Rockville did have a strong playoff run last season, but didn’t have expectations to be this good this season. Rockville has wins over Sherwood, Damascus and Poolesville, and won the Montgomery County 3A/2A division. Behind a pitching combo of Chris Ribaudo and Matt McTighe, this is one of the stronger pitching staffs in the playoffs.
Rockville should cruise through Section I before likely facing Linganore in the region final. I predict Rockville will defeated Linganore in that game, and advance to the state semifinals.
2A Playoffs Preview/Prediction
The 2A West is the only 2A region with Montgomery County teams. Poolesville, is the defending 3A state champ, but was moved down to 2A this season.
Poolesville finds itself as the three seed in arguably the hardest section in the entire state. Some sections have two teams that could win the state title in them, but Section II of the 2A West has three.
Damascus is the one seed in the section, followed by two seed Walkersville and three seed Poolesville. All three of those teams legitimately could win the 2A state championship, but only one will even get out of the section. This is an incredibly brutal section.
Damascus should cruise to section final behind UMBC commit Ethan Wentzlaff and St. Mary’s commit Connor Manion. Poolesville and Walkersville will meet in round two. Poolesville has disappointed this season after returning the core of their 2017 state championship team. Ultimately, I predict their down year to end in Walkersville, as Old Dominion commit Jacob Wetzel, who, one could argue, is the best athlete in the state, leads the Lions past the the Falcons.
Walkersville will then meet Damascus, where Wetzel certainly will not have forgotten how his football season ended a few months before. Damascus got the better of Walkersville on the football field (yeah, yeah, I was at the game, I know about the missed call), and Damascus will get the better of Walkersville on the diamond. Damascus is just a little bit more talented than Walkersville.
Damascus will go on to defeat a strong Century team which will win Section I, and win the 2A West region.