By: Evan Blair, Operations Intern
Opening Day is around the corner for The Potomac League, at newly built Capital One Park. The summer collegiate league starts on Monday, June 19th, and features some of the most talented players in the D.C. area.
This year is special. Why? The collegiate league, formerly known as the NVCL (Northern Virginia College League), has moved to a new, singular site, Capital One Park. The park features an all-turf playing surface (except the pitcher’s mound), ballpark seating and stands, batting cages, bullpens, concessions, and, for the parents, beer sales. Players will be announced, music will be playing, and there are many prizes to be won along the way. The league not only features great players, but a fun experience for all.
On the baseball side, the league has been competitive from its start back in 2020. With three different winners in as many seasons, the league has shown to be exciting and full of talent. This year, the Hot Wings look to defend their title as champions, while the Chili Dogs are looking for a run similar to that in 2021 when they took home the trophy. Key players on the Hot Wings include Jake Slade and Eli Novario. Slade, committed to play baseball at Virginia Tech, showed off his D1 talents in preseason games – stealing bases, hitting hard line drives, playing clean defense, and consistently sitting at 90 MPH on the mound. Novario, who recently won a state title with the Madison Warhawks, is committed to play at Christopher Newport University, a D3 powerhouse. Novario, a two-way player at Madison High School, came through in the 6A state championship game with an RBI triple to put them ahead of Westfield in the top of the 7th inning. The Hot Wings are hopeful that these two key players will put them ahead of the pack this summer.
The Chili Dogs look to regain their championship form of 2021, with the help of a few of their own key players, Carson Estridge and Josh Gjormand. Estridge, who just finished his freshman year at West Virginia, had 35 strikeouts in 25.1 innings on the mound, consistently sitting 90+ MPH. The Chili Dogs will count on the big righty to lead their team in pitching this summer. Gjormand, the starting first baseman for D3 national champions, Lynchburg, will also play a key role this summer. Gjormand sustained an ankle injury in his conference tournament, sidelining him for the remainder of the post-season run. Gjormand will look to bounce back from the injury and continue where he left off, hitting .392 AVG with 51 RBI’s. Unfortunately for the Chili Dogs, another of their top draft picks will be on the IL for the season – Campbell Charneco. Charneco in his sophomore season at Washington and Lee University hit for an average of .389 and an OPS over 1.000. To win a championship, the Chili Dogs will need the bottom of the order to do some heavy lifting.
A few other players are going to be important to their teams’ success this season at Capital One Park. For the Gators, Kelly Crittenberger and Ryan Bhojwani will need to lead the team this year. Bhojwani is a talented middle infielder, who has a year’s experience at the D1 level for William and Mary. Crittenberger, who is committed to Northwestern, will be the team’s top hitting prospect going into the season. The two key players are backed up by an impressive roster who are going to be fighting hard for a championship. The Gators are the leagues most talented team on paper with multiple D1 players and high-level D3 talent.
Next up are the Bunt Cakes. The great coaching staff and loaded lineup will contribute to the Bunt Cakes’ success. Their two young stars, Marcus LeClair and Chris Morabito, were high school standouts this past year. Respectively, the Virginia Tech and Bucknell commits look to lead the Bunt Cakes in hitting and infield defense. LeClair, a two-way star, was named a First Team All-WCAC player, and led his Gonzaga Eagles to the WCAC championship game. Along with LeClair, Morabito will lead the team in hitting. He was a First Team All-Region player for McLean High School. The Bunt Cakes are a young team who will play with energy and speed around the basepaths.
The final two teams in the league are the Rough Riders and the Red Foxes. Each have their own amazing players. For the Rough Riders, Cole Snead will lead the team on the mound. Snead, a rising Senior at Randolph-Macon, had a 3.38 ERA this season and will look to continue his success in The Potomac League. For the Red Foxes, Hank Lippman will be key for the team to lock-up a successful season. Lippman, a William and Mary commit, and 90 MPH right-hander looks to be the Red Foxes ace this summer.
Overall, the league has incredible talent, who are very motivated to bring home a championship to their respective teams.
All considered, let’s look at my prediction for the season standings and champion, who will be crowned on July 29th:
1st: Gators (Champions)
2nd: Hot Wings
3rd: Bunt Cakes
4th: Chili Dogs
5th: Red Foxes
6th: Rough Riders
7th: Yard Dogs
Capital One Park will not only host one of the most exciting summer leagues in the country, but many events, games, and theme-nights as well. Be on the lookout for those experiences and get ready for a great season!
Make sure to look for upcoming articles including player interviews, more about Capital One Park, and updates about events and games!