BRANDYWINE – Battling winds as high as 12 miles per hour, Adonis Escano did not wait long to find the perfect pitch. The senior captain for the Northwestern High School baseball team smacked a line drive hit straight toward the center field wall during a preseason scrimmage at Gwynn Park High School on March 16. […]
BRANDYWINE – Battling winds as high as 12 miles per hour, Adonis Escano did not wait long to find the perfect pitch. The senior captain for the Northwestern High School baseball team smacked a line drive hit straight toward the center field wall during a preseason scrimmage at Gwynn Park High School on March 16. Escano flew out of the batter’s box, leaving a trail of dust with each step, before sliding safely into third base.
“When I know it is my pitch, it slows down in my mind. So I got both hands on it and hit it into center field,” Escano said. “I was checking his timing before my at-bat, and when I saw (the pitch) come out of his hands, I just knew I was going to hit it straight down the middle.”
Plays like Escano’s triple, which brought in a run, will be crucial for the Wildcats this year.
Despite finishing the 2017 regular season with an 11-4 record, the Wildcats lost to No. 2 seed Parkdale 17-1 in the second round of the state playoffs. With more pitching depth and veteran experience, the Wildcats hope to continue a third straight year of improvements to become a competitive ball club within the county.
Heading into his third season as head coach, Joe Woodring has rebuilt the baseball program with a three-game improvement between seasons and progressing further each year in the state playoffs. Now, with three senior captains and seven returning juniors, Northwestern is building depth throughout the field with battle-tested players.
The return of key players allows Northwestern to continue their offensive output that combined for a .552 on-base percentage with 125 of their 174 runs batted in. Northwestern displayed its hitting production in the Gwynn Park scrimmage, scoring 17 runs in four innings to win 18-9.
One of those leaders offensively is Escano. The senior shortstop, who also plays as a pitcher, had three hits and two RBI in the scrimmage victory. Last year, Escano led his team in hits, runs, doubles, home runs and RBI.
While Escano’s future is set after announcing his commitment to the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville, he wants to set a standard with the underclassmen on how to stay offensively constant.
“The team goal for me this year is for everyone to get on base and not to worry about hitting,” Escano said. “We need to continue working on routine stuff; we always can make miracle plays, but on routine stuff, we keep messing up. But, give us a few weeks, and we should ready.”
Meanwhile, senior Eric Weaver will play his third season as captain while being one of the team’s leading pitchers. After transferring from DeMatha as a sophomore, the right-hander has developed into a reliable starter, winning four games last year and leading the team in strikeouts (58) with a 4.20 ERA.
With juniors Kendri Mejia and Chris Johnson showing growth on the mound during the preseason, it will lessen the load off of Weaver, giving him opportunities to provide more noteworthy performances, Woodring said.
“Coming into this year, we are looking pretty good,” Weaver said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen and a really solid (starting line-up), so we hope to take it as far as we can this year and get past the second round.”
The scrimmage was the first of a three-game trip for Northwestern, which is playing their season opener against regional champions Eleanor Roosevelt on March 21, followed by a visit to Charles H. Flowers on March 22. They will return home to take on Suitland on March 24 in a matinee weekend game.
While Northwestern does not have a defined goal, their continued growth places them in prime position to cause damage to the status quo with the high school baseball elite.
Even with their quality and depth in talent, Woodring does not want his team to focus primarily on trying to qualify for the county championships or state playoff performances. Continuing to build pitching depth as the season progresses remains a priority while competing against county opponents.
“Going to (the county championship) is definitely a goal,” Woodring said. “But really, we need to focus on making sure we stay in the moment, focused on each game and that we don’t look past any opponents because when you look past them, you overestimate them. So, we need to stay focus on what is possible to achieve.”