When a varsity program like Severna Park baseball has been to the state championship game eight times, and has won three of them, it rightly earns the headlines and accolades it receives. But the road to the championship doesn’t start in the 11th grade; it starts the moment a player dreams of wearing a Falcons jersey.
Just outside of the spotlight but no less dominant, the Severna Park junior varsity baseball team, under the longtime leadership of head coach Dave Ferris, went 17-1 during the spring 2022 season. Their only loss came in the junior varsity county championship game against Arundel. The fact that four sophomores (Angel Santiago-Cruz, Kody Phillips, Sean Williams and Nathan Murphy) were pulled up to bolster the varsity roster before their season even began had little effect on the heavy hitting and strong defensive junior varsity team.
Additionally, sophomores Liam Cleary and Matt Dove were called up to varsity during that team’s playoff run to the state championship game on May 28.
Under Ferris, the junior varsity team dominated its Anne Arundel opponents. In 18 games, the junior Falcons outscored their opponents 205 to 69. Half of their games ended by slaughter rule — when a team is winning by 10 or more runs by the fifth inning, the game is ended. The team batting average was .347, and their on-base percentage was .487. When a team collectively will get a clean hit 35 percent of the time and will put a runner on base nearly 50 percent of the time, they are going to be dangerous.
“I dare to say no other high school program in the county has the JV and varsity success we’ve had at Severna Park,” Ferris said.
In Ferris’ 23 years as head coach of the junior varsity team, his teams have never finished under .500 on a season. His overall JV win-loss record is a staggering 317-70.
For the sophomores playing their second season under Ferris this year, the loss to Arundel in the county championship game was the first time they experienced a loss in two seasons.
Under the exceptional leadership of its captains, sophomores Cleary, Nick DiNunzio and Jackson O’Brien, the team played smart and aggressive baseball at the plate, on the bases and in the field. Dove led all hitters with a .543 batting average, safely making it on base 63 percent of the time he took to the plate. Cleary’s batting average was .500 and Ferris believes him to be one of the better center fielders in the county. The team’s fielding percentage was an exceptional .939.
“We had a ton of pitching,” said Ferris, noting that 11 of his 19 players were pitchers in either their primary or secondary position. Led by freshman Dylan Grice and sophomore Joey Tomar, the team’s earned run average (ERA) was 2.45.
“Dylan Grice was an outstanding freshman pitcher who threw a complete [game] no-hitter against Broadneck, which was his very first high school game,” Ferris said. “Sophomore Zach Lundfelt was also solid on the mound.”
Ferris added that Charlie Hartman was an outstanding freshman who batted .404 and was a solid shortstop and pitcher. Freshman Benji Beisler earned a spot in the starting lineup and batted over .300. Sophomore Brendan Vaught was a consistent .280 hitter.
“Our middle infield was outstanding with Charlie Hartman at shortstop and Nick DiNunzio at second,” Ferris said. “Matt Dove was a solid catcher and a powerful, reliable hitter. We had depth at every position and confident hitters up and down the lineup.”
Not all the team’s games were easy. In a regular season meeting against Arundel, the Falcons found themselves down 1-5, battled back to tie the game late, and ultimately won the game with aggressive baserunning.
“Both teams were making plays, back and forth,” Ferris said. “We had to do something aggressive, something different, to earn the win. I was proud of the boys for how they never let up.”
Other season highlights were in the annual Easter tournament hosted by Severna Park. First, the Falcons defeated a strong Northeast team with a couple instrumental pick-off plays, sending them into the championship game against an aways strong Archbishop Spalding team. In that tournament championship, the Falcons were leading the Cavaliers 5-2 when poor weather forced the cancellation of the game.
Make no mistake, the JV team is important to keep the talent pipeline open and successfully moving forward to varsity.
“I really enjoy the kids at this level. I can still teach. I can still instruct. And that’s very important,” Ferris said. “The big picture at the JV level is to develop kids for varsity. My satisfaction comes in not only being competitive at the JV level but seeing these same kids mature and develop into integral parts of eight state appearances in eight state championship teams, three of which we won, and two included my own son, Andrew.”
Ferris, a county All-Star center fielder at Northeast High School, was a part of that school’s 1975 state championship team. After an outstanding high school career, Ferris played for University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) for four years. With his playing days behind him, Ferris continues to umpire baseball games in the county and to train umpires. But his greatest satisfaction is coaching.
Ferris said he loved his time coaching at the 11- and 12-year-old-level, a time when kids really learn the game. He believes the Green Hornets’ (Greater Severna Park Athletic Association) coaches continue to prepare players for high school.
“Green Hornets is a tremendous feeder program. As that league’s travel director, I pay attention to the teams coming up, try to attend many of the games of seventh- and eighth-graders, assist in some practices and their tryouts, give feedback and instruction,” Ferris said. “When players enter high school, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They come to tryouts with skills needed to make contributions and ensure Severna Park’s future success.”
Severna Park JV baseball’s 19-player roster included sophomores Dove, Cleary, O’Brien, DiNunzio, Matthew Smith, Vaught, Tomar, Daniel Lynn, and Chase Raino. Freshmen included Kasey Turnock, Hartman, Vince Nuygen, Adam Clark, Beisler, Ethan Dillon, Grice, Ryan Jamison and Ryder Halloran.
Cam Stevenson, who played for Ferris and was part of Severna Park’s 2009 state championship team, was a first-year assistant coach. Freshman Jake Allen served as team manager.