If the future of the 2010 high school baseball season is written in the stars, as in star players, look for DODDS-Europe’s second campaign to be a near-carbon copy of its inaugural season.

Nine of last season’s 12 All-Europe first-teamers return for the new season, which begins this weekend. And in a remarkable show of stability for the European school system, where families are constantly moving, the reason two of the three aren’t returning is because they graduated, not because they relocated.

Unfortunately for Lakenheath, one player who did relocate is pitcher-shortstop Cavan Cohoes, a junior who batted .419 as well as anchoring the Lancers’ pitching staff last year. He transferred to Patch and thereby made the Panthers instant challengers to the defending Division I and yet-to-be-beaten Ramstein Royals.

Cohoes joins fellow All-European Justin Phelps, who compiled a 3.13 ERA in tossing three shutouts and a no-hitter in 2009 for Patch, to form the best 1-2 pitching punch in Europe.

Patch coach Drake Marbury said Phelps, who batted .533 with an .894 slugging percentage, and fellow seniors P.J. Redmond and Ryan Brady can contribute to the team’s success without a bat or ball in their hands.

"Our senior leadership will play a key role in our success this season," he said in an e-mail.

For all that, however, Marbury indicated Ramstein, 16-0 in official DODDS-Europe baseball, should be regarded as the D-I favorite. The Royals return D-I MVP Matt McDonald, a senior pitcher-shortstop who batted .635 and struck out 30 batters in 13 innings last season. He’ll again be supported by All-Europe third baseman Josh Sloan, a sure-handed junior who batted .556 in ’09.

In addition to fielding six other ’09 veterans, Ramstein coach Glenn Porter likes the looks of two brothers who transferred in from Alaska — junior infielder Drew and sophomore catcher Jon Grotelueschen, who apparently brought their sticks with them.

"Team batting should be a Ramstein strength this season," Porter said in an e-mail last week.

Also figuring in the D-I race should be Vilseck, which welcomes back All-Europe seniors Kyle Krajcovic, a pitcher, and catcher-infielder-outfielder Tyler Hall.

Krajcovic defeated Phelps in a showdown game last year and one-hit Ramstein, while Hall batted .488 in helping the Falcons to 13 victories.

Heidelberg, according to coach Tom Davenport, returns just four starters, but one of them is All-Europe pitcher Jamal Pope, a 6-3, 230-pound senior who combines power at the plate with his mound prowess. Pope, according to Davenport, is attracting attention from colleges and the pros as he enters his final year.

Among the non-Division I schools, defending D-II champion Bitburg suffered a major blow when an injury to the pitching arm of All-Europe second-team closer Matt Less knocked him out of his senior season. Naples should contend in D-II in spite of losing six ’09 starters. One big reason: All-Europe second-team pitcher-catcher Logan Porchie, who struck out 78 batters in eight games while batting .475 right-handed and .600 left-handed, according to coach Duke Marlow.

While defending small schools champion AFNORTH lost strikeout artist E.J. Ruiz, Vicenza, the small schools runners-up, looks to be strong again. It will be led by Jack Buffington, a pitcher-catcher-third baseman who batted .572 and compiled a 1.98 ERA. Perennial small schools power Rota can count on All-Europe mound ace Cameron Henry. Henry, who batted .556 last season, pitched two scoreless innings last Saturday against a touring Spanish men’s team that otherwise battered their teen-age opposition in an exhibition doubleheader.

Weather permitting, AFNORTH and Lakenheath will get the season started Friday at Lakenheath. Six doubleheaders Saturday will keep the ball rolling.

The European championships are scheduled for May 27-29 at Ramstein and Kaiserslautern.

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