By Angie Kozlowski

The Laurel High School (LHS) boys varsity baseball team started their Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association 4A postseason play by winning sole possession of the Prince George’s County Public School 4A Baseball Championship — a first since 1988 — by beating Frederick Douglass High School 14-3 on May 9. 

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The team gathers around coach Don Cleveland before their game against Urbana High School on May 23.
Photo Credit: Angie Kozlowski

The Spartans were co-champions in 2021 due to continued game and season modifications because of the pandemic. This year was back to being a regular season. 

The Spartans went on to win their third regional championship with victories over High Point (7-2) and then Duvall (4-1) in the finals. Fresh on heels of those victories, Laurel beat Eleanor Roosevelt (8-5) to advance to the state semifinals game, where they came in as the No. 4 seed and the 4A South Region 1 Champions for the third year in a row. 

Their run ended at the hands of top seed Urbana High School, who beat the Spartans 10-0 on May 23. Despite the loss, Laurel parents, family, friends and community members cheered loudly as the players left the field when the game ended. 

Darlene Bunkley cheered for her son, senior Ethan Bunkley, and smiled broadly as she shared details of his plans to attend Towson University next year to study information technology and cyber security. 

Senior catcher Victor Jovel also enjoyed the support of a large number of friends and family, including his mother, Cynthia Contreras, and Maika Contreras, his aunt. His mother Cynthia was proud of her son’s high school baseball career. “Victor played varsity all four years,” she said.

Freshman pitcher Chris Ross was on the mound for the Spartans in his first state semifinal game. His father Rod Ross said “Chris has been playing baseball since the age of 3, and he treats these [post season] games like just another game,” adding, “It’s been cool for him to have the support of the Laurel community.”

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Freshman pitcher Chris Ross on the mound.
Photo Credit: Angie Kozlowski

Cleveland, in wrapping up his team’s 2023 season, said his season highlight was the team’s April 22 comeback win over Bowie, who had beaten them in the first game of the year. Down 3 to 2 going into the seventh inning, the team scored three runs to take the game in a 5-3 victory. 

Cleveland had high praise for his top two pitchers: Jovel, who pitched the most innings and was catcher to Ross, who pitched and caught for Jovel. Cleveland further highlighted Bunkley, who was the team’s best hitter and scored the most runs, and the strong contributions from sophomore Aiden Lee, who had the most at bats, the most hits and best batting average as a first-year varsity player. 

The team will lose four seniors to graduation this year. “It won’t be easy to replace those four important players,” Cleveland said “With remaining players improving and playing summer and fall ball, we should be just fine,” he added.