Preseason hype doesn't mean much, so now it's time for these teams — and others that missed the cut — to prove their worth on the field. Let us know your thoughts on the rankings @USATODAYhss.
1. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.) – (30-5)
If pitching is all-important in high school baseball, the Dons are in good position with five Division I-bound aces – LHP Stephen Gonsalves (9-2, 1.91 ERA), RHP Michael Martin (7-2, 0.90 ERA), LHP Brady Aiken (6-1, 1.32 ERA), RHP Alex Schick (4-1, 1.04 ERA) and LHP Andrew Wright (2-0, 0.75 ERA). Cathedral won the San Diego Section Division III championship last year and returns every pitcher who recorded a win.
2. American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) – (27-4)
The reigning Class 5A state champions have eight returnees, including six Division I recruits. Top players include C Zachary Collins (.443, 31 RBI), INF Danny Zardon (.419, 28 RBI), INF-OF Brandon Diaz (.386, 22 RBI) and RHP Shaun Anderson (5-1, 0.87).
3. Cypress Ranch (Cypress, Texas) – (32-8)
The Mustangs won the 5A state title last year and return six starters (two pitchers and four position players). RHP/CF Corbin Martin, who was the MVP of the state finals, leads the returnees. C/1B Derek Dickerson, OF Dalton Stark and P/1B Zach Brosch (8-0) also key returnees.
4. Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.) – (29-2)
The Tigers graduated RHP Lance McCullers, the 2012 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year, but return seven starters from a team that reached the 5A state semfinals last spring. North Carolina signees RHP/SS Spencer Trayner (6-0, 0.69 ERA) and RHP/C Adrian Chacon (.342, 27 RBI) are among the top returnees. Vincent Miniet (.429) is a solid hitter at third base. Also returning is RHP/1B Daniel Portales, who has signed with South Florida, and Vanderbilt signee John Kilichowski, a hard-throwing LHP who had a 0.83 ERA a year ago.
5. Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) – (23-9)
1B Cody Bellinger (.447, 31 RBI), who has signed with Oregon, leads a powerful squad that looks to rebound from a nine-loss 2012 season. RHP Sean Rackoski (6-1, 1.24), who has signed with Kansas, is the top returning pitcher. The Huskies will rely heavily on C Kyle Pechloff (.333) and OF Skyler Palermo (.327).
6. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) – (27-9)
The Rams have eight starters back from a state Final Four team. Left-handed CF Austin Meadows (.390, 28 RBI, 19 SB), who has signed with Clemson, is considered the top player in the state. Kennesaw State recruit P/OF/1B Taylor Allum (.340, 26 RBI), along with P/OF Chris Erwin (.364, 25 runs) and 2B Jeril Dawson (.441, 39 runs), give the team plenty of offense.
7. Lexington, S.C. – (27-4)
The Wildcats have six returning starters, led by C Nick Ciuffo (.353, 18 RBI), who signed with South Carolina four years after committing to the Gamecocks. The Wildcats also have two tough LHPs who have signed with South Carolina: Josh Reagan (7-0, 1.02) and Cole McMillan (6-1, 2.24).
8. Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) – (31-6)
The two-time defending Georgia 5A champions return five position starters and two pitchers, led by OF/LHP Josh Hart (.373, 44 runs, 19 RBI, 30 steals), who has committed to Georgia Tech. Junior LHP Mac Marshall is the team’s ace and much is expected from junior LHP Jordan Kelly. The Panthers have several other D-1 players, including OF/RHP Ryan Blanton (.319), a Georgia State commit, and Georgia recruits C/1B/RHP Jarrett Freeland (.340) and 3B/2B Rob Youngblood (.303).
9. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) – (24-6)
The Monarchs made the CIF semifinals and bring back two All-CIF players who have signed with Southern Cal: C Jeremy Martinez hit .387 for Team USA’s U18 team in the Pan American Championships and 3B Ryan McMahon (.353), a senior who also played quarterback. Oregon signee OF Austin Grebeck (.262) was All-Trinity League and sophomore SS Brandon Perez has said he plans to sign with Oregon.
10. Spruce Creek (Port Orange, Fla.) – (28-4)
The Hawks won the Florida 8A title last season and bring back nine starters. The team’s ace, RHP Kyle Marsh (11-0, 0.31 ERA) is back, along with RHP Chris Hopkins (35 strikeouts in 31 innings), RHP Griffin Fuller (0.99, 55 strikeouts in 67.1 innings), OF Austin Hays (.361, 24 RBI) and OF Zach Spivey (.330, 21 SB). The Hawks also got a key transfer in RHP Gage Hutchinson (1.99 ERA) from DeLand.
11. Campolindo (Moraga, Calif.) – (23-4-1)
The Cougars are looking to win their fourth consecutive North Coast Section Div. II title behind a trio of returning All-State players: LHP/1B Trent Shelton, who has signed with Oregon State; INF Robbie Tenerowicz, who has signed with California and OF Brett Stephens, who is headed to UCLA.
12. Dulles, Sugar Land, Texas – (27-10)
The Vikings have made it to the playoffs for five consecutive years and return seven starters. The leaders: OF Darryn Sheppard (.410, 33 RBI, 7 HR), a Baylor signee; RHP Dakota Mills (7-2, 0.66, 83 strikeouts in 53 innings), a West Virginia signee; RHP Nick Hernandez (7-0, 0.77, 62 strikeouts); and Princeton-bound 1B Zack Belski (.367, 29 RBI).
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13. Oak Grove (Hattiesburg, Miss.) – (34-3)
The reigning 6A state champions are having to scramble after a tornado destroyed the Warriors’ baseball field. LHP Kirk McCarty and RHP Taylor Braley, two juniors with Div. I offers, and RHP/OF/1B John Carter Sanner, give Oak Grove plenty of returning talent.
14. Farragut (Knoxville, Tenn.) – (37-9)
The Admirals return eight starters and 11 seniors from a squad that advanced to the third round of the state AAA playoffs. Kyle Serrano (4-0, 2.40), son of Tennessee baseball coach Dave Serrano, is the No. 1 pitcher. INF Nick Senzel (.404, 46 RBI), a Georgia commit, made the All-State team last season. OF Cameron “Jammer” Strickland, like Serrano, a Tennessee commit, was an All-Region player. Anthony El Chibani, who hit .330 with 22 stolen bases in 2011, is back after missing last season for disciplinary reasons.
15. Jenks, Okla. – (28-14)
The Trojans reached the state quarterfinals last season and return 14 players who saw regular time. INF Trey Michalczewski (.397, 37 RBI), a Oklahoma signee and RHP Thomas Hatch (7-2, 64 Ks), an Oklahoma State signee, are the top returnees.
16. Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.) – (24-3)
The Bruins return eight starters from the 5A state championship team, led by RHP/1B Derik Beauprez (.349, five HR, 25 RBI as hitter, 3-1, 2.62 ERA, 30 strikeouts in 24 innings as pitcher), who has signed with Miami and RHP/3B Griffin Jax (.404, 6 HR, 38 RBI as hitter, 2.15 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 42.1 innings as pitcher), who has signed with Air Force. The Bruins have two more Division I players in C Lane Milligan (.400, 19 RBI, 10 SB), who has signed with New Mexico, and RHP Dimitri Casas (6-0, 0.68).
17. Gloucester Catholic (Gloucester City, N.J.) – (28-4)
The Rams have plenty of pitching returning and are looking for their fourth consecutive state title, but they lost all but one infielder to graduation and have a new coach in Mike Rucci. Ace Mike Shawaryn (2-0, 2.80) sat out much of last season, but is healthy now and John Murphy (7-2, 47 strikeouts in 60 innings), Steve Mondile (4-0, 1.38 ERA), Mike Mercer (3-0, 0.94) and Dante Scafidi (3-0, 1.67) give the team a solid staff. OF Giovanni Gussen (.455, 14 SB) and C Frank Ragozzino (.441) are also key returnees.
18. T.C. Roberson (Asheville, N.C.) – (26-3)
The Rams have a big group of Division I talent, led by 1B-OF-LHP Braxton Davidson, who has committed to North Carolina, RHP-C Parker Johnson, who has signed with Wake Forest and C Dominick Cammarata, who has committed to Georgia.
19. Fairhope, Ala. – (38-8)
Class 6A runner-up has a solid staff in RHP Beecher Faust (4-1, 1.48), RHP-INF Hunter Ellenburg (2.73 ERA as pitcher, hit .329 with 29 RBI) and RHP Corey Childress. Catcher Jerrod Hathcock (.381, 44 RBI) and outfielder Cole Wainwright (.303) add punch to the lineup.
20. Riverdale Baptist School (Upper Marlboro, Md.) – (35-5)
OF Matt McPherson (67 stolen bases), a Miami signee, leads a group of six returning starters for the Crusaders. RHP Chase Brewis (0.55 ERA, 48 strikeouts in 28 innings), who has signed with Maryland and junior P Taylor Bloom (11-0) are back, along with C-RHP Andrew Sharpe. Two transfers from St. John’s (Washington, D.C.), Troy White and Brody Cook, could contribute immediately.
21. Vista, Calif. – (31-4)
The defending San Diego CIF section Div. I champion returns three quality pitchers in LHP-DH Brett Seeburger (10-1, 0.65 ERA), RHP Austin Ott (7-1, 1.85 ERA) and RHP-OF Billy Roth (9-1, 0.92 ERA). SS Zack Mann (.340, 20 RBI) is another top prospect.
22. Agoura (Agoura Hills, Calif.) – (23-5-1)
In addition to unofficial mascot Smokey the Hawk, seven starters return, led by RHP-SS Tyler Cohen (0.79 ERA), who is headed to Loyola Marymount, Washington signee LHP Henry Baker and RHP Andy Sondreaal. C-1B Albee Weiss (.386, 26 RBI and Bryce Fehmel (.322) are also key returnees.
23. The Woodlands, Texas – (24-9)
The Highlanders have five players who signed in the fall with Div. I programs: RHP-3B Carter Hope (Oklahoma State), RHP Brandon Miles (Houston), Alex Dunlap (Stanford), Charlie Warren (Rice) and Ryan Burnett (TCU).
24. Elk Grove, Calif. – (20-9)
1B/OF Ryan “Rowdy” Tellez, who has signed with Southern Cal and hit a whopping .568 with 47 RBI, leads the team’s potent attack. UCLA commit SS/C Dom Nunez (.429, 28 RBI); RHP David Smith (6-0, 1.03 ERA) , OF Derek Hill, who is on USA Baseball’s 17U development team and 2B/SS Nick Madrigal, who played for USA Baseball U15 national team, also return.
25. Carlsbad, N.M. – (24-5)
The reigning 5A champion Cavemen return nine starters, led by RHP Caleb Prentiss (11-0, 1.95 ERA), 3B Brandon Slate (.376, 37 RBI) and C Zach Hinojos (.384, 23 RBI).