The Indianapolis area is rich in baseball talent this year, with several area players already committed to top collegiate programs who also have the potential to be drafted high this summer in the Major League Baseball draft.
Their respective teams should reap the benefits, as a number of area programs may be in the mix for a deep tournament run that could end this June with a state title at Victory Field.
Noblesville looks to do it again after finishing last year as the Class 4A state champions with a 28-8 record. The Millers enter the season ranked third in 4A in the coaches’ poll and return a handful of starters, including pitchers Cory Conway (0.92 earned-run average, 48 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings pitched in 2014) and Dax McLochlin (4-0, 1.53 ERA), and infielder Vinny Essig (.300 batting average, six home runs).
Pitching will be key, in addition to how the team handles last year’s success, coach Justin Keever said. The Millers, who play what he calls “the toughest schedule in the state, open their season Monday at home against New Castle.
“Experience is always good, but dealing with success is oftentimes harder than dealing with failure,” Keever said. “I believe our experienced guys are extremely hungry to get back and our inexperienced guys are very excited to be a part of this program.”
Just ahead of the Millers in the 4A preseason rankings is Cathedral, which sits at No. 2 behind Floyd Central. The Irish have many new faces after going 26-4 and winning a sectional title last year, but return senior pitching ace Ashe Russell, a Texas A&M commit who pro scouts project will be a high pick in the June MLB draft.
Brownsburg is ranked fourth in the state and returns a wealth of experience in five returning pitchers and six defensive starters, led by slugger Jacson McGowan (.537 avg., four HR, 28 RBI).
“This group, especially the seniors, has set some high expectations for themselves this season,” said Bulldogs coach Eric Mattingly.
Other teams to watch in 4A include No. 6 Zionsville and Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, Lawrence Central and Westfield, which all received votes in the preseason rankings. Ben Davis and Whiteland are both coming off sectional championships.
Lebanon enters the season ranked third in 3A. The Tigers lost seven seniors, including six starters from last year’s sectional champion that finished 25-4. Coach Rick Cosgray said he returns a nice mix of experience and newcomers who will be learning how to compete at the varsity level.
New Palestine also received votes in the preseason poll. The Dragons are coming off a semistate appearance last year, but lost their top four hitters to graduation. They present an intriguing lineup, though, with some senior leadership and returning sophomore Keegan Watson (.491, three HR as a freshman), and coach Shawn Lyons believes they can make another deep run.
Beech Grove is coming off a sectional championship and could be another 3A team to watch.
Ritter is ranked No. 8 in Class 2A and reached the semistate last year in 2A. Heritage Christian and Covenant Christian are both coming off sectional titles and should be in the mix again.
Lutheran, which earned votes in the Class A preseason poll, and Greenwood Christian figure to be the top area Class A schools again. Both programs won sectional titles last year.