After ending an eight-year drought by winning the Seventh Region title last season, the Ballard High School baseball team has even greater expectations this season.
Most teams start the season dreaming about winning a state championship, but the Bruins appear to have the talent to do it.
“We’re obviously getting some attention and some notice with the talented players we have in the program … so I set (state championship) as a goal,” coach David Trager said. “But win, lose or draw, as long as we continue to do things like we’ve done them in the past I don’t think we’ll have a whole lot to regret.”
The Bruins have 11 seniors on the roster and return several talented players from last season’s team that finished 23-16-1 after falling to eventual champion West Jessamine in the first round of the state tournament. The Bruins are ranked No. 4 in the state in the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association’s preseason Top 20.
Leading the way are a pair of University of Louisville-bound players in middle infielder Jake Snider and pitcher/center fielder Jordon Adell. Snider, a senior, transferred to Ballard from Illinois before this season. Adell, a junior, hit .320 last season and is a two-time Under Armour All-American.
Other top players include senior pitcher Tyler Horsley (Murray State commit), senior pitcher/first baseman Haynes Routt, senior third baseman Broc Kuerzi, senior pitcher/third baseman Blake Frost and junior infielder Matt Lewis. Frost played at Ballard as a freshman and sophomore and transferred back after playing at North Oldham last season.
Here’s a look at other Louisville-area teams (note: several schools did not respond to requests for information):
* Beth Haven (2-10 last year) will look to improve behind sophomore pitcher Austin Streble, sophomore pitcher/catcher Hunter Judd and eighth-grade pitcher/infielder Dane Robertson.
* Bullitt East (22-16) saw its run of 11 straight district titles end last season but should be among the region’s top teams this season behind seniors Troy O’Brien (six home runs), Kyle McKinley (Brescia signee) and Garrett Wilson (Southern Indiana signee).
* Butler (21-10) will be led by a trio of seniors — pitcher Austin Semar (Bellarmine signee), pitcher/first baseman Zach Jones and outfielder Tyler Embry. Shortstop Austin Wise and catcher/pitcher Peyton Hood are top juniors.
* DeSales (23-12) lost 10 seniors off last season’s team that was the regional runner-up.
* Fern Creek (17-12) will rely on seniors Even Flener (.458, 39 RBIs) and Tyler Wilson (5-1, 1.98 ERA).
* Holy Cross (15-15) has five starters back from last season, including a pair of seniors in pitcher/infielder Zach Wegenast (Campbellsville commitment) and outfielder Eric Lukeas.
* Iroquois (0-4) has a new coach in Nick Guenther, who will try to build a foundation for the program behind pitcher/infielder Sean Broadway and pitcher/infielder Bilal Mamedov.
* Jeffersontown (16-14) reached the regional semifinals last season and is breaking in a new coach in Chris Lawson.
* North Bullitt (31-12) returns five starters from a team that won its second straight regional title last year. Senior pitcher/infielder Logan Wyatt has signed with U of L and is among the top candidates for Mr. Baseball. Senior center fielder Daulton Walls and senior pitcher/infielder Ryan Henson are other leaders.
* No. 13 Pleasure Ridge Park (27-10) will be led by senior pitcher/outfielder Tavian Dones, junior outfielder Tyler Burk and sophomore infielder Nick Rucker.
* Southern (21-11) has seven starters back, led by senior shortstop Andrew Emberton (.366, seven home runs), senior outfielder Blayne Kennon (.351), senior first baseman Kylar Corbett (.360) and junior outfielder Will Shelton (.303).
* Valley (10-18) looks to improve behind senior pitcher/infielder Cameron Bosley, junior catcher/pitcher Ethan Smith, junior pitcher/shortstop Jackson Whitaker, senior outfielder Tyler Williamson and senior outfielder Cole Cowen.
* Central (7-22 last year) has a new coach in Duane Berry, who will lean on senior first baseman Tommy Kron, junior second baseman Demani Dulaney, junior third baseman Layron Logan, junior designated hitter Keith Hackett and sophomore center fielder Luke Bowman.
* Eastern (14-18) should improve behind a strong pitching staff that features seniors Bailey Sutton (Western Kentucky signee) and Nick Eubanks and juniors Gavin Sullivan (U of L commit) and Kyle Nunn.
* Male (24-14) reached the regional semifinals last season and should contend again behind senior shortstop Slate Robinson (.330), senior pitcher Will Seewer (5-4, 2.50 ERA) and junior pitcher Jack Cameron (5-1, 3.00 ERA).
* Manual (17-14) expects to be strong offensively behind senior catcher Chris Gambert (.394), senior shortstop Matthew Olson (.319) and sophomore second baseman Aaron Sary (.469). The Crimsons lost all four starting pitchers from last season to graduation.
* No. 3 St. Xavier had its run of four straight regional titles snapped by Ballard last season but will be a tough out again this season. Senior pitchers Adam Elliott (4-2, 1.48) and Daniel Fischer (1-1, 3.11, 5 saves) both have signed with U of L. Senior catcher Dalton Dedas (Lincoln Memorial signee, .260, 14 RBIs) and senior infielder Nick Nelson (.305, 11 RBIs) are other top returners.
* Shawnee (1-9) will try to improve behind senior pitcher/outfielder Asa Powers and junior pitcher/outfielder Mike Faro.
* No. 11 Trinity (25-10-1) should be in the mix for the regional crown behind a strong pitching staff. Senior right-hander Brett Marshall (3-2, 2.00 ERA) has committed to Kentucky, and senior lefty Blake Harper (2-2, Louisburg Junior College) and junior lefty Brody Heil (6-2, 0.96) also are solid. Outfielders Matt Higgins (.382), Dalton Jones (.371) and Riley Willbur (.355) and second baseman Connor Carrico (.327) lead the offense.
* Waggener (14-15) has seven starters back, led by senior shortstop Evan Viers (.400), senior first baseman Jordan Marshall (.418), senior third baseman Ian Terry and junior pitcher/outfielder Jacob Frankel.
* Collins (25-12 last year) is the defending regional champion and has a new coach in Mike Hammond. He has one of the state’s top pitchers in senior Will McDonald (12-2, 1.20 ERA), who has signed with Asbury. Sophomore Robert Sproul returns after batting .311 last season.
* North Oldham (23-5) has one of the state’s top juniors in Cameron Masterman, who has committed to U of L. Senior first baseman Seth Hagan has committed to Centre.
* Oldham County (20-10) has 13 seniors on the roster, led by pitcher/infielder Griffin McLarty (College of Charleston), utility player Jaxon Lashley, pitcher/infielder Brennan Byrd and pitcher/infielder Jacob Bates.
* Shelby County (16-13) has a strong group of seniors led by pitcher/infielder Matthew Gammon, who has committed to Southeastern Illinois.
* South Oldham (17-18) was the regional runner-up last year and returns eight starters. Five have committed or signed with colleges — senior shortstop Brayden Sisson (Kaskaskia), senior pitcher Michael Higgins (Bellarmine), senior pitcher Dustin Cecil (Berea), junior catcher Tanner Johnson (Kentucky) and junior pitcher/first baseman Will Moriarty (Murray State).
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
* Defending state champion: West Jessamine.
* District tournaments: Start May 23.
* Regional tournaments: Start May 30.
* State tournament: June 9-18, Whitaker Bank Ballpark, Lexington.
* Top 20 (from Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association): 1. Lexington Catholic, 2. McCracken County, 3. St. Xavier, 4. Ballard, 5. Greenup County, 6. West Jessamine, 7. Bowling Green, 8. Elizabethtown, 9. Lafayette, 10. Beechwood, 11. Trinity, 12. Mercer County, 13. Pleasure Ridge Park, 14. Daviess County, 15. Christian County, 16. Central Hardin, 17. Meade County, 18. Highlands, 19. South Warren, 20. Madison Central.