Fri May 11, 2012
High powered offenses and impressive individual seasons highlight the top Class 3 teams that are favorites to bring home the coveted state championship.
Westminster (No. 1 seed in District 5)
Key wins: Lutheran South 3-0 and 2-0, John Burroughs 10-0 and 9-3
Coming off of last year’s Class 3 championship, the Westminster team of this season has not missed a beat and is the favorite to repeat as the Class 3 champions again this season. Of their three loses, only one was to a team in Missouri (while playing a Class 4 team), and have won nineteen in a row, in very convincing fashion. The high-powered offense has scored 215 runs and given up a microscopic 58. Westminster has scored in double digits fifteen times and pitched eight shutouts.
Offensively, senior OF Tate Matheny has been the heart and soul of this team. He has put together a season that will not be soon forgotten, batting .605 with six doubles, nine triples, nine homeruns, and thirty-eight RBIs. Matheny has established himself as one of the best hitters to ever come through Westminster.
To compliment Matheny, Westminster has a powerful offense, from top to bottom. Sophomore SS Shane Benes broke onto the scene this year, with a .400 batting average, eleven doubles, three triples, two homeruns, and a team leading thirty-nine RBIs. Senior 3B Luke Turner has also turned the corner this season, hitting .438 with ten doubles and twenty-six RBIs. Another sophomore, C Brett Bond cracked the starting lineup in his first season on varsity, and looks to be a fixture the next two years.
On the mound, Westminster is led by junior LHP Ben Lovell, who boasts a perfect 7-0 record and has given up only three earned runs over forty and two thirds innings, with a 0.52 ERA and fifty-four strikeouts. Lovell is not going to blow the ball by anyone, but is a master of control, hitting his spots and changing speeds with pinpoint command. Junior RHP Ben Mitchell has been effective as both a starter and reliever, with a 4-1 record and 1.88 ERA. His versatility has been a big boost to the Westminster pitching staff. Davis Vanderslice and Glen Colvin have also been consistent, with a combined record of 7-1.
Westminster has the makings of a championship team, with depth on the mound and at the plate. They can score runs in bunches and play solid defense, all ingredients to a championship team.
Key Players: Tate Matheny, Shane Benes, Luke Turner, Brett Bond, Ben Mitchell, Connor Einerston, Ben Lovell
Notre Dame (No. 1 seed n District 1)
Current Record: 18-4
Key Wins: Sikeston 10-9, Kennett 7-4, Helias 6-5
Notre Dame has been a picture of consistency over the past few years, routinely fielding some of the top players and teams in Southeast Missouri, and being the team that everyone loves to hate. Hate them or love them, one has to admit they know how to win.
Seniors Cody Heisserer and Jesse Schott are the heart and soul of this team, and provide the leadership that has been a staple of Notre Dame teams of the past. Heisserer has established himself as one of the top two-way players in the state. On the mound, when Heisserer is on his game, he is nearly un-hittable with a 5-0 record, sixty-one strikeouts and a 1.54 ERA in forty-five innings pitched. At the plate, Heisserer has been consistent from the clean up spot, hitting .381 with four home runs and twenty-four RBIs. Schott has provided power in the Notre Dame line up, blasting a team leading five homeruns to go along with six doubles, twenty-six RBIs and a .362 batting average.
To compliment Heisserer on the mound, Justin Landewee has stepped up his game, posting a 6-1 record with fifty-one strikeouts and a 2.58 ERA in forty and a third innings
Notre Dame has shown some venerability heading into districts, but there is no doubt that Coach Graviett will right the ship and have his squad in position to make an overdue trip to the Final Four.
Key Players: 1B/RHP Cody Heisserer, 3B Jesse Schott, RHP Justin Landewee, C Chase Simmons
Savannah (No. 1 seed in District 16)
Current Record: 18-4
Key Wins: Benton 4-2 and 1-0
Savannah was defeated in the Class 3 semi-finals last season, losing to eventual champions Westminster; and is primed for a long post season run. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them back in the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
Offensively, the Savannah Savages are led by the Wilt twins, Zane and Tyler. In what is no coincidence, the identical twins post identical batting averages of .389. I know, weird, but impressive. Tyler hold the edge in the power numbers, with six doubles, one triple, one homerun, and twenty-seven RBIs, while Zane has one double, one triple, a homerun, fifteen RBIs, and has scored twenty runs.
What really makes the Savannah squad tick, is player of the year candidate Blake McFadden. McFadden was one of the top pitchers in the state last season, and a catalyst to Savannah’s run has done it again this year on the mound. McFadden has a perfect 6-0 record, giving up only one run this season in thirty five and two thirds innings pitched, which equates to a 0.19 ERA. McFadden averages about two strikeouts an inning, fanning seventy-six on the season, and has allowed only nine hits.
If Savannah is going to make their run again this season, it will be on the shoulders of McFadden, who has the experience, mentality, and talent to lead, and have the support of the Wilts to come through and provide the complimentary pieces.
Key Players: Blake McFadden, Tyler Wilt, Zane Wilt
Logan-Rogersville (No. 1 seed in District 11)
Current Record: 20-5
Key Wins: Springfield Catholic 4-3
Logan-Rogersville has figured it out this year, a potent offense and depth on the pitching staff to propel themselves to a No. 1 seed in their district. As a team, Rogersville is hitting .372 with nineteen homeruns and has scored two hundred runs. According to coach Brad Lotz, this has been the best hitting team in school history, and the lofty numbers they have put up back that up.
Offensively, junior Evan Gruener has been on fire all season. He leads the team in all offensive categories and has separated himself as one of the top hitters in Southwest Missouri. His batting average is an impressive .507 with nine doubles, three triples, six homeruns, and twenty-two RBIs. Gruener has also swiped fifteen bases. Zach Hermana and Joe Young have also contributed to the offensive firepower. Herman has posted a .484 average with three homeruns and twenty-one RBIs, while Young is hitting .346 with four homeruns and nineteen RBIs. Other big contributors include Ethan Schlesener (.319 average), Tome Kirkland (.379 avg), and Justus Boever (.362 avg).
No slouches on the mound either, where their starters have combined for nineteen of twenty wins. The staff is led by Justus Boever and Justin King. Boever has a 5-1 record with a 1.31 ERA in thirty-seven and a third innings of work. He doesn’t strike many out, but throws strikes and know how to get batters out. King is the power pitcher to compliment Boever. He too has a 5-1 record with a 1.53 ERA in thirty-six and two thirds innings pitched, striking out forty-four batters
There is no doubt that Rogersville will get it done with their bats, but will the pitching be able to come through and lead them? The team has been in a bit of a late season funk, but the senior leadership of this team will not let this team go down without a fight.
Key Players: Evan Gruener, Zach Herman, Joe Young, Ethan Schlesener, Justus Boever, Justin King
Kennett (No. 2 seed in District 1)
Current Record 19-3
Key wins: Sikeston 4-3 and 3-1, Malden 7-0
The Bootheel Conference champions for the third year in a row have a veteran team who knows what it takes to make it to the Final Four. There aren’t many changes from last year’s team that made it to the state semi-finals for the first time in state history and if they can get out of their district, have a great chance at a return trip. With contributions from a few underclassmen, combined with veteran leadership, Kennett will be a force to be reckoned with the next few weeks
Seniors Daniel Lockhert, Adam Grantham and Justin Smith have led the team since the beginning of the season, mix in Logan Dollins (who missed the first few weeks due to injury) and Kennett has seemed to steamroll over all in their way. Junior Justin Smith and sophomores Tyson Campbell and Kevonte Mitchell fill out a starting line up that scored two hundred and two runs, averaging just over nine runs a game. Daniel Lockhert is getting player of the year consideration after posting a .522 average with ten doubles, two triples, three homeruns and twenty RBIs.
On the mound, there is no argument that Grantham is the ace of the staff and has found his niche as a pitcher. Grantham has a perfect game under his belt this season, and has given up only six earned runs, holding opponents to a .138 batting average and striking out fifty-six in thirty-five and a third innings.
With Grantham on the mound and the offense firing on all cylinders, there are not many teams that can stop the Kennett team. If the bats are quiet, they will have to rely on a pitching staff that has given up only seventy-seven runs. Kennett is hungry for a return trip to Springfield and send their talented senior class out with a championship.
Key players: Adam Grantham, Daniel Lockhert, Logan Dollins, Kevonte Mitchell, Tyson Campbell, Collin Smith, Justin Smith
Springfield Catholic (No. 2 seed in District 11)
Current Record 22-2
Key wins: Clever 5-1
Though a No. 2 seed, Springfield Catholic has been one of the most consistent teams all season and is looking for a return trip to the Final Four to play in front of a home crowd. According to Head Coach Jason Daugherty, “We have been hitting the ball better lately, and our pitching and defense have really been solid all year. The pitching depth that we have on this team is better than any team I have ever coached. “
“To win districts, we are going to have to go through the only two teams to have beaten us all year in Rogersville and Forsyth. Our quality wins include Republic, Parkview, Mt. Vernon, Cassville, Clever, West Plains, Lebanon, Mt. Grove, and Marshfield (three times). We finished 2nd in the conference behind Rogersville.”
Austin Tribby is the engine that makes Catholic run. On the mound, Tribby is undefeated with a 9-0 record and an amazing ninety-five strikeouts in fifty-six and a third innings (averaging just under twelve strikeouts per game). Tribby has been lights out, allowing only five earned runs and holding opponents to a .159 average. At the plate, Tribby is hitting .397 with a team leading four home runs and thirty-six RBIs
While Tribby has been a one man wrecking crew at times, there are other pieces of this team that make them championship caliber. Brayton Ballenger has been a menace on the bases, with twenty-eight stolen bases and thirty-six runs scored, with a .417 batting average. Jack Wolfe has posted a .630 batting average with seven doubles, one triple, and an On Base Percentage of .754 while Danny Richardson is hitting .403 and scoring twenty-four runs.
Tyler Ast has shown to be a very capable change of pace No. 2 pitcher. Not the power pitcher that Tribby is, Ast has complied a 6-1 record with a 2.83 ERA and only twenty-five strikeouts in forty-seven innings, and has been the beneficiary of great run support behind him. Tribby and Ast are the key one, two punch that has proved to be an important piece of championship teams in the past.
Key Players: Austin Tribby, Tyler Ast, Colin Shaughnessy, Dylan Love, Brayton Ballenger, Jack Wolfe, Danny Richardson
Upset minded teams to keep an eye on: Clayton, John Burroughs, Blair Oaks, Lutheran South