Preseason Countdown: No. 48 Highlands Ranch



By John Cackowski
State Director

Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the top 50 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage. The top 50 teams are picked from all classifications, and are not divided up by class level:

Team: Highlands Ranch
Preseason Rank:
48
2014 Record:
7-12
Conference:
Continental
 CHSAA Class: 5A
Head Coach:
Joe Gleason
Playoff Run: NA
2014 Final Rank: 70th

Returning Starters: 9
Returning Pitchers:
3

TOP PLAYERS
Nick Shumpert: No. 1 Ranked 2015, SS
Connor Helbling: C, 2015
John Mallon: 1B, 2015
Quinton Bonnell: RHP, 2015
Ryan Blackwood: RHP, 2015
Carter Motz: RHP, 2015
Blake LaPlante: OF, 2015
Andrew Liffrig: 1B/DH, 2015
Aaron Dammel: No. 19 2016, MIF

X-FACTOR:
Quinton Bonnell: 6-foot-4 senior pitcher who just recently committed to Garden City. Bonnell brings 2 years of varsity pitching experience to the Falcons, and they are going to have lean heavily on Bonnell to pitch quality innings to have success in the always tough Continental League. This fall Bonnell was reaching 84 mph with his fastball. Competes on the mound. Gets very good extention to the plate and has a square on delivery from high 3/4 arm slot. Throws a plus changeup at the high school level. Strike thrower. When he gets all three pitches over for strikes he has quick dominating performances on mound. 

NEWCOMER TO WATCH:
The Falcons have 4 underclassmen that have a chance to get some significant playing time this year. No. 4 ranked 2017 Paul Degracia, No. 19 ranked 2017 Bret Newman, No. 32 ranked Peyton McFadden, and junior Michael Forlenza.

KEY PLAYER LOST:
Luke Encrapera: Graduated

STAT RAT:
The Falcons will have 8 players going into 2015 with at least 2 full years of varsity playing experience already under their belt.

BOTTOM LINE:
First year head coach Joe Gleason leads a team that has 9 returning starters, which includes Nick Shumpert, the No. 1 Ranked 2015 player. Shumpert has all the physical talent to be in the discussion of "how high will he go" in the MLB Draft. The Falcons also return more innings of varsity experience then any team in our countdown. Last year the Falcons started off strong, only to be humbled when they reached tough Continental League play. If the Falcons can get quality competitive innings on the mound from three returning starters in Bonnell, Blackwood, and Motz, they can be a surprise team in 2015.

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