By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
Coach: Brian Mitchell (6th season)
Last season: 18-22
Returning starters: Brett McCleary, Sr., C; Bryce Frantz, Sr., P; Dillon Africa, Sr., RF; Caleb Sass, Sr., SS; Joey Schnoebelen, Sr., INF.; Riley Renennitter, Sr., P; Travis Reyhons, Jr., INF/OF;
Other returning letterwinners: Zach Stone, Sr., C/P; Dylan Deshler, Sr., OF; Jack Roggeveen, Sr., OF; Machlen Polfliet, Sr., INF/P; Jim Geerdes, Sr., P/INF.
Newcomers to watch: Roman Villhaur, Jr., P/INF; Jacob Dykes, Jr., P/INF/OF; Mik Hook, Jr., OF; Quenton Max, Jr., INF/P; Cole Milder, Jr., OF; Levi Pugh, Jr., P/C/INF; Tanner Slauson, OF.
Headliner: Bryce Frantz established himself as a legitimate ace last season when he went 3-3 in nine starts with a 1.58 ERA in 53 1/3 innings. The senior lefthander struck out 50 and walked 16 last season.
Keep an eye on: A four-year starter senior catcher Brett McCleary is a candidate for a breakthrough season after batting .350 with 25 RBI last season.
Circle the date: June 8 vs. West High. The Little Hawks host the defending 4A runner-up Trojans in the first night of the annual home and home cross-town showdown.
Outlook: City High is poised to make a big jump this season with seven full time starters and nearly its entire pitching staff returning intact from last year’s squad that won 18 games. McCleary and senior shortstop Caleb Sass (.301 BA) headline the offensive returners while Frantz tops a pitching staff that brings back five of its top six from last season. Seniors Joey Schnoebelen and Riley Regennitter give the Little Hawks a solid three-man rotation while McCleary and Sass combined to pitch 58 innings a year ago.
Coach: Charlie Stumpff (24th season)
Assistant coaches: Tom Cronk and Jesse Searls
Last season: 35-7, 22-4 MVC (Class 4A Runner-up)
Returning starters: Nate Disterhoft, Sr., 1B; Connor McCaffery, Sr., OF; Izaya Ono-Fullard, Sr., P/INF; Logan Sims, Sr., P/OF; Braden Houston, Jr., P/INF; Jason Strunk, Soph., OF; Jack Wilson, Jr., P.
Other returning letterwinners: Jacob Peterson, Sr., P/INF; Teagan Bell, Sr., INF; Ty Bopp, Sr., P/C.
Newcomers to watch: Jayson Barnes, Jr., P/INF; Trevor Byers, Jr., P/OF; Tony Comellas, Jr., P/C; Auden Crowley, Jr., P/INF; Austin Curtiss, Jr., P/1B; Alex Granner, Jr., OF; Connor Greer, Jr., P/INF; Carter Johnson, Jr., C; Lucas Karwal, Jr., C; Alex Schwickerath, Jr., INF; Tyler Stern, Jr., P/1B; Logan Trumbull, Jr., C; Clay Warren, Jr., P/OF; Austin West, Jr., P/OF.
Headliner: An Iowa recruit, Connor McCaffery showed his big-time potential last season when he hammered eight home runs while batting .407 and driving in 33 runs.
Keep an eye on: Senior Logan Sims has a tendency to be overlooked in a loaded West High lineup but the leadoff hitter quietly put together a huge season has summer batting .350 with a team-high 42 runs and 23 stolen bases.
Circle the date: June 16 at Cedar Rapids Prairie. West High travels to Cedar Rapids for a Class 4A state title game rematch with the Hawks.
Outlook: After three consecutive 4A runner-up finishes West High will yet again be in the title chase and has the talent to win the big one this season. One of the most potent lineups in Class 4A returns nearly intact for West High led by McCaffery and fellow seniors Sims, Izaya Ono-Fullard (.354 BA) and Nate Disterhoft (.363 BA). Sophomore Jason Strunk returns after a big freshman season that included a walk-off homer in the state semifinals. The key for West High will be developing pitching depth behind junior Braden Houston (5-1, 2.40 ERA).
Coach: Keith McSweeney (18th season)
Assistant coaches: Todd Linderbaum, Tim Wheeler
Last season: 22-20 (3A state semifinals)
Returning starters: Luke Ira, Jr., SS/P; Tyler Linderbaum, Jr., 1B/3B/P; Payton Bandy, Jr., 2B/SS; Kendrick Harris, Jr., CF; Zach Wegmann, Jr., C/UTI; Adam Bock, Soph., C/OF; Spencer Wegmann, Jr., RF/P.
Other returning letterwinners: Eric Weetman, Jr., P/INF; Nick Hofsommer, Sr., P/1B; Cam Miller, Fr., P/INF.
Newcomers to watch: Ryan Geistkemper, Soph., P/OF.
Headliner: Junior Luke Ira will be looked to become the ace of the Solon pitching staff after going 8-4 with a 3.37 ERA last season while also continuing his offensive production that included a team-high 50 hits and 30 RBI.
Keep an eye on: Junior second baseman Payton Bandy hit .392 in 79 at bats last season and teams with Ira to give the Solon an athletic middle infield.
Circle the date: May 29 vs. City High. A tough opening week stretch concludes with a home holiday matchup with 4A City High.
Outlook: The Spartans reached the Class 3A state semifinals last season and bring back a lineup capable of repeating that run this summer. Solon returns seven full-time starters led by Ira, Bandy and junior first baseman Tyler Linderbaum (.298 BA, 32 RBI). Adam Bock (.347 BA), Kendrick Harris (.333 BA), and Zach Wegmann all return with starting experience and Spencer Wegmann and Nick Hofsommer both saw action on a part-time role a year ago.
Hofsommer and Eric Weetman will look to fill out the rotation behind Ira with help from Wegmann and freshman Cam Miller.
Coach: Jeff Pacha (3rd season)
Assistant coaches: Steve Pacha, Devin Kass
Last season: 22-17
Returning starters: Ryne Schooley, Jr., P/UTI; Trent Hoogerwerf, Jr., C; Mitchell Gahan, Jr., P/INF; Nick Brandt, Jr., P/INF; Ryan Schott, Jr., UTI.
Other returning letterwinners: Evan Suchomel, Jr., P/OF; Wil Comer, Jr., P/OF; Joey Molony, Soph., UTI; Masen Miller, Fr., P/INF; Alex Meister, Fr., UTI.
Newcomers to watch: Jayden Kies, Jr., OF/P; Blake Berns, Jr., UTI; Hunter Liebermann, Jr., UTI; Prescott Arendt, Soph., UTI.
Headliner: Ryne Schooley was a first-team Class 2A all-state pick last year when he posted a 1.62 ERA in 47 2/3 innings and led Regina with a .368 batting average and 32 RBI.
Keep an eye on: Junior Jayden Kies will provide a boost for Regina in his first season after transferring from West High. The speedy centerfielder has drawn rave reviews from the Regina coach staff so far.
Circle the date: June 5 vs. Wilton. Regina hosts 2A second-ranked Wilton in a double header that could determine the RVC South title.
Outlook: Regina just missed a trip to the state tournament last season falling into the substate final but brings back a lineup capable of returning to Principal Park for the first time since 2014.
Regina returns five starters from last year’s 22-win team including Schooley and all-conference juniors Trent Hoogerwerf and Mitchell Gahan.
The addition of Kies, Blake Berns and Hunter Liebermann will be a boost for Regina which expects big things from freshman Masen Miller as well as juniors Nick Brandt and Ryan Schott.
Coach: Rich Stout
Assistant coaches: Sam Aspelmeier, Brad Arp, Brian Espensen
Last season: 3-26
Returning starters: Cale Donovan, Sr., 2B; Cole Tisinger, Sr., 3B/P; Brady Lukavsky, Soph., C/P/UTI; Tanner Lukavsky, Fr., SS/P; Nick Schreiber, Sr., C.
Other returning letterwinners: Cade Aspelmeier, Jr., 2B/SS; Ted Bridges, Soph., 1B/P; Jaden Hierseman, Soph., 3B/P.
Newcomers to watch: Trevor Thein, Jr., OF; Pete Espensen, Fr., OF/C/P; Trey Eagle, Fr., 3B/P; Matt Paulsen, Fr., 1B/P; Mason Miller, Jr., OF/P; Dom Giannini, Jr., OF; Andrew Black, Jr., 3B.
Headliner: Stout expects senior Cole Tisinger to lead the West Branch pitching staff after posting a 2.27 ERA and striking out 14 in just 12 1/3 innings last season.
Keep an eye on: Freshman Tanner Lukavsky should be in for a big season after hitting .247 with 11 RBI in his first varsity season.
Circle the date: June 29 at Regina. West Branch travels to RVC rival Regina for a double header.
Outlook: The Bears will be young but should improve on the three wins it posted last season with five returning starters and four other players returning with varsity experience. Sophomore Brady Lukavsky hit .241 last season and was fourth on the team with 19 1/3 innings pitched. Sophomores Ted Bridges (3.55 ERA) and Jaden Hierseman (5.54 ERA) will solidify the West Branch pitching staff.