Your Prep Sports
Baseball seasons officially gets underway in Iowa next week with games opening for teams across the state on Monday.
Earlier this week Your Prep Sports published a list of some key area players to make sure to watch over the next six weeks leading up to the state tournament that is set to run July 27- August 1 at Principal Park in Des Moines.
Today Your Prep Sports takes a look at nine players in the area that poised for breakthrough seasons.
Senior, West Branch
A regular in the West Branch lineup since he was a freshman Espensen is prepped to close his career with his best season yet.
A career .314 hitter, Espensen will look to build on a strong junior season in which he hit .312 with five doubles and three home runs and led West Branch with 35 RBI.
His biggest leap could come on the mound where he went 2-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 17 2/3 innings last season.
Meister was trending toward a breakthrough a year ago until an injury sustained when he was hit by a line drive ended his season.
A Mount Mercy recruit, Meister is poised for a big-time senior season after going 1-1 with a 2.39 ERA and striking out 20 in 14 2/3 innings last year.
He also hit .306 with four doubles and eight RBI in 13 games before the injury ended his season.
Ben Vander Leest
Senior, West High
After coming on late last season to play a key role in West High returning to the Class 4A state semifinals Vander Leest enters this summer poised for a huge senior season.
Vander Leest went 4-0 with a 3.30 ERA and struck out 19 in 29 2/3 innings last season on the mound but came on late in the year to be a solid piece of the West High lineup.
In 46 at bats Vander Leest hit .348 with seven extra-base hits including three home runs and 19 RBI.
Junior, Clear Creek Amana
Reade was a key part of the Clipper pitching rotation a year ago ranking third on the team in innings pitched but will look to take on an even more prominent role this season.
The left-hander posted a 3-2 record and 3.38 ERA in 37 1/3 innings a year ago while striking out 36.
Reade will also be a fixture in the Clear Creek Amana outfield after hitting .271 with six doubles and 11 RBI last season.
One of only three full-time returning starters in the Solon lineup Arduser will not only be a key leader for an inexperienced Solon squad but showed last season he is capable of coming up with solid production as well.
Arduser hit .278 with four doubles and 14 RBI last season in his first season in the lineup and also ranked second on the team drawing 17 walks.
The senior third baseman should see all his offensive numbers climb this season especially the extra-base hits.
Senior, Liberty High
Dahm was off to a stellar start last season before an injury hampered his shot at a breakthrough campaign.
Despite being limited to 31 at bats in 17 games Dahm hit .355 with five extra-base hits and four RBI.
With a full season the senior second baseman should be among the top producers in a loaded Liberty High lineup.
Jake Van Roekel
Long-time Solon coach Keith McSweeney has a history of developing a strong pitching staff and Van Roekel should be a big part of an emerging Solon staff this season.
Senior Lucas Walker is the unquestioned ace but Van Roekel will provide a solid number two option after working 36 1/3 innings as a sophomore.
The right-hander went 2-4 with a 4.24 ERA and 35 strikeouts and 26 walks a year ago and should improve in all those categories with a year of experience under his belt.
Sophomore, City High
One of two freshman regulars in the City High lineup last season Seaton will look to build on the success of a solid debut season this summer as a sophomore.
The left-handed hitting Seaton hit .262, scored 10 runs and had eight RBI last season.
Senior, West High
Madden was a big piece of the success for West High last season hitting .336 and will be an even larger key for the Trojans this season.
As a junior Madden had nine doubles, three home runs and drove in 23 runs.
Madden will also likely seen an increased role on the mound after going 1-0 with a 4.54 ERA in 12 1/3 innings last season.