Spring break is over. No more beach time for high school baseball teams. They now get down to business: six weeks of regular-season play that will get them ready (or not) for the playoffs.
Defending 11th Region champ Tates Creek is Lexington's highest rated team. The Commodores, No. 3 in the state, return five players who were first- or second-team All-City last year: Devin Hairston, Tanner Hart, Blake Rose, Jordan Fucci and Luke Rouse.
No. 4 Lafayette has a strong pitching staff that includes Brandon Calia, Jack Noftsger and Jalen Stith.
No. 8 Lexington Catholic is led by All-City first-teamers Riley Jackson and Griffin Neuer. No. 12 Paul Laurence Dunbar, under first-year coach Seth Knight, has an ace in All-City first-teamer Aaron Ochsenbein.
Coach: Eddie Brooks
Last year: 15-19 (lost to Madison Southern in first round of region)
Top players: Dmarkeo Taylor (jr., 3b), Jesse Tudor (sr., 1b), Marcus Johnson (so., p/of), Michael Hall (sr., p), Ryan Springer (sr. p), Devon Key (so., of), Josh Owsley (jr., inf/p), James Bryant (so., of), Raekwon Berry (sr., inf), Landon Lynch (jr.,p), Austyn Goodwin (sr., p).
Outlook: The Defenders must retool their lineup after graduating nine players who started last year's region tournament game. Infielders Taylor (.402) and Tudor (.264) have some experience. Hall (3-2, 3.64 ERA) and Springer (3.41) head the pitching staff. Brooks will stress fundamentals and making routine plays for a young team that has lots of room for improvement before playoff time.
April 8—at Scott Co.; 9—HENRY CLAY; 10—EAST JESSAMINE; 11—at North Laurel; 12—(DH) at Russellville; 15—SAYRE; 16—SCOTT CO.; 17—WOODFORD CO.; 19—(DH) MONTGOMERY CO., noon; BELL CO., 5:30; 22—at Henry Clay; 23—at Sayre; 25—NORTH LAUREL; 26—at Rockcaslte Co.; 29—SOMERSET.
May 2—at Madison Central; 3—at Clark Co.; 6—LAFAYETTE; 7—at East Jessamine; 8—LOU. EASTERN in FCIT; 9—MONTGOMERY CO. in FCIT; 10—GREEN CO. in FCIT; 12—DUNBAR; 13—at Lafayette; 14—TATES CREEK; 17—CLARK CO.
Coach: Jordan Tarrence
Last year: 13-20 (lost to Bryan Station in district)
Top players: Wyatt Terrell (sr. ss/3b), Mark Dill (sr., p), Justin Warren (sr., 1b/3b), Sam Jiunta (jr., 2b/ss), Casey Womack (so., cf), Ben Elsen (sr., inf), Aaron McGeorge (jr., p), Nick Norman (sr., p/of), Cameron Lord (jr., 3b).
Outlook: The Devils look to be much improved, led by six players who started in the district tournament last year. Eight pitchers with varsity experience are led by Dill (2-4, 3.78). Tarrence thinks Henry Clay's strengths will be defense and throwing strikes. WKU signee Terrell (.297, 18 RBI), Jiunta (.296), Warren (.280) and Elsen should provide consistent hitting.
BLUE DEVILS SCHEDULE
April 8—SAYRE; 9—at Bryan Station; 11—MONTGOMERY CO.; 12—ANDERSON CO.; 14—at LCA; 15—at Scott Co.; 16—at Sayre; 18—Somerset at Franklin Co; 19—at Franklin Co.; 22—BRYAN STATION; 23—SCOTT CO.; 25—Ryle at Male in LIT; 26—(DH) Male, 12:15; Trinity at Male, 2:30 in LIT; 28—LAFAYETTE; 30—MODEL.
May 1—WESTERN HILLS; 2—at Tates Creek; 3—(DH) at Somerset, 11:30; Mercer Co., 1:30; 5—at Model; 6—at St. Xavier; 7—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 9—LCA in FCIT; 10—CAMPBELL CO., 10 a.m., BOYD CO., 5:30 in FCIT; 12—at Lafayette; 13—DUNBAR; 14—LETCHER CENTRAL; 16—MADISON CENTRAL.
Coach: Chris Langston
Last year: 25-12 (lost to Woodford County in first round of region)
Top players: Kylan Nelson (sr., cf), Jalen Stith (sr., p), Jack Noftsger (sr., p), Ben Eckert (jr., ss), Austin Messner (sr., 1b/p), Alex Daniel (jr., rf/p), Brandon Calia (jr., p), Johnny Fangmeyer (jr, c), Andrew Fouch (sr., p), Eric Vanderboegh (jr., lf).
Outlook: Pitching and defense should make Lafayette a district and region contender. Calia (4-3, 2.47), Noftsger (6-1, 2.36) and Stith (1-0, 5 saves, 1.15) along with Messner and Daniel lead a deep staff. Messner (.296, 24 RBI) and Eckert (.324) solidify the infield, while Nelson (.302, 21 runs, 16 SB) and Daniel (.493) roam the outfield. Langston is looking for a team leader to step up, and for the offense to find its identity.
April 8—LCA; 9—at Tates Creek; 11—SOUTH OLDHAM; 12—EAST JESSAMINE; 16—DUNBAR; 18-19—at Madison Central Tomahawk Classic; 22—at Lexington Catholic; 23—at LCA; 25—Central Hardin at PRP in LIT; 26—Collins and PRP in LIT; 28—at Henry Clay; 29—TATES CREEK; 30—MADISON CENTRAL.
May 2—at Montgomery Co; 3—Morgan Co. and Sheldon Clark at Montgomery Co.; 5—SCOTT CO; 7—at Bryan Station; 9—FRANKLIN CO. in FCIT; 10—BARREN CO. and CONNER in FCIT; 12—HENRY CLAY; 13—BRYAN STATION; 15—at Woodford Co.; 16—at Trinity; 17—at Male.
Coach: Taylor Brooks
Last year: 27-8 (lost to Tates Creek in district)
Top players: Riley Jackson (sr., c/of), Griffin Neuer (sr., of/p), Daniel Little (jr., inf), Logan Banks (jr., of), Ben Coates (sr. p/of), Conner O'Neil (jr., inf/of), Taylor Henley (sr., 1b), Willie Poe (sr., p), Anthony Ethington (jr., p), C.J. Bush (so., inf), Chris Thompson (so., inf), Andy Thompson (so., of).
Outlook: Louisville signees Jackson and Little will set the pace for the Knights, but Brooks expects Neuer, Henley, O'Neil and Bush to provide pop with their bats, too. Lexington Catholic graduated 125 Innings pitched, so Neuer, Poe and Ethington will be counted on to lead the staff.
April 8—at Dunbar; 11-12—Doc Morris tournament at Simon Kenton; 15—LCA; 16—TATES CREEK; 19—LOU. CHRISTIAN; 22—LAFAYETTE; 23—DUNBAR; 25-26—at LIT; 29—MADISON CENTRAL; 30—at LCA.
May 2—at West Jessamine; 6—at Franklin Co.; 7—at Henry Clay; 8—at Trinity; 15—MALE; 13—Montgomery Co.; 15—at Scott Co.
Coach: Keith Galloway
Last year: 15-17 (lost to Lexington Catholic in district)
Top players: Lincoln Henzman (sr., of/p), Cody Kalinowski (sr., 1b/p/of), Drew Schacht (jr., p/of), Graham Smith (sr., c), Andrew Barker (jr., 3b/1b), Isaac Shewmaker (jr., c/p), Robbie Stephens (jr., ss), Dima Ballard (jr., p/of), Nick Hostetter (jr., 2b), Connor Milslagle (jr., p/inf), Frederick Rupp (jr., inf), Hunter Wills (jr., c).
Outlook: LCA's young team gained experience last year and that should help turn things around this season. Henzman (working his way back from Tommy John surgery), Schacht and Kalinowski lead the pitching staff. They should also be among LCA's top hitters, along with Barker, Stephens, Ballard and Smith. Galloway thinks he may have a few "hidden gems" among his sophomores and freshmen.
April 8—at Lafayette; 9—DUNBAR; 10-11—All "A" region; 14—HENRY CLAY; 15—at Lexington Catholic; 16—at Madison Central; 21—ANDERSON CO.; 22—at Tates Creek; 23—LAFAYETTE; 25—GRANT CO. in LCA Invitational; 26—GREEN CO. and WOODFORD CO. in LCA Invitational; 29—at Dunbar; 30—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC.
May 1—LOU. CHRISTIAN; 3-4—All "A" state at Whitaker Bank Ballpark; 6—at West Jessamine; 8—MERCER CO.; 9—at Henry Clay in FCIT; 10—Campbell Co. and Boyd Co. in FCIT at Henry Clay; 12—at Montgomery Co.; 13—at East Jessamine; 15—TRINITY; 16—GARRARD CO.
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR
Coach: Seth Knight
Last year: 27-10 (lost to Lafayette in district)
Top players: Aaron Ochsenbein (sr., p/1b), Connor Huskey (sr., 3b), Conner McHugh (sr., ss/p), Wes Walker (sr., c), Nicky Avioli (jr., of), Jack Cress (sr., 1b/p), Evan Nicoulin (jr., inf/p), Zac Conner (jr., p/of), Joseph Graf (jr., of).
Outlook: New coach Knight has a solid nucleus of veterans to work with. The pitching staff is led by EKU-bound Ochsenbein (56 IP, 91 Ks, 2.48) and includes McHugh, Cress, Conner and Nicoulin. Everyday players McHugh, Huskey, Avioli and Walker will be counted to provide consistency offensively and defensively.
April 8—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 9—at LCA; 11-12—at West Jessamine tournament; 15—TATES CREEK; 16—at Lafayette; 18—MERCER CO; 21—at Male; 23—at Lexington Catholic; 25-26—at LIT; 30—at Tates Creek.
May 2—BRENTWOOD, TENN.; 3—(DH) LINCOLN CO., 9 a.m. and BOONE CO., 6 p.m.; 6—POWELL CO.; 7—at Madison Central; 9-10—FCIT; 12—at Western Hills; 13—at Henry Clay; 15—MALE; 16—FRANKLIN CO.
Coach: Scott Sutton
Last year: 20-10 (lost to Scott County in district)
Top players: Howard Ball (sr., lf), John Van Balen (jr., c), Christian Courtney (so., ss), Michael Flora (so., p/3b), Mason Jasko (so., 2b), Mason Stockham (so., of/1b), Aidan Elias (so., cf), Wyatt Hood (so., 1b/p).
Outlook: With seven returning starters, the Spartans hope to build on last year's success. Young but experienced pitching staff led by Flora (4-3, 3.12), Elias (5-3, 2.33) and Courtney (4-0, 5.08). Elias (.405, 33 RBI) is also solid at the plate and in center field. Ball (.381) also provides leadership as lone senior. Van Balen (.307), Courtney (.361) Flora (.507), Jasko (.295) also add punch to offense.
April 8—at Henry Clay; 9—SCOTT CO.; 10-11—All "A" at LCA; 12—WOLFE CO.; 15—at Bryan Station; 16—HENRY CLAY; 17—at Burgin; 18-19—BLUEGRASS CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT; 22—SCOTT CO.; 23—BRYAN STATION; 24—at Model; 26—(DH) WHITEFIELD ACADEMY; 28—BARDSTOWN; 30—KY. COUNTRY DAY.
May 1—at Madison Southern; 2—at BEREA; 5—at Anderson Co.; 6—BURGIN; 8—Charlie Sutton Classic at Scott Co.; 10—WESTDALE; 12—FRANKFORT; 13—GRANT CO.; 15—at Collins; 16—at Nicholas Co.
Coach: Dom Fucci
Last year: 32-7 (lost to Collins in first round of state tournament)
Top players: Devin Hairston (sr., ss), Jordan Fucci (jr., 1b), Tanner Hart (sr., inf/p), Luke Rouse (sr., cf), Blake Rose (sr., 3b), Max Sweet (jr., c), Jaren Shelby (so., of), Colby Birch (jr., inf). Curtis Bethel (sr., inf), Trey Sturdivant (jr., of), Parker Yeary (jr., inf/p).
Outlook: The Commodores, looking to defend their region title, return a talented nucleus led by Louisville signee Hairston (.459, 26 RBI), Rose (.373, 35 RBI), Hart (.288,), Rouse (.308, 20 RBI) and Fucci (.281, 19 RBI). Defense should be strong, with middle infielder Hairston and outfielder Rouse. Pitching staff thin on experience except for Hart (4-0, 1.60) but Dom Fucci is counting on the development of other arms.
April 9—LAFAYETTE; 10—WESTERN HILLS; 12—LOU. EASTERN; 15—at Dunbar; 16—at Lexington Catholic; 18—East Jessamine at Harrison Co.; 19—Highlands at Harrison Co.; 22—LCA; 25—Beechwood in LIT at Lou. Christian; 26—Muhlenberg Co. in LIT at Lou. Christian; 29—at Lafayette; 30—DUNBAR.
May 2—HENRY CLAY; 3—(DH) BEECHWOOD, 1 p.m.; WOODFORD CO., 7; 5—EAST JESSAMINE; 6—MADISON CENTRAL; 8—BUTLER (FCIT); 9—RYLE, 5:30, BOWLING GREEN, 8 (FCIT); 13—BETHLEHEM; 14—at Bryan Station; 15—at Clark Co.; 16—MALE; 17—OWEN CO.
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.