Can Tates Creek become the first three-peat 11th Region baseball champion since Lafayette in 1996, '97, '98?
The Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association says the Commodores have a shot by ranking them No. 4 in the state in the pre-season.
But, as usual, the 11th Region has plenty of challengers, including No. 5 Lexington Catholic, No. 8 Madison Central and No. 13 Lafayette.
The talent in town includes several returning first-team all-city players: Bryan Station outfielder Devon Key; Lafayette catcher Johnny Fangmeyer; Lexington Catholic shortstop Daniel Little; Lexington Christian outfielder/pitcher Drew Schacht; Paul Laurence Dunbar outfielder Nicky Avioli; and Tates Creek first baseman Jordan Fucci.
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Coach: Eddie Brooks
Last year: 13-21 (lost to Scott County in district)
Top players: Devon Key (jr., of), Landon Lynch (sr., p), Josh Owsley (sr., of/p), Evan Roy (jr., of), Keo Taylor (sr., inf), Marcus Johnson (jr., of/p/1b), Jakob Hamilton (sr.,c), Nathan Feibes (sr., inf/p), Christian Helton (sr., inf), Chance Kincade (sr., 1b), Chase Caldwell (sr., p)
Outlook: The Defenders struggled because of their youth last year. They've got experience now. Seven players return who started the 2014 district tournament, including all-city honorees Key (.363, 16 doubles, 23 stolen bases), Johnson (.342) and Taylor (.326). Also supplying offense will be Owsley (.422 OBA) and Roy (.311). Speed will be a team strength. The pitching staff will include Owsley (2.63 ERA out of bullpen), Johnson (3-2, 2.97), Lynch (3.12) and Caldwell, a transfer from West Jessamine.
March 29-April 1—Spring break tournament at Bryan Station.
April 4—at Morgan Co., 1:30; 7-at Scott Co., 7:30; 8—HENRY CLAY, 7:30; 9—at Model, 6:30; 10—at Clark Co., 7:30; 11—TATES CREEK, 8; 14—at Sayre, 5;30; 15—SCOTT CO., 7:30; 17—Somerset, 8:30, at Johnson Central; 18—Montgomery Co., 3:30; Johnson Central, 5:45; 20—LAFAYETTE, 7:30; 21—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 22—SAYRE, 5:30; 24—at Rockcastle Co., 5:30; 25—WESTERN HILLS, 2:30; 27—WOODFORD CO., 7:30; 29—CLARK CO., 7:30; 30—FRANKLIN CO., 7:30
May 2—GARRARD CO., 1:30; 4—at Western Hills, 7:30; 6—LCA, 7:30; 7—at Lafayette, 8; 8—CONNER, 4, in FAYETTE COUNTY INVITATIONAL; 9—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC, 11; BOYD CO., 6:30 IN FCIT; 11—PARIS, 7:30; 13—at Madison Central, 7:30; 15—TATES CREEK, 7:30.
Coach: Jordan Tarrence
Last year: 19-19 (lost to Western Hills first round of region)
Top players: Aaron McGeorge (sr., p/of/inf), Sam Jiunta (sr., ss), Trevor Hammonds (sr., c), Ben Rider (jr., p/of/1b), Lindon May (jr. p), Casey Womack (jr. of).
Outlook: The Blue Devils' experience and depth should serve them well. The ace of the pitching staff is McGeorge (4-2, 1.78 ERA last year), backed by Rider (1.08 in 26 IP) and May. The offense lacks power but has contact hitters and speed. Jiunta (.339, 14 stolen bases), McGeorge (.373) and Hammonds (.287, 15 RBI) should be most consistent bats. Jordan thinks his defense will be a strength.
Blue Devils' schedule
March 29-April 1—Spring break Vero Beach, Fla.
April 7—SAYRE, 7:30; 8—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 10—DANVILLE, 6; 11—at Campbell Co., 11; Highlands, 1:30; 14—at Scott Co., 7:30; 15—at Sayre, 5;30; 17—DUNBAR, 8; 18—at Rockcastle Co., noon; Wayne Co., 2:30; 21—BRYAN STATION, 7:30; 22—SCOTT CO., 7:30; 24-25—at Louisville Invitational; 27—LAFAYETTE, 8; 28—WEST JESSAMINE, 6; 29—FRANKLIN CO., 5:30.
May 1—WESTERN HILLS, 7:30; 2—SIMON KENTON, 11; 5—at Ryle, 6; 8—LCA in FAYETTE COUNTY INVITATIONAL 5:30; 9—SOMERSET in FCIT, 11; BUTLER, 6:30. 11—at Tates Creek, 7; 12—at Dunbar, 7:30; 13—MODEL, 7; 15—MADISON CENTRAL, 8.
Coach: Chris Langston
Last year: 22-12 (lost to Dunbar in district)
Top players: Brandon Calia (sr., p), C.J. Compton (sr., 1b/c), Alex Daniel (sr., p/of), Ben Eckert (sr., ss), Johnny Fangmeyer (sr., c), Blake Marshall (sr., 2b), Cy Marshall (sr., of), Sam Shelley (sr., p), Eric Vanderboegh (sr., of), Jacob Abbott (jr., inf/p), Jackson Boggs (jr., of/p), Harrison Fields (jr., inf), Morgan Harris (jr., of/p), Michael Simmons (jr., p).
Outlook: The Generals have three senior starters in Calia (22 K, 27 IP last year), Daniel (13 K, 14 IP) and Shelley (10 K, 13 IP), backed up by juniors Abbott and Boggs. Defense will be strong, with six returning starters. Langston thinks the offense will be better, led by Compton (.373, 15 RBI), Eckert (.373, 22 RBI), Fangmeyer (.398, 21 RBI) and Daniel (.313, 20 RBI).
March 29-April 3—Spring break Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
April 7—at Lexington Catholic, 8; 8—TATES CREEK, 8; 10—BELLEVUE, 8:30; 11—CONNER, 11; EAST JESSAMINE, 6:30; 14—at LCA, 8; 17-18—at MCCRACKEN CO. TOURNAMENT; 20—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 21—at Dunbar, 8; 22—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC, 8; 24-25—at Louisville Invitational; 27—at Henry Clay, 8; 28—at Tates Creek, 8; 29—LCA, 8.
May 1-2—THOROUGHBRED BASH; 5—at Madison Central, 8; 6—DUNBAR, 8; 7—BRYAN STATION, 8; 8—RYLE in FAYETTE COUNTY INVITATIONAL, 5:30; 9—BOWLING GREEN, 11; BOONE CO., 6:30 IN FCIT; 13—at Ballard 8; 14—at Scott Co., 8; 15—MALE, 6.
Coach: Taylor Brooks
Last year: 23-14 (lost to Madison Central in first round of region)
Top players: Ben Wilhite (sr., inf), Daniel Little (sr., inf), Chris Thompson (jr., inf), C.J. Bush (jr., inf), Connor O'Neil (sr., of), Andy Thompson (jr., of), Anthony Ethington (sr., p), Gatewood Robbins (sr., p), Steven Bender (so., p), Sam Armstrong (so., p), Will Sherman (sr., p). Josh Flowers (jr., of), Austin Madry (jr., of).
Outlook: Brooks calls this a "dynamic" Knights team capable of winning in a lot of ways. Ethington (4-0, 2.53 ERA) leads a deep pitching staff. The offense should be strong from top to bottom, keyed by Andy Thompson (.371, 18 runs), Little (.336, 26 runs, 22 RBI), Chris Thompson (.319, 26 runs), Wilhite (.280) and O'Neil (.275). Lexington Catholic is off to 6-0 start, including a win over defending state champ St. Xavier.
March 30—Mercer Co., 1, at Scott Co. tournament; 31—at Bryan Station, 7, in Scott Co. tournament.
April 1—Danville, 1, at Bryan Station in Scott Co. tournament , 2—at Scott Co. 7;. 4—CONNER, 11; WHITEFIELD ACADEMY, 3; 7—LAFAYETTE, 5:30, 6; 8—at LCA, 8; 11— at Corbin, 1; Russell Co., 3; 14—at Dunbar, 8; 15—at Garrard Co., 8.; 17—Highlands, 6, in Doc Morris Invitational at Cov. Scott ; 18—Boyle Co., 1:30, Cov. Scott, 4, in Doc Morris Invitational; 21—at Tates Creek, 8; 23—at Lafayette, 8; 24-25—at Louisville Invitational; 28—LCA, 8; 29—at Madison Central, 8.
May 5—DUNBAR, 8; 6—TATES CREEK, 8; 8—Boyd Co., 8, at Bryan Station in Fayette Co. Invitational; 9—at Bryan Station, 11, Conner, 1:30 in FCIT; 14—NORTH LAUREL, 6.
Coach: Keith Galloway
Last year: 20-15 (lost to Lexington Catholic in district)
Top players: Drew Schacht (sr., p/cf), Robbie Stephens (sr., ss), Andrew Barker (sr., 1b/3b), Dima Ballard (s, p/of), Connor Milslagle (sr., p/inf), Isaac Shewmaker (sr., dh/c), Hunter Wills (sr., c), Frederick Rupp (sr., 3b), Nick Hostetter (sr., 2b), Nelson Lane (sr., of), Jax Blair (jr., p/of/inf), Aaron Miley (jr., p/1b), Ty Stephens (jr., of/p), Austin Dick (so., p/inf), Nathan Henry (p/of).
Outlook: The Eagles have high expectations with a veteran team that includes 11 seniors. Schacht (.449, 33 runs), Stephens (.362, 26 runs), Rupp (.360), Barker (.275, 33 RBI, 4 HRs), Ballard (.268) and Shewmaker (.314) lead offense and defense. The pitching staff is bolstered by the return of Schacht (4-5, 3.80 ERA), Ballard (2-1, 1 save), Blair (2-2) and Miley (5-2, 1 save).
March 29-April 3—Spring break Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
April 7—at Dunbar; 8—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 9—ALL A REGION, 8:30; 10—ALL A REGION; 14—LAFAYETTE, 8; 15—at Tates Creek, 8; 18—at South Oldham, 1:30; Scott Co., 4; 21—MADISON CENTRAL, 7:30; 22—DUNBAR, 8; 24—MONTGOMERY CO. in LCA INVITATIONAL; 25—WOODFORD CO., 10; GRANT CO. 5:30 IN LCA INVITATIONAL; 28—at Lexington Catholic, 8; 29—at Lafayette, 8; 30—at Boyle Co., 5:30.
May 1-2—at All A Classic state tournament; 5—TATES CREEK, 8; 6—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 7—ANDERSON CO., 5:30; 8—at Henry Clay in Fayette County Invitational, 5:30; 9—Somerset, 1:30; Butler, 4 in FCIT at Henry Clay; 12—EAST JESSAMINE, 6; 14—at Mercer Co., 6; 15—LOU. CHRISTIAN, 6.
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR
Coach: Seth Knight
Last year: 19-15 (lost to Tates Creek in district)
Top players: Jacob Crouch (sr., 3b/p), Nicky Avioli (sr., of), Zac Conner (sr., p), Joseph Graf (sr., cf), Evan Nicoulin (sr., inf/p), Andrew Atkins (sr., c), Garrett Bugg (sr., of), Isaac Taylor (sr., p/1b), Connor Langfels (jr., p).
Outlook: The Bulldogs return most of their everyday starters, led by Avioli (.447) and Crouch (.410), along with Bugg, Graf and Nicoulin. Knight said Dunbar's offense needs to be more consistent than last year. The veteran defense should be solid. Conner (7-1) will head a pitching staff that will spread the innings around among Nicoulin, Crouch, Taylor and Langfels.
March 29-April 1—Spring break Cocoa Beach, Fla.
April 7—LCA, 8; 8—at Madison Central, 8; 10—WEST JESSAMINE, 6; 11—EASTERN, noon; Highlands, 1:30; 14—at Tates Creek, 8; 17—at Henry Clay, 8; 18—BUTLER, 2; 21—LAFAYETTE, 8; 24—at Bullitt East, 6; Nelson Co., 8:30; 25—Beechwood, 6:30 at Bullitt East, 29—TATES CREEK, 6.
May 2—Sayre, 1:30; Elizabethtown, 4 at Lafayette; 5—at Lexington Catholic, 8; 6—at Lafayette, 8; 8—BALLARD, 8. 9—SAYRE, 11; SOUTHWESTERN, 6:30; 12—HENRY CLAY, 8; 13—FRANKLIN CO., 8; 16—at St. Xavier, 2.
Coach: Kevin Clary
Last year: 21-9 (lost to Henry Clay in district)
Top players: Mason Stockham (jr., 1b/p), Aidan Elias (jr., of/p), Christian Courtney (jr., ss/p), Michael Flora (jr., 3b/1b/p), James Dupree (so., p/of), Sam Van Balen (so., 3b/1b/p), John Van Balen (sr., c), Sam Stayton (fr., inf/of), Mason Jasko (jr., inf), Wyatt Hood (jr., of/1b/p).
Outlook: Clary, who led Lexington Catholic to a state title in 2009, takes over for longtime coach Scotty Sutton. Clary inherits a team that returns a lot of young but experienced players, including everyday starters Stockham (.320), Elias (.474), Courtney (.368) and Flora (.345). Sayre has veteran arms in Flora (4-5), Elias (5-1), Courtney and Dupree. Defense should be solid. Lack of depth could hurt.
March 29-April 3—Spring break Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
April 7—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 8—SCOTT CO., 5:30; 9-10—All A region at LCA; 11—PAINTSVILLE, 1; 13—POWELL CO., 5:30; 14—BRYAN STATION, 5:30; 15—HENRY CLAY, 5:30; 17—at Clark Co., 5:30; 18—Bluegrass Conference tournament TBA; 21—at Scott Co., 5:30; 22—at Bryan Station, 5:30; 25—Fleming Co., 12:45; Harrison Co., 3 p.m. in McDonald's Classic at Harrison Co.
May 1—Elizabethtown in Thoroughbred Bash at Lafayette, 5:30; 2—at Lafayette, 11; Dunbar, 1:30 in Thoroughbred Bash; 5—BURGIN, 6; 6—at Powell Co., 7; 8-9—at Fayette County Invitational; 12—at Fleming Co., 5:30; 13—at Western Hills, 5:30; 14—at Frankfort, 5:30; 15—SHELBY CO., 1.
Coach: Dom Fucci
Last year: 33-7 (lost to Johnson Central in first round of state tournament)
Top players: Jordan Fucci (sr., 1b), Jaren Shelby (jr., of), Kendrick Cruise (sr., of/p), Matt Neal (sr., p/of), Josh Miller (sr., p), Max Sweet (sr., c), Parker Yeary (sr., inf/p), Tanner McCoy (sr., p), Justice Slone (sr., inf/p), Spencer Coop (jr., ss), Grant Deaton (jr., p), Trey Sturdivant (sr. of), Jackson Beerman (so., of)., Collin Coolbaugh (sr., of).
Outlook: Two-time defending 11th Region champ Commodores could make a run at a three-peat if their pitching staff develops, with McCoy, Yeary and Neal leading the way. Everyday players Fucci (.366, 28 RBI) and Shelby (.295, 32 RBI) and Sweet (.287, 20 RBI) will key the offense. Tates Creek seems to have good mix of veterans and up-and-comers.
March 29-April 1—Spring break Destin, Fla.
April 8—LAFAYETTE, 8; 11—BRYAN STATION, 11; WOODFORD CO., 4; 14—DUNBAR, 8; 15—LCA, 8; 18—EASTERN, noon; 21—at Lexington Catholic, 8; 24—Trinity, 8:30 at Male in Louisville Invitational; 25—at Male, 10; West Jessamine, 12:30 in LIT; 28—LAFAYETTE, 8, 29—at Dunbar, 8.
May 1-2—at Scott Co. tournament; 5—at LCA, 8; 6—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC, 8; 8—GREENUP CO, 6; JOHNSON CENTRAL, 8:30 IN FAYETTE COUNTY INVITATIONAL; 11—HENRY CLAY, 7; 12—WOODFORD CO., 5:30; 15—at Bryan Station, 8; 16—OWEN CO., 1.