Five of the last seven state high school baseball champions have come out of Lexington's 43rd District, so it's no surprise to find three of its teams rated in Kentucky's pre-season top five: No. 1 and defending state titlist Lexington Catholic, No. 4 Tates Creek, and No. 5 Lexington Christian Academy.
Among the best players in town are a couple of University of Kentucky signees — Tates Creek pitcher/infielder Trevor Gott, and LCA center fielder Lucas Witt.
The playoffs will have a different look this spring. The state tournament, which has had an eight-team format in previous years, will expand to bring 16 teams to Applebee's Park from June 14-19.
Coach: Eddie Brooks
Last year's record: 16-14 (lost to Lexington Catholic in region finals)
Top players: Ryne Combs (so. of/p); Brady Boling (jr. c); Michael Bollmer (so. 2b/p); Allen Harris (sr. of); Justin Miley (sr. ss); Jordan Craig (sr. p); Yuron Washington (sr. p); Damian Beveridge (jr. 3b); J.R. Halderman (sr. of/p); Tyler Southworth (sr. of); Bryce Carter (so. of); Cameron Hart (sr. inf); Brandon Pollard (sr. inf/of); Bren Redmon (jr. inf/p).
Outlook: The Defenders came within a hit or two of winning the region last year, but they have some rebuilding to do to replicate that success. They graduated a lot of key players, but the dugout isn't bare. Boling is one of the top catchers around. Miley is a solid shortstop. Combs, Craig, Redmon and Washington have mound experience. Brooks said his team will have to "beg, borrow and steal" to generate offense and rely on pitching and defense to win close games.
March 24—at Mason Co., 5; 27—Lawrence Co., 1. Apr. 5—Tates Creek, 7:30; 7—Woodford Co., 7:30; 8—Montgomery Co., 7:30; 13—at Scott Co., 7:30; 14—Henry Clay, 7:30; 16-17—at Danville Invitational; 19—Paul Dunbar, 7:45; 20—at Sayre, 5:30; 21—Scott Co., 7:30; 23—at Boyle Co., 7;30; 24—at Morgan Co., 6; 27—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 28—Sayre, 5:30; 30—LCA, 5:30. May 1—Johnson Central, 11:45 a.m., Boyle Co., 4:45; 3—at Tates Creek, 5:15; 4—Madison Central, 7:30; 7—Fayette Co. Invitational, East Carter, 5;30; 8—FCIT, Harlan Co., 11 a.m.; East Jessamine, 6:30; 10—at Madison Central, 7:30; 11—at Montgomery Co., 5:30; 13—Male, 6; 14—at Lafayette, 7:30; 15—Somerset, noon; Danville, 7; 17—at Dunbar, 7:30; 18—Paris, 5:30; 19—West Jessamine, 7:30; 22—at Somerset, 2:15.
Coach: Jordan Tarrence
Last year's record: 21-11 (lost to Lexington Catholic in region first round)
Top players: Corey Bays (jr. ss); Ethan Boggs (sr., 2b); Ryan McCray (sr. c); Nolan Fernandez (sr. p); Field Engle (jr. of); Walker Buehler (so. p); James Hendron (jr. of/c/dh).
Outlook: The Blue Devils have a new coach for the first time since 1993 as Tarrence succeeds Herb Hammond. The offense will be triggered by Boggs (.400, 31 RBI), Bays (.371, 11 doubles) and McCray (.342, 28 RBI). Those three will give solid up-the-middle defense, along with the speedy Matt Cox in center. Fernandez (51 K's, 51 IP) will anchor the pitching staff. Overall experience is a question mark.
Blue Devils' schedule
Mar. 26—Corbin, 6:30; 27—at Western Hills, 1; Mar. 31-Apr. 3—at USA Classic in Memphis, Tenn.; 6—at LCA, 5:30; 9—Manual, 6; 10—Boone Co., noon; 13—at Sayre, 5:15; 14—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 16—Apollo tournament: Union Co., 7:30; 17—Apollo tournament: Apollo, 11 a.m.; Forest Park, Ill., 1:30; 19—vs. Tates Creek at Bryan Station, 5:15; 20—at Scott Co. 7:30; 21—vs. Sayre at Henry Clay, 5:15; 23—Louisville Invitational Tournament at PRP: Bullitt East, 6:30; 24—LIT at PRP: Christian Co., 1:30; PRP, 4; 26—Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 27—Bryan Station, 7:30; 28—Scott Co., 7:30; 30—at Harrison Co., 7:30. May 3—Estill Co., 6; 4—at Lafayette, 7:30; 7—Fayette Co. Invitational, Franklin Co., 5:30; 8—FCIT, Highlands, 11 a.m.; Eastern, 6:30; 11—at Clark Co., 6; 12—at Male, 6; 14—LCA, 5:15; 15—Campbell Co., 4; Lafayette, 6:30; 17—vs. Tates Creek at Dunbar; 19—at Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 21—Pendleton Co., 8.
Coach: Chris Langston
Last year's record: 16-12-1 (lost to LCA in district)
Top players: Brent Cobb (sr. p); Nick Fergerson (sr. of); Connor Asay (sr. p/inf); Chris Graves (sr. p); Chad Warner (sr. of/p); Logan Shaftner (jr. p/inf); Johnny Youngblood (jr. of); Tanner Lockard (sr. inf); Jason Fibel (jr. inf); Jason Fergerson (so. c); Kevin Herren (so. p/inf/of); Michael Morton (sr. inf); Drake Nichols (jr. inf); Blake Smith (jr. inf/p); Damion Sanford (sr. of).
Outlook: The Generals return 11 seniors among 16 upperclassmen with two years' experience. Pitching is deep, with Cobb, Graves, Asay, Herren and Shaftner, who combined for 16 wins last season. Youngblood (.348), Nick Fergerson (.329) and Lockard (.317) are reliable bats. Jason Fergerson, solid behind the plate, is one of eight returning defensive starters.
Mar. 25—at Western Hills, 5:30; Mar. 27-Apr. 3—at Fort Walton Beach Bash; Apr. 5—at Sayre, 5:30; 6—Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 9—at East Jessamine, 5:30; 10—at East Jessamine Invitational: Boyle County 10 a.m.; Mason Co., 2:30; 13—LCA, 7:30; 14—at Tates Creek, 7:45; 16—at Madison Central Tomahawk Classic: Boyd Co., 8:30; 17—Tomahawk Classic: Owen Co., 3 p.m., Madison Central, 5:30; 20—at Lincoln Co., 7:15; 23—Louisville Invitational at Southern, vs. Manual, 6:30; 24—LIT, vs. Southern, 11 a.m.; Hopkinsville, 1:30; 27—Tates Creek 5:15; 29—Eastern, 6; 30—at Elizabethtown, 5:30. May 4—Henry Clay, 7:30; 5—at Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 7—Fayette Co. Invitational, Ryle 5:30; 8—FCIT, Bowling Green, 11 a.m.; Ballard, 6:30; 11—Western Hills, 6; 12—Scott Co., 8; 14—Bryan Station, 7:30; 15—at Henry Clay, 6:30; 18—Madison Central, 8; 19—Woodford Co., 5:30; 20—at LCA, 5:30; 21—at Butler, 6.
Coach: Kevin Clary
Last year's record: 29-8-3 (won state title)
Top players: Taylor Martin (jr. p/inf); Patrick Maronde (sr. p/of); Tyler Jackson (so. c/2b); R.J. Carroll (jr. p); Will Hurt (so. ss/p); Tyler Arthur (jr. p); Zachary Haynes (jr. inf/p); Chase Armstrong (so. cf); Evan Fraliex (fr. inf/p).
Outlook: The Knights graduated 10 seniors off last year's state title team, so Clary said he expects it to take time for this year's group to find its identity. Martin went 4-0 in the post-season last spring. Maronde figures to be a force hitting and pitching. Jackson (.360) will key the rebuilt offense. Carroll (6-1) will bring experience to the mound, as will Arthur, a transfer from Boyd County. Hurt, a transfer from Henry Clay, will solidify the infield and help out pitching.
Mar. 24—at Ballard; 26—Moore, 5:30; Mar. 29-Apr. 1—at Sarasota Baseball Classic; Apr. 6—Elizabethtown, 5:30; 10—Highlands, 11 a.m.; Cincy Elder, 5; 12—at Trinity, 7:30; 14—at Madison Central, 7:30; 13—LCA, 7:30; 16-17—at Lawrence Co. Invitational; 19—at North Laurel, 7:30; 20—LCA, 5:30; 22—Louisville Invitational Tournament at Male, 7 p.m.; 23—LIT at Male, West Jessamine, 6:30; 24—LIT at Male, Apollo 11 a.m.; 27—Trinity, 5:30; 29—at Corbin, 6; 30—Greenup Co., 6. May 1—Boone Co., 11 a.m.; Greenup Co., 5; 3—Clinton Co., 5:30; 4—at LCA, 5:30; 5—St. Xavier, 7:30; 8—Madison Central, 11 a.m.; Conner, 5; 10—at Mercer Co., 7; 11—at West Jessamine, 7:30; 13—at Boyle Co., 5:30; 14-15—at Bullitt East Invitational; 18—Clark Co., 5:30; 19—Perry Central, 6; 20—at Scott Co., 5:30; 22—Corbin, 1:30.
Coach: Keith Galloway
Last year's record: 30-8 (lost to Bryan Station in region semifinals)
Top players: Lucas Witt (sr. cf); Evan Stephens (sr. lf); Clay Hall (sr. p); Will Kindred (sr. ss); Steven Hoagland (sr. c); Michael Lyon (sr. 2b); Nate Coon (sr. p); Andrew Harris (sr. inf); Scout McCamy (jr. of/p); Clay Mossbarger (so. inf); Joe Duncan (jr. p/1b); Ethan McKiddy (jr. p/dh/c/1b).
Outlook: Galloway said he likes his team's defense and overall speed, which will have to be a boost while offense tries to find new bats to replace the ones who graduated. UK signee Witt (.377, 31 runs) will be the catalyst, along with Stephens (.391, 30 runs) and Kindred (.360). Relatively young staff will look to Hall (6-1, 1.70 ERA) and Coon (4-2, 2.17 ERA) for leadership.Eagles' schedule
Mar. 24—at West Jessamine, 5:30; 25—Tates Creek, 7:30; Mar. 27-Apr. 2—at Fort Walton Beach Bash; Apr. 6—Henry Clay, 7:30; 8—Sayre in All "A" region, 5:30; 9—All "A" region finals, 5:30; 12—at Male, 6; 13—at Lafayette, 7:30; 15—at St. Xavier, 6; 16—Trinity, 6; 19—Scott Co., 7:30; 20—at Lexington Catholic, 5:30; 23—Louisville Invitational at Ballard, 7; 24—LIT at Ballard, Elizabethtown, 10 a.m.; Somerset 3; 26—at Washington Co., 5:30; 27—Clark Co., 5:30; 30—at Bryan Station, 5:30. May 1-2—All "A" state at Applebee's Park; 4—Lexington Catholic, 5; 6—Fayette Co. Invitational at Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 8—FCIT at Dunbar: Henderson Co., 11 a.m.; Boone Co., 4; 11—at Trinity, 6:30; 13—Madison Central, 7:30; 14—at Henry Clay, 5:15; 18—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 20—Lafayette, 7:30; 21—Bishop Brossart, 6.
Coach: Larry Poynter
Last year's record: 16-16 (lost to Lafayette in district)
Top players: Alex Wade (sr. of/c); Ryan Heim (sr. inf); Chris Beymer (sr. p); Spencer McGuire (sr. inf); Brad Harp (jr. inf); Graham Winchester (jr. inf/p); Tyler DeAgano (jr. of/p); Tyler Cox (so. inf/p); Cameron Langfels (jr. p); Justin Burke (jr. inf); Clint Baumgardner (so. inf/p), Stephen Holdren (so. p); Stephen Shunk (so. p).
Outlook: Poynter begins his second year at Dunbar with returning starters Wade, Heim, Harp, DeAgano and McGuire, who batted in the middle of the lineup last spring. Wade (.387) is a proven bat. Heim and Harp should be a good defensive combo at second and short. Beymer should be ace of the staff. Cox, DeAgano and Winchester got mound experience last year, but younger arms will have to develop for the Bulldogs to have needed pitching depth.
Mar. 24—at Male, 6; 25—North Laurel, 5:30; Mar. 27-Apr. 3—at Fort Walton Beach Bash; Apr. 6—at Lafayette, 7:30; 9—at Bowling Green Invitational, 8; 10—at BGIT: Union Grove, Wis., 10 a.m.; Hancock Co., 3:30; 12—Tates Creek, 5:30; 14—at Shelby Co., 8; 17—Mercer Co., 11 a.m.; Fleming Co., 3; 19—at Bryan Station, 8; 20—Woodford Co., 5:30; 23—Louisville Invitational at Eastern, vs. Trinity, 6; 24—LIT, vs. Eastern, 11 a.m.; Henderson Co., 4; 26—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 28—at Danville, 7; 29—Madison Central, 8; 30—Conner, 7:30. May 4—East Jessamine, 7:30; 5—Lafayette, 7:30; 6—Fayette Co. Invitational, LCA, 7:30; 8—FCIT, PRP, 1:30; Boone Co., 6:30; 10—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 12—at West Jessamine, 7:30; 13—Anderson Co., 6; 15—Western Hills, 11 a.m.; South Laurel 3; 17—Bryan Station, 7:30; 19—Henry Clay, 7:30; 20—at Madison Central, 8; 21—Boyd Co., 7.
Coach: Scott Sutton
Last year's record: 16-12 (lost to Bryan Station in district)
Top players: Nick Klus (sr. c); Ward Roberts (sr. 2b); Cabot Haggin (jr. ss/p); Griffin Patterson (jr. 3b/p); Dom Hall (jr. 1b); Ray Brewer (fr. of/p); Howard Ball (8th cf/inf); Chase Deppen (so. inf); Spencer Strup (jr. of).
Outlook: The Spartans return four of their top five pitchers, including Haggin and Patterson, giving Sutton his best staff in 12 years at Sayre. Outfield and the lower half of the batting order will have to play their way to experience. Klus (.420, 35 RBI); Haggin (.444, 20 RBI) and Roberts (.329) will key the offense. High hopes for young guys Brewer, who hit .257 as an eighth-grader, and Ball. For Sayre to excel, it will have to get production from the bottom half of its batting order, and its defense in the outfield will have to improve.
Mar. 24—at Paris, 5; 25—Model, 5. Apr. 5—Lafayette, 5:30; 7—Garrard Co., 5:30; 8—at LCA, 5:30; 10—Bethlehem (DH), 11 a.m.; 13—Henry Clay, 5:30; 14—Scott Co., 5:30; 15—at Ky. Country Day, 5:30; 17—at St. Patrick (DH), 11; 20—Bryan Station, 5:30; 21—at Henry Clay, 5:30; 22—at Model, 5:30; 23-24—at Bluegrass Conference tournament at Burgin; 27—at Scott Co., 5; 28—at Bryan Station, 5:30; 29—at Bath Co., 5:30; 30—Portland Christian, 5:30. May 3—Frankfort, 5:30; 4—at Western Hills, 5; 6—Berea, 5:30; 10—Williamstown, 5:30; 11—at Nicholas Co., 5; 13—Jackson Co., 5:30; 15—Silver Grove (DH), 11 a.m.; 17—Washington Co., 5:30; 18—at Portland Christian, 5; 20—Paris, 5:30; 21—Ky. Country Day, 5:30.
Coach: Dom Fucci
Last year's record: 23-9 (lost to Lexington Catholic in district)
Top players: Zyler Cosby (sr. 2b); Trevor Gott (p/inf); Phillip Donovan (sr. of/p); Ryan Fucci (jr. cf/inf/p); Andrew Bryant (jr. inf); Travis Murray (jr. of); Conner Burge (sr. p); Dylan Justice (sr., of/inf); Thomas Kinder (sr. inf); Devin Jackson (jr. inf/p); Reid Van Bussum (jr. inf).
Outlook: Commodores have the makings of a state contender. UK signee Gott can do everything — pitch (3-1, 1.12 ERA), hit (.382, 26 runs, 19 RBI), play the infield and run. Cosby (.337) is a solid lead-off man and second baseman. Fucci (5-1 pitcher; .340 hitter) will use his speed in center field. Donovan is an effective lefty on the mound and a good hitter (.327) and outfielder. Bryant showed good stroke (.377) in limited action last year. Tates Creek has depth up and down its lineup.
Mar. 25—at LCA, 5:30; Mar. 29-31—at Osceda, Fla. tournament. Apr. 5—Bryan Station, 7:30; 6—at Woodford Co., 5:30; 9—Fleming Co., 5:30; 10—Conner, 10 a.m.; Clay Co., 7; 12—at Dunbar, 5:30; 14—Lafayette, 5:15; 15—at Anderson Co., 6; 16—vs. Beechwood at Franklin Co., 6; 17—vs. Holy Cross at Western Hills, 11 a.m.; 19—vs. Henry Clay at Bryan Station, 5:15; 20—at Clark Co., 6; 23—Louisville Invitational Tournament at St. Xavier: Shelby Co., 6:30; 24—LIT at St. Xavier: Covington Catholic, 12:15; St. Xavier, 2:30; 27—at Lafayette, 5:15; 28—at Madison Central, 8. May 1—Garrard Co., noon; Grayson Co., 5; 3—Bryan Station, 7:30; 5—at Scott Co., 8; 7—FCIT, Middlesboro, 5:30; 8—FCIT: Henderson Co., 11 a.m.; Greenup Co., 6:30; 10—Paul Dunbar, 8; 11—East Jessamine, 5:30; 14—Lou. Eastern tournament: Manual, 6:15; 15—Lou. Eastern tournament: Campbellsville, 12:30; Eastern, 3; 17—vs. Paul Dunbar at Henry Clay, 7:45; 18—LCA, 7:45; 20—Mercer Co., 6; 22—at Pendleton Co., 11 a.m.; Madison Central, 2:30.