Every other week O-Zone will release the Top 15 Power Rankings based on dominance by class, so essentially their pound-for-pound comparison to the best the area and the state have to offer. Records are as of April 11.
(Class, record and previous ranking in parenthesis)
- Conway (C3, 12-1, 2) – With all due respect to Kickapoo, Conway is on fire right now and with their dominating pitching staff might (just might) have enough to unseat defending state champ Fatima in June. MSU signee Hunter Dame is absolutely living up to the billing with a .80 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 26.1 innings pitched, including a no-hitter against Class 4 state ranked Bolivar Saturday. And let’s just say Dame threw in the previous playoff round. Well, the Bears will throw Andrew Huckaby at you with his 4-0 mark and 1.05 ERA. The offense isn’t too shabby either with a combined .334 average led by Chris Vavruska (.477 avg)
- Kickapoo (C5, 12-3, 1) – The Chiefs are 9-1 over the last two weeks against a tough schedule, but still aren’t getting a lot of respect statewide (8th in the coaches poll). Talent is a major plus, but depth might be the x-factor in the playoffs. Central Arkansas signee Kaleb Schmidt is leading a staff that features: Adam Link, Nolan Below, Kyle Giefer, Michael Barnes and Sean Cole. The Chiefs are securely the best overall team in the Ozarks this spring.
- New Covenant (C1, 7-2, 8) – Two weeks in (and of course in just their 2nd season of existence) the Warriors are on top of the Class 1 mountain in Southwest Missouri. Coach Hartley’s crew has run-ruled every Class 1 opponent with the exception of 2nd ranked Walnut Grove, 7 to 3. Their only losses are to Class 4 Cassville and Walnut Ridge, Ark. You’re going to start hearing these names a lot more. Senior Cody Malan is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 21 Ks, leading a staff with a combined 1.78 ERA. Junior Silas Siebert is blazing fast and boasts a .517 average, pacing a lineup that’s hitting .382. Doesn’t sound much like a sophomore slump for NCA does it?
- Stockton (C3, 8-1, 3) – Aside from a 4-1 loss to Bolivar the Tigers have been extremely good. They aren’t just winning, the Tigers are putting a hurt on teams, winning by a combined margin of 90-17. Eli Hubbard is 4-0 on the mound with a sparkling .735 ERA and 26 Ks. The offense is getting contributions up and down the lineup led by Alex Wheeler (.500, 2 HR, 13 RBI), Colton Brown (.450, HR, 9 RBI and Garrett Burns (.409, 8 RBI). Couple key Mid-Lakes games on the schedule for the Tigers this week against Strafford and Ash Grove.
- Mtn Grove (C3, 8-1, 4) – The Panthers are a perfect 5-0 over the last two weeks, including a hard-fought 9-8 win over SCA rival Salem in 9 innings. Brock Coffman is playing like a man possessed, hitting .423 with a pair of doubles and 3 RBI in that victory. Blaine Halford went a perfect 2-0 in the stretch lowering his ERA to .57 on the season. We’ll see how the Panthers do against bigger competition later this year when they square off against Rogersville and Carl Junction.
- Monett (C4, 11-2, 9) – The Cubs have asserted themselves as the top Class 4 team in the area so far with their lone losses coming in a 9 inning 4-3 loss to Nevada and Class 5 Webb City. Cameron Witt continues to kill it at the plate, in the field and on the mound, hitting .450 with 15 rbi and 13 stolen bases to go with a 3-1 record and a silky-smooth 1.10 ERA on the hill. The contributions go much deeper than Witt though; Brett Gollhoffer (.419), Ian Meyer (.447, 2-0, 0.0 ERA), Zach Burgherr (.417), Mason Swearingin (.356) and Jonathan Hawkins (2-0, 1.47 ERA). One of the only dark spots for the team so far is a knee injury to senior John Saunders on Saturday.
- Carl Junction (C4, 11-5, 5) – The Bulldogs have played a gauntlet of a schedule so far; some good (wins over Rogersville, Nixa, Republic, and 3 against Webb City), some not as good (losses to Class 5s Branson, Marquette, Willard, Pattonville and Republic), but ultimately they’re a very good Class 4 team. Ethan Frack and Justice Hylton are one of the best 1-2 punches in the area with .988 and .000 ERAs respectively.
- Walnut Grove (C1, 6-4, 6) – After some early losses it appears the Tigers have turned the corner. They won the 16-team Wheatland Tournament with run-rule shutout wins over Hermitage, Humansville and Leeton, before beating Fordland 9-4 and Class 1 3rd ranked Hurley 10-2 for the championship. The lineup is hitting up and down the order and the staff is pounding the strike zone. Yes, they lost 7-3 at fellow Class 1 contender New Covenant, but Coach Wallace held back his top two arms, Hayden Jeffryes and Logan Thomazin. The Warriors may have won the battle, but Walnut Grove is hoping that strategy helps win the war, aka districts.
- Hurley (C1, 6-3, 7) – The Tigers are currently coming in as the third best Class 1 team in the area, but remember they’re coming off a Final Four appearance and have a couple of bona fide stars in Justice Jones and Isaac Carlson. Chase Simpson is a sophomore hurler coming on strong with wins over Fair Play and Weaubleau last week.
- Galena (C2, 9-1, 11) – The Bears are on a roll and facing a major challenge this week. Back to that in a minute. Galena is up to number five in the latest state rankings thanks to lopsided wins over Norwood, Blue Eye, Wheaton, Hurley and Crane. Jake Baker and Logan Sorrell have three wins apiece with Sorrell’s ERA down to a miniscule .689. Jake LeFevers is leading the way at the plate with a .448 average followed closely by Sorrell’s .400 mark. Now back to that uphill climb this week. Six games (yes 6 games!) are on the docket this week. Let’s see if the Bears are still standing on Sunday afternoon after that marathon.
- Bolivar (C4, 9-2, 10) – The Liberators played road warriors last week with all five games away from the friendly confines. It was a grind, but the Libs came away with a solid 4-1 week with the lone loss on Saturday when they were no-hit by future MSU Bear Hunter Dame. The week also included nail-biting COC Small wins over Hollister and Rogersville. The pitching and defense is there. Look out if this talented group gets hot at the right time.
- Aurora (C4, 10-1, NR) – Don’t sleep on the Houn’ Dawgs! Somehow they’re not getting a sniff of the Class 4 rankings, and it’s pretty hard to understand why. They’re 10 wins aren’t against slouches. They’ve beaten state ranked Walnut Grove, Forsyth and Rogersville as well as Class 5 Willard, Republic and Camdenton. The only blemish is a 7-1 loss to Class 5 Marquette. Pitching? Check. They’ve got a 1.51 team ERA led by Zac Shoemaker (4-0, .538 ERA) and Wyatt Sparks (2-0, 1.4 ERA). Hitting? Yep. They’ve scored 57 runs with a .292 team average. Fielding? You got it. How about a .951 fielding percentage, allowing just 20 total runs (less than 2 per game). Throw in some speed for good measure (21 stolen bases). About the only thing they don’t have is power and so far that hasn’t mattered. Heads up to Glendale and Carl Junction this week. Don’t sleep on the Houn’ Dawgs!
- Plato (C2, 12-3, 13) – The Eagles have certainly been busy of late, playing 10 games in the last two weeks, and going a more-than-respectable 8-2 over that stretch with one of those losses coming to Conway. They pretty well rolled through the Plato “Run and Gun Tournament” led by Connor Hathaway who struck out 16 in a 1-hitter against Cabool. The Lewis & Clark CC commit’s ERA is almost non-existent at .477. Gage Crews also had a strong week and is 4-1 on the season. Meanwhile the offense is belting it to the tune of a .371 average which would be good for an individual, especially 15 games into the season.
- Dixon (C3, 9-1, NR) – The Bulldogs are on a roll and are doing it without their best player. Senior ace Andrew Meier suffered a freak hand injury to his non-throwing right hand. If all goes well the SBU signee will return for the playoffs. Meanwhile the rest of the Bulldogs are saying “next man up” and so far so good as they’re 4-0 since Meier went down with three of those coming in comeback fashion. Last weekend they captured the Osage Wood Bat Tournament for the seventh straight time. The next week features a couple of big challenges against Stoutland and Crocker; an afternoon game at Hammons Field.
- Billings (C1, 5-4, 15) – Don’t let the record fool you. The Wildcats are a perfect 2-0 against Class 1 teams and have done more than hold their own against larger competition. They plated 40 runs in the Monett Tournament and had the Class 4 4th ranked Cubs on the ropes before letting an 8-3 lead slip away in the 5th inning. Not a lot of depth on this Class 1 squad, but if they stay healthy don’t count out the Wildcats against the cream of the crop in the Ozarks, which is pretty salty this year.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Glendale (C5, 13-4, NR), Forsyth (C3, 8-3, NR), Willard (C5, 11-5, NR), Crocker (C2, 5-3, NR), Rogersville (C4, 5-8, 14), Branson (C5, 6-6, NR), Stoutland (C2, 6-2, NR)