Every other week Ozarks Sports Zone will rank the area’s baseball teams based on dominance by class, essentially their pound-for-pound ranking in their respective class. Rankings are based on results, recent success and strength of schedule. Coaches from all area teams are asked to provide information. This will be the final rankings until after the season.
- Aurora (C4, 22-3, 2) – The Houn’ Dawgs are back at number one and deservedly so. While they did lose 2-0 to Hollister, they bounced back a couple days later with a resounding 10-0 win against the Tigers to capture the Forsyth Tournament title. The team ERA is down to a microscopic .718 led by the pair of aces Zac Shoemaker (.14 ERA) and Wyatt Sparks (.90 ERA). Offensively, while they occasionally get cold, the entire lineup is hitting over .300. Aurora is the top seed in the very deep Class 4 District 11 at Hollister. They Big 8 champs have a relatively clear path to the championship, but will get a stiff test against likely Rogersville or Catholic. With that being said, don’t sleep on anyone as every single game of last year’s district tournament was a one run game with Aurora beat Rogersville in the championship in extra innings.
- Willard (C5, 22-4, 3) – No team is hotter than Willard, and I was oh-so-close to putting the Tigers at number one. Coach McGee’s club captured the outright COC Large title for the first time in more than two decades. Cameron Pope came up with a couple big doubles to help beat Branson in extra innings. Willard is the top seed in Class 5 District 10, and while they’re clearly the best team, Rolla offers a major challenge in the semifinals and either Hillcrest or Lebanon won’t be a walkover in the title game. It took a comeback to beat Hillcrest in extra innings of last year’s championship.
- Walnut Grove (C1, 16-5, 5) – I said no team is hotter than Willard, but Walnut Grove can make a pretty strong argument. The Tigers had won 14 straight until a hard-fought 10-8 loss to Class 5 Willard. Two nights later they lost to solid Class 2 Hartville 1-0 in 8 innings. The losses, especially all the close ones, are what make this team so scary. Their five losses have all come to larger schools (Clever, Forsyth, Aurora, Hartville and Willard); three of which have been or are currently ranked. The Tigers are the top seed in Class 1 District 7, and while they don’t have to worry about New Covenant (moved up to Class 2) this year, state-ranked Lakeland looms on the other side of the bracket.
- Mansfield (C2, 15-2, 1) – Mere hours after our last Power Rankings was posted the Lions lost their first game in over a year to Class 4 Marshfield. Sorry Mansfield! You could call it a curse, but more likely it was the six errors committed in that game. They also gave up a late lead in a 7-5 loss to Mtn Grove in which they committed three more errors. Despite that, the Lions have been beyond dominant against schools their size. On their way to the Summit Conference title, only Hartville scored on the Lions. Spencer Greene and Jonah Williamson have been a dominant 1-2 punch on the mound. Both bring solid sticks to the lineup along with fellow senior Mason Roy. Mansfield is the host and top seed of Class 2 District 10. Norwood, who they beat 2-0 last week, is the 2-seed.
- Monett (C4, 19-4, 4) – With the exception of a 5-3 loss at Mtn. Grove Tuesday night the Cubs are playing their best baseball at the right time. Just in the last two weeks they’ve picked up quality shutout wins over Lamar, Bolivar and Cassville in which Corey Spain fired a no-hitter. They lost to Class 5 Webb City, but led that game going into the 7th. 19-3 Overall, Last 2 weeks: Beat East Newton 14-1, McDonald Co. 5-0, Lamar 8-0, Bolivar 4-2, Cassville 5-0 (Corey Spain No-Hitter), Reeds Spring 11-1, Lone defeat to Webb City 7-5. Was up 4-3 with 1 out in 7th. The Cubs are the heavy favorite in Class 4 District 12 and I think everyone is hoping for an Aurora rematch in the sectionals May 23.
- Lincoln (C2, 22-1, 6) – If you had doubts about the Cardinals’ strength of schedule, don’t sweat it. After taking their only loss to Northwest Hughesville earlier this season, Lincoln bounced back to beat the Class 1 3rd ranked team 7-5, capturing the Kaysinger Conference Tournament title. Winning has become an expectation for Big Red. Chew on this for a minute; the Lincoln football, boy’s basketball and baseball teams are a combined 59-4 this school year. The Cardinals and their 1.07 team ERA are the overwhelming favorite to win Class 2 District 15.
- Rogersville (C4, 17-6, 7) – The Wildcats have ripped off 13 of their last 15 games after a brutal early schedule. That span includes quality 1-run wins over Mtn Grove and Webb City. Senior MSU signee Jordan Fitzpatrick (.425 avg) continues to lead the world (slight exaggeration) in home runs with 12 bombs. Rogersville would be the top seed in most districts, but they just happen to be in district 11 with Aurora. The Wildcats get the Catholic/Hollister winner in the semifinals Monday in Hollister.
- Pierce City (C2, 20-4, 12) – The SRVC champ Eagles continue their ascent up our rankings coming off another fortnight in which they absolutely obliterated the competition, beating Golden City, Diamond, College Heights, Miller, Sarcoxie and Liberal by a combined 71-1. Yes, they lost to Purdy 6-4, but Coach Curry used a little gold old-fashioned ‘strategery’ by throwing his number three starter, so as to not give anything away against the team they’ll likely face in the district championship next Tuesday in Joplin. The Eagles are among the area’s top hitting and pitching teams with a .350 average and 1.53 ERA.
- Plato (C2, 20-4, 11) – Plato hopes to defend its Class 2 District 9 title, and the Eagles are the favorite on their home field, but newcomer Hartville and its three losses will have something to say about that. This is the last hoorah for senior Drury signee Wiley Miller who’s hitting .446 and is 6-0 with a 1.08 ERA.
- Galena (C2, 15-4, 10) – It’s been a whirlwind couple weeks for the Bears who saw their field flooded under three foot of water only to host their Senior Night just 48 hours later. Galena lost that game 3-0 to Forsyth, but they had already locked up a share of the SWCL title. Seniors Logan Sorrell (5-1) and Caleb Hall (6-0) are the 1-2 punch Coach Richardson hopes will lead them to a second straight district title. However, Class 2 newcomer New Covenant, a Final Four team last year, will be a major challenge in the championship game.
- Salem (C4, 16-2, 8) – The Tigers were the underdog last year on their way to an upset district championship. That won’t be the case this spring as they’re the two-seed to Helias in Class 4 District 9, which features seven schools, all with winning records.
- Kickapoo (C5, 17-9, NR) – The Chiefs’ difficult non-conference slate is certainly paying dividends. Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss at Hillcrest was good news for rival Glendale as the Falcons grabbed a share of the Ozark Conference title with the Poo. Pitching has been the key cog of late led by Adam Link, who took home Springfield Leadoff Club Co-MVP honors Monday. But as we know you can’t win without pitching depth. Michael Barnes, Mason Hatch and Mason Auer provide that. The Chiefs are the top seed in Class 5 District 11, but before that they host Willard in a marquee non-conference matchup to wrap-up the regular season. Somehow I doubt either coach will show all its cards though as the game carries no implications and the pair could potentially meet in the quarterfinals.
- Glendale (C5, 22-7, NR) – The Falcons are loaded with seniors and that’s a good recipe for success in the postseason. Wednesday night, Kickapoo’s 2-1 loss at Hillcrest turned out to be Glendale’s gain as the Falcons (7-2 in the OC) grabbed a share of the Ozark Conference regular season title. Not only is it the farewell for a dozen seniors, but it’s also the end of the road for veteran head coach Mike Snodgrass. It’s a balanced group, but senior Owen Gann was selected as the Springfield Leadoff Club’s Co-MVP Monday. The Falcons are the two-seed in Class 5 District 11. They open Saturday against defending district champ Nixa.
- Mtn Grove (C3, 14-5, NR) – The defending state champs lost a lot from that group, but have reloaded and are getting hot at just the right time. In the last two weeks they’ve knocked off previously state ranked Ava and Class 2 top ranked Mansfield. Brock Coffman has stepped up huge with a .525 average and 15 doubles. On the mound, Conner McNew and Austin Williams lead the way with 2.62 and 1.21 ERAs respectively. The Panthers are favored to repeat as district champs as the top seed in Class 3 District 10 comprised of all SCA schools with the exception of Licking.
- Eminence (C1, 15-7, 13) – Flooding devastated the town of Eminence, but the resilient Redwings and their seniors fought through it to go 2-2 over the last two weeks despite missing three starters. Trent McBride leads the way with his 1.06 ERA as the top seed and heavy favorite begins Class 1 District 4 action Monday in Summersville.
Knocking on the Door: Hartville (C2, 13-3, NR), New Covenant (C2, 15-7, 14), Diamond (C3, 16-6, 15), Webb City (C5, 19-8, 9), Catholic (C4, 19-6, NR), Forsyth (C3, 15-8, NR), Greenfield (C1, 14-4, NR), Norwood (C2, 13-7, NR), Conway (C3, 13-7, NR), Ozark (C5, 15-7, NR), Hurley (C1, 9-5, NR), Lakeland (C1, 14-5, NR), Ava (C3, 17-5, NR)