Every other week Ozarks Sports Zone will rank area high school baseball teams based on several factors, including record, strength of schedule, recent success and the “eye test”. Rankings are based on dominance by class, essentially how they stack up pound-for-pound against other teams in the rest of the state. Coaches are contacted to provide recommendations, stats and team info.
(Classification, record, last ranking in parenthesis)
1. Aurora (C4, 10-0, 1) – The Class 4 top-ranked Houn’ Dawgs have been as close to perfect as could possibly be imagined. The pitching staff, led by Missouri St signee Wyatt Sparks, has allowed just 3 earned runs all season (.356 ERA). Offensively, junior Gage Singer is crushing it to the tune of a .583 average and team-leading 15 RBI. Tuesday night, they past a major test, topping Big 8 rival Monett 7-1 to remain undefeated.
2. Strafford (C3, 8-0, 4) – The Indians jump up a pair of spots this week after a pair of impressive wins over Class 4 Catholic and Mid-Lakes rival Stockton. Those were one-run games, but in five of their other six games the Indians amassed double-digit run totals. Marshfield will be a tough game one Friday with several challenges down the road, including Hollister, Conway and Rogersville.
3. Webb City (C5, 12-2, 5) – Aside from a week 1 loss at Branson the Cardinals have shown they’re one of, if not THE, top Class 5 team in the Ozarks and they backed it up with an 8-6 win over COC Large rival Ozark Tuesday night.
4. Walnut Grove (C1, 7-0, NR) – The Tigers make the biggest jump of any team this week after a 4-0 run in the Wheatland Tournament. Senior Logan Thomazin is off to one of the best starts by any player, at any level, in any state, EVER! The Missouri State signee is 14-17 at the plate with 11 walks (.888 on-base %) and is 2-0 on the mound with a .75 ERA. The schedule is nowhere near as stout as last spring, but the Tigers are dominating everyone in their way.
5. Mansfield (C2, 5-2, 2) – The Ozark loss was understandable and expected, but falling to Seymour came out of left field so to speak. Despite the narrow defeat, the Lions continue to be a state championship contender in Class 2, sporting a .312 average and 2.10 team ERA led by four talented senior hurlers.
6. New Covenant (C2, 6-3, 7) – The rain has kept the Warriors off the field for much of the last two weeks, but when they played, they won. Ace Ryan Carmack tossed a 2-hitter, striking out 11 against a good Pierce City team followed by lefty Max Breite’s 4-hitter against state-ranked Dora. Toss in a 19-2 win over upstart Chadwick and it appears NCA is on a roll heading into the home stretch.
7. Mountain Grove (C3, 7-1, 10) – Like a storybook (and basketball season) the Panthers avenged a season-opening extra-inning loss to Licking with a thrilling extra-inning win over the Wildcats Tuesday night. The team is hitting a whopping .324 led by senior Cade Coffman’s .520 mark. Coffman is also leading the pitching staff with a 2-0 record, 1.43 ERA and 27 strikeouts.
8. Dora (C1, 8-3, 8) – It’s not the wins that make Dora so good (although it doesn’t hurt). It’s the gut-wrenching 1-run losses to state ranked New Covenant and Mountain Grove that show this young squad’s potential. The schedule is challenging and some calls haven’t gone their way, but you can bet the Falcons will be ready come playoff time.
9. Halfway (C1, 10-1, 12) – If Walnut Grove is the cream of the crop in Class 1 in the area, Halfway is just an inch behind. The Cardinals have dominated their schedule with the exception of a 1-run loss to WG, a game they led throughout. Otherwise, the Cardinals have scored in double digits four straight and seven times overall and have allowed five runs or less in every game.
10. Plato (C2, 8-2, 15) – The Eagles are flying high after a win in their own tournament last week. The pitching staff, which is deep with six players, owns a silky-smooth 1.78 ERA. Hitting is a major strength of this team, and while they’ve yet to hit their full stride, players like Jack Morrison (.750), Caeden Hathaway (.400) and Matt Daniels (.375) offer a glimpse of how stacked this lineup can be.
11. Willard (C5, 12-3, NR) – The Tigers are another team on the rise with recent wins over Class 3 #1 Summit Prep and previously undefeated Poplar Bluff in Class 5. As good as they’ve been, the future is even brighter as Coach McGee starts five sophomores with five sophomore pitchers.
12. Kickapoo (C5, 7-5, 11) – The Chiefs have been inconsistent to start the season, but have certainly been battle-tested. Senior Missouri State signee Mason Auer continues to impress with an 11-strikeout performance in a no-decision against Joplin last week. The Chiefs committed seven errors in an ugly loss to Lebanon last week, but bounced back with a big win over Branson on Monday. Another big challenge awaits this week with the Owasso Tournament.
13. Monett (C4, 9-3, 14) – Until Tuesday’s loss to Aurora the Cubs had won eight straight, including their own tournament title and the Carthage Tournament in consecutive weekends. The road gets no easier in the coming weeks with games against Branson, Mt Vernon, Lamar and Webb City.
14. Seymour (C2, 8-1, NR) – We really don’t know a lot about the Tigers at this point, but any team who can beat Mansfield deserves consideration in these rankings. And it should be noted that their one loss was actually a win but was later ruled a forfeit. Who are you Seymour? We shall see in the coming weeks.
15. Rolla (C5, 10-2-1, NR) – What an athletic year it’s been for the Bulldogs and it continues into the spring. The Bulldogs have just two losses with a bevy of big wins, including last week against state-ranked Fort Zumwalt West. Rolla is a serious contender to win the Ozark Conference.
Knocking on the Door: Eminence (C1, 5-1, 9), Ozark (C5, 6-6, 3), Lincoln (C2, 6-1, NR), Lebanon (C5, 9-2, NR), Marshfield (C4, 10-2, NR), Glendale (C5, 10-4, NR), Catholic (C4, 6-2, NR), Clever (C3, 7-2, NR), Pierce City (C2, 6-3, 13), Hollister (C4, 8-2, NR), West Plains (C5, 6-3, NR), Reeds Spring (C4, 5-2, NR), Lamar (C3, 7-1, NR), Hurley (C1, 5-3, 6), Licking (C3, 4-3, NR)