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, 17-0, 1) – The Houn’ Dawgs are the only remaining undefeated team in the area and are far and away atop this list. The offense has been suitable, scratching out seven runs or less in their last nine games, but the pitching staff is unmatched. Five pitchers have at least two wins, striking out 203 batters in 109 innings. A couple big tests await Saturday as they host powerful Class 5 foes Willard and West Plains.
2. Webb City (C5, 18-2, 3) – Led by a strong senior class, the Cardinals are among the hottest teams in the area with 11 straight wins. Lefty Tyler Martin (signed with Nebraska) is 6-0 with 55 strikeouts in 37 innings, leading a pitching staff that has allowed more than six runs just once, and that was a win. Matt Duley and Cade Beason are each 4-0. So far, WC is undefeated in COC Large play, but a major test awaits Thursday as they travel to Willard.
3. Strafford (C3, 11-3, 2) – Since our last rankings the Indians have three losses but all have come to Class 4 teams (Marshfield, Hollister, Catholic), two of which were by one run. Meanwhile, they beat Mid-Lakes rival, and red-hot Stockton 9-8, Reeds Spring 10-9, Norwood 2-1 and Seymour 9-0; a game in which Tony Caldwell fired a complete game one-hitter, striking out eight. A busy week awaits with four games in five days, including a rematch with Hollister Friday.
4. Walnut Grove (C1, 9-1, 4) – The Tigers finally took an L with a 4-2 defeat to fast-charging Skyline in the Wheatland Tournament championship, but made up for it with big wins over Greenfield and Humansville. MSU signee Logan Thomazin continues to impress with his .677 average, four home runs and 3-1 record on the mound.
5. Mansfield (C2, 10-4, 5) – The Lions may have four losses, but still should be considered the favorite to repeat as Class 2 state champs. Those losses came to quality Class 5 programs Ozark, Lebanon and Nixa, along with conference rival Seymour. It’s been a busy week with six games, including big wins over Licking, John Burroughs and Camdenton. Seniors Devin Kingery (7 for 13), Crayton Henry (7 for 15) and Spencer Greene, who had a three home run in four game stretch, led the way.
6. New Covenant (C2, 11-3, 6) – The Warriors are another red hot team with 10 straight wins after dropping three of their first four games. Offense hasn’t been an issue, scoring double digit runs four times in the past two weeks, but pitching has been nearly unmatched. The team ERA is 1.20 in the past five games, striking out 35 and surrendering just 15 hits.
7. Halfway (C1, 13-2, 9) – Wow! That would be a great way to describe the Cardinals’ stats so far. The pitching staff has a combined .61 ERA with 169 strikeouts and have allowed as many as five runs just once (5-4 loss to Walnut Grove). The offense is crushing it to the tune of a .378 avg, averaging almost 11 runs per game. Four pitchers have an ERA of less than 1.00 (H. McCarthy .33, C. Gallivan .38, R. Gallivan 0.0, B. Phillips .54).
8. Willard (C5, 18-4, 11) – The area’s Class 5 pecking order remains cloudy, but no one wants to face Willard, especially when Tanner Norris or Matthew Eleiott take the mound. Coach McGee’s youthful Tigers are clicking even faster than expected. Sophomore Grant Harris (.477 avg) has emerged as one of SWMO’s top middle infielders. Throw in slugging first baseman Garrett Rice (Mizzou verbal) and you have an offense that’s averaging eight runs per game. A couple of major tests are in store this week, hosting COC Large contender Webb City Thursday and visiting Class 4 defending state champ Aurora Saturday.
9. Dora (C1, 13-4, 8) – One thing is for sure, the Falcons aren’t shying away from competition. Their four losses have come against Licking, New Covenant, Mtn Grove and Catholic; all larger schools and three of four which are at least receiving votes in the state rankings. This past week they won their own tournament with wins over Van Buren, Alton and Plato. Freshman Mason Luna had 8 strikeouts in six innings in the championship. This team is young and talented; bright future!
10. Clever (C3, 13-2, NR) – No team has been hotter than Clever the past two weeks. The Bluejays went 7-0, winning by an average of nine runs per game, including a 7-1 win over a very good Howe, Oklahoma team. The offense is hitting .346 and the team ERA is 1.91, but maybe most impressive is the defense that’s flirting with the state record at .961%. The dynamic quartet of Calin Springer, Logan Peebles, Hunter Eutsler and Tyler Deepe are on fire right now.
11. Mountain Grove (C3, 12-2, 7) – The Panthers took a surprising loss to 6-10 Alton in the opening round of the Dora Tournament but bounced back with six-run wins over Van Buren and Gainesville. Cade Coffman, Connor McNew and Hayden Newberry continue to lead the way for an offense averaging better than 10 runs per game and a pitching staff with a sub-2 ERA.
12. Plato (C2, 12-4, 10) – The cold, wet weather has taken its toll on the Eagles, but warmer days are ahead and Coach Vaughan has a few aces in the hole. Despite some nagging injuries, Plato is scoring plenty of runs led by Jack Morrison (.606 avg) and Matt Daniels (.400 avg), while the pitching staff is allowing just over two runs per game. They had a strong showing at the Dora Tournament last week but fell to the host Falcons in the championship. Some big games area ahead with Dixon Tuesday and Eminence next Monday.
13. Glendale (C5, 15-5, NR) – Despite having one of the toughest schedules in the area the Falcons have persevered with some very good wins; #9 Lee’s Summit West, #8 Willard, Kickapoo, previously state ranked Ozark, Nixa and West Plains. GHS has won 10 of 11, during that span Ethan Paschke has come up huge on the mound, going 3-0 with a save, Ty Wilsmeyer is hitting .448, and no one’s been hotter than Thomas Brand, who’s hitting .519 with game-winning hits against Ozark, Kickapoo and Hillcrest. Pitching and defense have led the way, but Saturday’s 17-hit, 16-0 win over West Plains indicates the Falcons can win in multiple ways.
14. Stockton (C3, 12-5, NR) – You might have written off the Tigers after a 2-4 start, but they’ve heated up, going 10-1 since then, and the one loss was a 9-8 shootout against Strafford. The Tigers won their own tournament this weekend, outscoring Warsaw, Butler and Clinton 22-1.
15. Hollister (C4, 13-3, NR) – Welcome to the top 15 Hollister! The Tigers are one of our more unexpected surprises this spring, picking up an impressive win at the Strafford Tournament, beating the host Indians, Norwood, Reeds Spring and Catholic along the way. Jenner Steele is hitting over .500 and Jackson Bekemeier is 5-0 on the hill with a sub-1 ERA.
Knocking on the Door: Seymour (C2, 12-4, 14), Kickapoo (C5, 13-8, 12), Rolla (C5, 12-3-1, 15), Eminence (C1, 10-1, NR), Monett (C4, 10-6, 13), Ozark (C5, 12-8, NR), Lebanon (C5, 14-3, NR), Dixon (C3, 14-2, NR), Skyline (C2, 14-4, NR), Lincoln (C2, 15-2, NR), Marshfield (C4, 14-3, NR), Catholic (C4, 13-3, NR), Purdy (13-4, C2, NR), Crane (C2, 12-4, NR), Pierce City (C2, 10-3, NR), Lamar (C3, 9-3, NR), Hurley (C1, 7-4, NR), Licking (C3, 8-5, NR), Rogersville (C4, 10-6, NR)