I always get input from the coaches before I publish this on who they think will be the top teams in the state. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more diverse pool of answers on their opinions. Nine teams got mentioned as a potential contender and five teams were mentioned as the top team in the class. I’m going to print my top five but expect a lot of fluctuation this season.
Coach: Erik DeJong
Outlook: The Riders once again have the deepest team in the state. Even though they lost several players to Jefferson they still have dozens of talented players to choose from. Marcus Phillips headlines a nasty group of hitters in the lineup. He’s already hit a bomb in the opening game against Lincoln this year. Jamie Legg is back as one of the best catchers in the state and Ben Irsfeld and Billy Chatwell are both returning all-region selections too. Dylan Howard is another college level player who is ready to be among the best in the state.
Coach: Mark Abrahamson
Outlook: The Tigers went 30-6 and won the state title last year. They have the Class A player of the year back in Will Simmons to lead a strong staff plus they have one of the strongest lineups once again this spring. Last year the team hit 16 homers. Tyman Long and Jack Sutton are two of the most powerful hitters in the state and will lurk in the middle of the Tiger lineup.
Coach: Steve Gray
Outlook: This team went 20-6 last spring and was just a step shy of the state tournament. They will benefit from having a very young lineup last year and return a lot of talent. Lincoln Kienholz returns as one of the most feared pitchers and hitters in the state. Last year Kienholz had a league leading 1.298 OPS and .468 batting average. Brady Getz led the pitching staff in several categories last season and along with Kienholz make up a dynamite 1-2 punch. Jayden Wiebe, and Jack Merkwan come back to the starting lineup as well and they have several players ready to take a step up.
4. Brandon Valley
Coach: Jeremy VanHeel
Outlook: There is a lot of optimism around this team in Brandon. “We have a lot of talented baseball players. One of our biggest set backs will be figuring out who we are and where we fit on this team. Once we figure out that we will be something special,” said VanHeel. Last season they got to the semifinals with a 20-16 record. This year they have seven committed college players and great depth at all positions puts them in a spot to be optimistic. Carson Askdal is a returning All-State player who thrived at the plate (.340) and on the mound (1.34 ERA). Other returning players include Nick Hokenstad, Matt Brown, Austin Rieter, Nate Meyers, Ayden Spicer, Logan Kelling and Trey Sejnoha. All those guys are college-level players who will fit into the mix.
Coach: Jordon Johnson
Outlook: Lincoln had another outstanding season last year going 25-5. “We return another strong team of players. We will have a good mix of experience and playing time along with young talented players as well,” said Coach Johnson. This is a loaded lineup this season with returning talent like Chase Houselog, Jackson Boe, Charlie Mickelson and Oscar Lockwood-Powell mixed with some newcomers like Nate Motl, Gavin Solomon and others. The pitching is solid and deep with Chase Houselog and Jackson Geerts at the top of the rotation. Overall this team maybe isn’t as dep as last year but they have a higher ceiling with a lot of outstanding players. They should be able to build on last season’s success and make a serious title run.
Coach: Dan Hughes
Outlook: The Knights won their region last year with a very seasoned group. This year they’ll inject some new names in the lineup and try to compete with the best in the state. Leo Hueners is the only returning starter from last year’s state tournament for O’Gorman. He along with Trey Heckenlaible, Carter Petersen, Tristin VanWassenhove and Mason Fritz will all have to step up and hit the ball. The rotation is in good hands, “I feel our pitching is up there with everyone in the state, we will need to find ways to manufacture runs. By having competitive at bats, moving guys over and being aggressive on the base paths when there are opportunities. If we able to do those things we should have a successful year,” said Coach Hughes. He can bring in guys like Heckenlaible, Login Lindner, Fritz and Maverick Jarding to lead the way on the mound.
Coach: Luke Norden
Outlook: “We need to make teams worry about playing us, and not the other way around,” said Coach Luke Norden.” Those teams will have their hands full with a senior-heavy roster in Mitchell. They went 16-13 last year and have 11 seniors back including almost all of their innings from last season. All-State selection Jonah Schmidt leads on the mound and at the plate for Mitchell. Dylan Soulek, Seth Muth, Jake Helleloid and Jace Larson round out a good group of hitters with Landon Waddell slated as one of the aces on the mound along with Schmidt, Soulek, Larson and Helleloid.
Coach: Drew Lawrence
Outlook: Yankton put some building blocks in place last season that will form a solid foundation for a team on the rise this year. “We return 8 starters from last years team,” said Coach Lawrence. “Our strength will be our pitching as we return 70% of our innings pitched last year and out defense as we have every starter back from the infield.” Look for a stronger lineup this year led by Dylan Prouty, Connor Teichroew and Joe Gokie. Their pitching will definitely be a strength with two emerging aces Drew Ryken and Samuel Kampshoff at the top of the rotation.
Coach: Ryan Bauer
Outlook:The Bobcats had a good season last year winning 23 games. They’ll hit the field with some key players back from last year’s team including Jake Ammann who stars at the plate and on the mound. Ammann hit .359 last spring with a team leading 34 RBIs. On the mound he threw 23.2 innings and struck out 24. Josh Devine and Lincoln Hardin will be key in the pitching rotation for the Bobcats as well.
Coach: Brent Thurlow
Outlook: Last season Washington went 18-12 but played as well as anyone down the stretch. They made it to the title game where they lost 3-2 and came up just short of the championship. This season Brent Thurlow takes over as the head coach. He has all-state pitcher Gage Sharping back to lead the staff. Patrick Osborn, Myles Rees, Bryce Ronken, Cael Swanson and Andrew Glovich all are expected to lead the way for Washington this spring.
Coach: James Borges
Outlook: Jefferson enters their first year of spring ball with some good talent. Kyler Miritello is one of the top pitchers in the state as a junior and will likely lead this pitching staff. Mason Riley is one of the leaders at the plate for the young Cavaliers.
Rapid City Central
Coach: Hunter LaCroix
Outlook: Last season this team put together six wins and they are returning all but two varsity players. Coach LaCroix likes the way his team is working together, “Some of our strengths are depth at almost every position and great teammates to each other. My team sticks together like they are brothers.” Riley Palmer was an all-state player as a sophomore last year and leads them again at the plate. Ethan Caroline and Kyle Schlueter lead a stable of good arms.
Coach: Danny Miller
Outlook: I don’t know if there was another team as loose and as focused as Dell Rapids was last year on their way to a championship. With eight starters returning you’d think they’d be the overwhelming favorites to get it done again. However their top player from last year, Austin Henry, recently underwent Tommy John surgery which is a huge setback for them. “Last year we had really good buy-in from the players on team concepts,” said Coach Miller. “We need the same thing while staying grounded and hungry.” They come into the season with a more experienced lineup including Returning starters Landon Ruesink, Aiden Boechler, CJ Smith, Will Jaton, Dylan Mathis, Brayden Pankonen, Jack Henry and Treyse Eastman. Even though Austin Henry who is headed to Wichita State to pitch next year won’t be on the mound they’ll get elite innings from his younger brother Jack Henry as well as Brayden Pankoen, Treyse Eastman and Landon Ruesink. Even though they’re the defending champs with a lot coming back it won’t be an easy road for Dell Rapids, but they’re well-prepared for another state tourney run.
Coach: Rob Augustine
Outlook: The Panthers have become a year in and year out contender. This year is no different. They lost Class B player of the year Paul Bruns but return two other POY contenders this year in Isaac Bruns and Jake Pruchniak. Their pitching staff is deep, almost every player on the team can hurl it, they have 8 arms they feel really good about. Jaxon Hennies and Isaac Bruns both hit over .300 last year and will be staples in the lineup for the Panthers.
Coach: Tommy Gregg
Outlook: Last season Redfield took a young team and made a state tournament run. They return all nine starters. “Our expectations are high,” said Coach Gregg. “We want to keep it simple, get timely hitting, throw strikes, run the basses hard and play good defense.” Their award-winning lineup features all-state performers like Peyton Osborn and Camden Osborn, all-region selections like Fehi Faonelua, Eric Salmen and Easton Millar and solid hitters like Keaton Rohlfs and Owen Osborn. They have a lot of good arms to get them through the season headlined by Peyton Osborn who was 3-1 with a 1.05 ERA last year.
Coach: Tom Heisinger
Outlook: This team gained a great deal of confidence making to to the semis last year and have a lot of talent returning to make another state tournament run. Willis Robertson, Jake Jensen, Jack Kratz, TJ Tracy, Ben Burbach, Clayton Sorensen, Reece Proefrock, Carter Mart, Charlie Ward, Tim Dixon will be returning players. Kratz and Jensen are returning all-state players. Jensen, Soresen, Robertson, and Dixon will be the strength on the mound. They have the nucleus but will be looking for contributions from some new players to help drive in runs and replace their leadoff hitter Connor Saunders who did so much last season.
Coach: Russ Healy
Outlook: The Trojans made quite an impact last season getting all the way to the championship game. Although just four starters return there are high hopes again for West Central. Grafton Stroup leads the returners along with second basemen Ben Sebert, pitcher/right fielder Zach Madsen and Duece Sherrard in centerfield. Look for Braden Herr, Logan Maras, Duece Sherrard, Dalton Mulder and Andrew Zimmer to have good numbers this season. This team will be deep with arms and bats. They just need to gain confidence as they start the season like they did last year. This team has the potential to be in the last game of the season again and that is always the goal at West Central.
Coach: Eric Hortness
Outlook: Madison is always in contention for a state title run. Last season they lost in the region final but have some stellar talent on the roster to push their season further this year. Aspen Dahl is an all-state performer who hit .446 and led the team with a 5-0 record and 0.88 ERA. He has 119 career strikeouts in 65.2 innings pitched. He’s one of the best players in the state. Colby Vostad, Nathan Ricke, Peyton Wolf, Riley Kerin and Trey Smith will form the nucleus of this team. “We have several holes to fill in key positions both offensively and defensively,” said Coach Hortness. “We play ALOT of games (27 scheduled), so that will help us figure out where everybody needs to be.”
Coach: Luke Koepsell
Outlook: Last season the Tigers didn’t lose until they reached the state tournament. They have a young and solid group of players coming back to build on that experience. This year they’ll come in a much more confident team but they won’t be under the radar. Big bats are sprinkled throughout the lineup with Jace Sifore and Griffin Clubb doing the most damage. Jack Neises, Ryder Erickson, Colby Claussen and Luke Koepsell all are explosive at the plate as well. Luke Koepsell could be their ace despite being a freshman. Claussen, Neises and Clubb will all pitch in big innings too. They combined for a 2.85 ERA last season.
Coach: Neil Hylla
Outlook: Gregory County made history by getting to the state tournament last year, this year Coach Hylla wants to push it even further, “This season we hope to be back at the tournament where we hope our brief experience will lead us into the finals. We lost one player to graduation and return a good number of experienced players to our roster. Our JV team has a number of new players and we bring some new freshman up to our varsity team.”
They’ll look to All-State selection Rylan Peck to lead the way. He led Class B last season in batting and OPS. Trey Murray, Sawyer Tietgen, Ben Witt, Kade Braun, Brogan Glover and Gannon Thomas make up a salty roster that has the potential to matchup with anyone in the state.
Coach: Gary Kortan
Outlook: Bon Homme had a down year by their lofty standards last season. This year they have six returning starters plus Riley Rothschadl who missed last spring as he recovered from an ACL injury. Rothschadl is one of the top players in the state and having him back with Carter Uecker on the mound gives them one of the best pitching duos in the class. This year’s team is still young with just one senior but they’re hungry to get back into contention.
Coach: Zach Ronning
Outlook: EPJ was one of the pleasant surprises last year going 10-2 in the regular season. But they play in a loaded region and didn’t hit their goal to get to state. They’ll reload with six starters back including Ben Swatek and Noah Larson leading the way. Other notable returners are Cade Fennel, Ty Trometer, Noah McDermott, Hunter Geary, and Jake Gale. “This year's team bring back alot of experience from previous seasons and have the drive to make a run in the postseason,” said Coach Ronning. “The team will have some shoes to fill after losing 3 All-Region players to graduation, but have players with the drive to fill their positions.”
Coach: Jeff Harris
Outlook: Last season Parkston went 12-5 and have plenty of talent back including All-State selection Max Scott and all-region players Brayden Jervik, and Ty Neugebauer. Coach Jeff Harris thinks the lineup is strong but the pitching rotation could be the key, “Our pitching depth will be one of our strengths, as well as speed and agressiveness on the basepaths,” said Harris.
Coach: Travis Milton
Outlook: Sioux Valley baseball, like most other sports, has a strong senior class. Six starters return to contend this season. Parker Puetz, (NDSU commit) pitches and plays infield to lead the way. Damian Danzeisen and Connor Gross help build a solid stable of pitchers. This is one of the most experienced teams that Sioux Valley has had with 20 players out for spring ball.
Coach: Drew Sweeter
Outlook: Just a couple of years removed from a state championship, the O’s look to get back to contention. They put up a 9-8 record last year with a 7-2 record in region. Connor Eich, Braedon Wulf and Braxton Musser will be key returners to the pitching staff. Carter VanHouten, Brett Duncan, Isaac Bambas along with Wulf and Eich provide strength in the lineup. Coach Sweeter thinks defense will again be a strength for Lennox and wants this team to believe, “I think our biggest thing is going to be how well we carry over confidence.”
Coach: David Grantham
Outlook: Hamlin has a core of four returning starters that hope to improve on last year’s 5-7 mark. Carson Pedersen, Xander Sheehan, Cooper Sauder and Watson Grantham are returning starters. Look for Ted Smith, Kelby Hauck, Kayden Kutil, and Carter Jutting to step up as well.
Coach: Neal Bobzin
Outlook: This team is new to spring ball but they have several players with some big upside. “We need to grow up quickly,” said Coach Bobzin. “We have a very young team, but they have a lot of experience playing against high level opponents. We will be able to pitch and play defense. The question is, can we develop our bats and improve our base running?” Aiden Bobzin, Logan Bobzin and Cole Edberg make a nice trio at the top of the order who also will take turns on the mound.
Coach: Christian Christian
Outlook: This team hasn’t played a spring schedule since 2019 but are ready to take the field.
Players to watch include, Kadyn Geherls and Addison Stewert. They’ll need contributors from a freshman class and younger in order to compete this year.
Coach: Tom Baab
Outlook: The Titans took a huge step last year with a 14-4 record and came up just short of making it to state. They have solid speed and fielding but their overall experience at the varsity level is not a strength. A couple of juniors with big bats will lead the way. Logan Boom and Nathan Babb both hit over .300 last year as sophomores and should continue to light it up. Clayton Schwebach, Kellen Sattler and Nathan Babb will anchor the rotation.
Rapid City Christian
Coach: Adam Courtney
Outlook: Rapid City Christian joins the SDHSBA this spring with some excitement. “We have a good nucleus of kids who are out that have played a lot of baseball growing up,” said Coach Courtney. “That should help us compete this year.” Trace Trainor, Benson Kieffer, Simon Kieffer, Wes Schlabach, Elijah Hoyt, Jerred Zeigler, and Blaine Bolton have all shown the ability to put the ball in play and could hit for a good average this year. They’ll look for solid innings from Elijah Hoyt, Jerred Zeigler, Blaine Bolton, Benson Kieffer, Simon Kieffer and Trace Trainor.
Coach: Trent Kuchta
Outlook: This is a young team that continues to build confidence as they mature. Logan Bridges, Levi Berens, Ethan Sheaffer, and Gabe Gillespie hold down the middle of the lineup. Look for Bridges and Sheaffer along with Ray Travnicek to supply most of the innings on the mound.
Coach: Kory Foss
Outlook: “This is our second year in existence as a program, and we’re hoping to build off of last year’s inaugural season,” said Coach Kory Foss. Last year the Trappers went 3-12 but all signs point to growth and improvement. They have 26 kids out for spring ball this year (13 from each school). Their leader in pitching and hitting last year, Dawson Bietz, is coming off of a serious injury and won’t contribute for most of the season. They’ll look to Treton Sayler, Ajay Herrboldt, Turner Nicholson and Austin Pillsbury among other to get the bats going. The pitching rotation will be a mashup of athletes to log the innings.
Coach: Randall Doran
Outlook: The SDHSBA welcomes Belle Fourche to competition this year. They had a very competitive junior legion team and hope that translates to success this spring. Coach Randall Doran knows there will be a few hurdles to success early on, “Team strength and weakness will be experience, our starting lineup consists of 3 SRs and 2 JRs who have started on our SR legion team since they were 15 years old, starting SS/top pitcher is a sophomore who has been a SR Legion starter since he was 13. Experience is also our weakness, with this being our first year in the SDHSBA.” Gabe Heck is a terror on the basepaths. He was 30/30 during the legion season in steals. He along with Nolan Wahlfeldt, Evan Vissia and Sean Wahfeldt will make up the top of the lineup. Nolan Wahlfeldt leads the way on the mound as a sophomore but they have Dalton Davis, Sean Wahlfeldt and Anthony Budmayr who will all log big innings.
Coach: Brady Albrecht
Outlook: After a 3-6 season that started “as a scramble” according to coach Albrecht, this teams is focused on improvement. “We need to focus on being excellent at the routine parts of the game,” said Albrecht. “We need to limit walks when pitching and limit strikeouts when hitting.” They’ll look to Nolan Dvorak and Dustin Honomichl to anchor the team. Dvorak is committed to DWU and hit .290 with a .405 OBP last year and Honomichl threw for over a K/IP last year with a good fastball and offspeed mix. These two are used to setting the bar at Wagner, Nolan Dvorak and Dustin Honomichl were both selected as 11A first-team All-State Football players. Nolan Dvorak placed 4th at the State Wrestling Tournament. Dustin Honomichl scored 1,000 points and became Wagner's All-Time leading scorer in basketball. “With a good season in baseball this year, these two might go down as the best to ever do it in Wagner High School,” said Albrecht.