Defending 5A Utah state champion Spanish Fork suffered heavy graduation losses last year but still boasts one of the state’s best pitchers in senior Adam Duke.
Brother of state MVP Brock Duke, Adam went 7-1 last year with 91 strikeouts in 47 innings and earned first-team 5A all-state honors, as well. However, Duke is one of the few returning players for Spanish Fork and that will likely open the door for another team, possibly Jordan (Sandy), to take over the role as the favorite in the 5A state race.
Jordan returns three all-state players in outfielder Kelton Caldwell, Cory Hunt and Clay Kinahan. Caldwell was one of the state’s top hitters last year with a .508 average and eight home runs. Lone Peak (Highland), the runner-up last year, could also do some damage with returning all-state players Dillon Robinson and Jacob Hannemann.
Pine View (St. George) has the state’s best returning player in Marcus Littlewood. The Deseret News' Mr. Baseball last year, Littlewood batted .531 with 14 doubles, five triples and six home runs and was also a defensive standout at second base.
Defending champion Mountain Crest (Hyrum) will have to learn to live without the pitching of 4A MVP Taylor Larsen and all-state infielder Derek Leishman; however, Jeff Schiffman returns from last year’s championship team.
Cottonwood (Salt Lake City) might be the team to emerge in the 4A division thanks to the return of all-state shortstop Dalton Gust (.415, 4 HR) and all-state second-team pick Derrick Pitts.
Dixie (St. George), last year’s runner-up, will also be in the running with all-state infielder Dallen Reber returning. Provo figures to be a factor as well with junior pitcher Seth Rhineer (10 wins, 1.95 ERA) and Matt Griner both returning.
Juan Diego Catholic (Draper) won the state championship last year and may be the favorite again this season. All-state pitcher A.J. Begay returns after winning five games last season. All-state junior shortstop Kody Davis is also back after batting .457 last season.
Kanab won the state championship 14-13 over San Juan last season and looks like the early favorite to repeat as state champion. State MVP Justin Orton returns after going 8-1 last year and hitting .433 with 10 doubles. Orton is joined by all-state outfielder Craig Brinkerhoff (.427, 12 HR), along with Dason Ott.
Juab might be another team to watch with Brady Hansen back on the mound with an 8-2 record as a junior. Levi Dastrup also returns for Juab after earning all-state second-team honors.