MaxPreps' baseball coverage kicks off next week with the premiere of the 2010 MaxPreps Xcellent 25.
Among the teams that figure to start the season high in the initial rankings are Alonso of Tampa, Fla., Bellaire of Texas and Edison of Huntington Beach, Calif. Alonso is a defending state champion, Bellaire was ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps for most of last season and Edison has a pair of talented transfers who should get the Chargers back to the CIF-Southern Section championship game.
All three teams also begin the season listed as the top team in their state by MaxPreps. Here's a look at our choice for the top team in each of the 47 states that play spring baseball.
Alabama – Auburn (Auburn)
The state champions started the playoffs as the seventh-ranked team in the 6A division last year but dropped just one game en route to the title, including a sweep of Oxford in the finals. Auburn gets the edge over teams from Wetumpka, Fairhope, Oxford, Grissom, Russell County, Vestavia Hills and Hoover thanks to a starting lineup that includes four all-state players. Junior Tanner Cimo was a first-team pick at second base while pitcher Drew Eilland (Sr.), third baseman Grant Massey (Jr.) and outfielder Todd Thompson (Sr.) were named honorable mention. Other returning starters include James Ponder and Trey Gregg. Auburn may be a bit down in pitching after losing all-state hurler Reid Carter, but the hitting and pitching should be stronger.
Alaska - Dimond (Anchorage)
Dimond won the state championship last season and has been among the top teams in the Cook Inlet League the past few seasons.
Arizona – Horizon (Scottsdale)
Horizon has reached the state finals the past five seasons and could make it six in a row this year. The Huskies fell to Desert Ridge 9-8 in last year’s 5A Division II championship, but have three key starters back from last year in right-handed pitcher Joey Danner (6-2 record), shortstop Dillon Everett (.333) and second baseman John Rubino (.353). Seniors Dillon Englehart at third base and Conor Clancy at first base figure to contribute, according to coach Eric Kibler.
Arkansas – Fayetteville (Fayetteville)
Hard to bet against the four-time state champions, especially considering that coach Vance Arnold considers this team as deep in hitting, pitching and defense as his past four teams. The Purple Dogs have a strong quartet of pitchers in Bryce Roberts, Brandon Allen, Doug Wolf and Brad Hollenbeck. Allen is the lone junior among the three and he was an all-state quarterback for the football team in the fall. Hollenbeck and Allen also play shortstop while Matt Stelte is the catcher and Jacob Pinter plays first base. Roberts and Wolf both play in the outfield.
California – Edison (Huntington Beach)
The Chargers have possibly the top two juniors in the state in 6-foot-5 pitcher Henry Owens and shortstop Christian Lopes. Owens was 9-1 for Edison last year with a 0.98 ERA and 87 strikeouts. Lopes, meanwhile, was an all-state and All-American pick for Valencia last year. Lopes, along with brother Tim (2B), give the Chargers one of the best double-play combinations in the state. The Lopes brothers join a lineup that includes a trio of solid hitters in Kyle Jones (.370), Tanner Phillips (.306) and Eric Snyder (.354). Jones plays third base while Phillips will play first base and Snyder roams the outfield. Starting catcher Jimmy Madden also returns. The Chargers lost to Capistrano Valley in the Southern Section Division I finals last year.
Colorado – Rocky Mountain (Fort Collins)
The Lobos have won the last three 5A state championships in Colorado, but coach Scott Bullock must replace all-state players Bryan Peters (Nebraska) and Jake Stewart (Stanford) from a lineup that went 22-4 last year. The good news is that pitcher Marco Gonzales, who has won the championship game each of the past three seasons, returns along with senior P/SS Pierce Trumper and senior C Chris Roglen. Gonzales has already signed with Gonzaga while Trumper is headed to Arkansas and Matz will play at Air Force. Others who figure in the mix for the Lobos include senior 2B Luke White, senior utility Zac Chuvala and senior outfielder Nick McLimans.
Connecticut - Montville (Oakdale)
Posting a 22-4 record, the Indians stumbled in the playoffs with a 5-3 loss to Ellington. However, a number of Montville’s top players return from last year’s team. Tyler Contillo is back in the infield after batting .452 as a sophomore. Meanwhile senior Jesse Sutherland returns in the outfield after batting .494 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI. Other all-conference selections include catcher Kyle Holland, outfielder Ray Ingram, pitcher Dave MacCracken and third baseman Justin Brachas.
Delaware – St. Mark's (Wilmington)
The defending state champions return four all-league first-team players, including all-state selection Tony Valichka at second base. Third baseman James Wilson, outfielder Brandon Baker and utility Taylor Mahoney were also first-team honorees last year. St. Mark’s knocked off Sussex Central 13-4 to win the state title in 2009.
Florida – Alonso (Tampa)
There are a bunch of great teams in Florida this year but Alonso’s pitching depth gives the Ravens the edge in choosing the state’s top team. The defending 6A state champions return five pitchers from last year’s team, led by MaxPreps All-American Thomas Dorminy. Others include Tyler Ding (2B/RHP), Brandon Johnson (1B/LHP), Jose Fernandez (RHP/Ut) and Matt Brandy (3B/RHP). The Ravens also have one of the state’s best shortstops in Tito Martinez.
Georgia – South Forsyth (Cumming)
With one of the nation’s top recruits in the starting lineup, the War Eagles look to improve on last year’s runner-up finish in the AAAAA division in Georgia. South Forsyth lost in two straight games to Pope in the finals, but it returns Zach Alvord, a shortstop ranked No. 33 in the country by Baseball America. Alvord hit .349 last year with 13 doubles and 13 home runs. He’s joined by fellow all-county players Andrew Barna (IF, 12 2B, 7 HR, .407), Patrick Olavaney (OF, 6 HR, 27 RBI, .311), Caden Bailey (IF, Jr., .315) and Keith Grabowski (OF, Jr., .309).
Hawaii – 'Iolani (Honolulu)
Ranked among the top teams in the state last year, Iolani faltered in the playoffs. But the return of all-state pitcher Sheldon Lee, outfielder Jensen Park, and utility Jarrett Arakawa could put Iolani into the finals this year.
Idaho – Coeur d'Alene (Coeur d'Alene)
The Vikings had a young team that went 21-9 and lost to Highland in the 5A playoffs. However, Inland Empire Most Valuable Player Devon Austin, a senior catcher, returns along with a strong junior class that includes all-league second-team pitchers Jake Pereira and Colin Comack, along with infielders Matt Lambert and Drew Turbin.
Illinois – St. Rita (Chicago)
St. Rita returns two of the state’s top players from a team that went 34-6 last season and finished second in Class 4A to New Trier. State MVP Mark Payton is back in the outfield after hitting .438 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI. Shane Conlon also returns on the mound after posting a 9-1 record with a 2.81 ERA in 52.1 innings pitched.
Indiana – Indianapolis Cathedral (Indianapolis)
The Irish posted 26 straight wins last year before falling to Center Grove in the 4A state playoffs. Cathedral has the state’s best player in pitcher Dillon Peters, a junior who has already committed to Texas. He was the city player of the year in Indianapolis after posting a 10-0 record as a sophomore. Other returning all-city picks include senior outfielder Scott Miller and junior third baseman Phil Mosey.
Kansas – Lawrence (Lawrence)
Albert Minnis transferred to Lawrence last year and paid huge dividends as he pitched Lawrence to a Kansas state championship. Minnis returns for his senior year and has already committed to play at Wichita State next season. The pitching rotation also returns Tanner Kilmer (LHP/1B) and Taylor Gentry (1B/RHP) while the double-play combination of Chris Parker (2B) and Landon Moseley (SS) returns intact.
Kentucky – Lexington Catholic (Lexington)
Lexington Catholic coach Kevin Clary expects his team to have better team speed, better defense and continued top notch pitching this year after winning the Kentucky state championship in 2009. The return of Patrick Maronde (OF/P), Taylor Martin (P), Tyler Jackson (C), Tyler Wells (OF), Will Hurt (SS/P) and Chase Armstrong (OF) will make Lexington Catholic the team to beat this year.
Louisiana – Barbe (Lake Charles)
Barbe has the state’s best player in shortstop Garin Checchini, who was the lone junior on the 5A All-State Team in Louisiana last year. The Bucs have won the district title 14 of the past 15 years and have won five state titles since 1998.
Maine – Deering (Portland)
Deering didn’t skip a beat under first-year head coach Mike Coutts as he led the Rams to their third straight state title. Deering has gone undefeated the past two seasons and may be in a bit of a rebuilding mode after losing all-state seniors Ryan Flaherty and Taylor Candage, but it still ranks as the team to beat in Maine.
Maryland – Calvert Hall (Baltimore)
Four returning senior pitchers from a team that has went 26-4 last year and won its fifth straight MIAA championship should help Calvert Hall earn a sixth title in 2010. Blake Geiger was 9-1 last year while Mike Trionfo was 8-0. Ryan Swearingen was 4-1 and Dominic Sgroi was 3-2. Top returning starters include Greg Bryant (.359) at shortstop, Patrick Fitzgerald at second base (.359), Alex Lenovitz at first base (.444), Matt Bosse at DH (.417), Ryan Welling at catcher (.298), Scott Merkel in right field (.295) and Alex Pastorius in centerfield.
Massachusetts – Boston College (Boston)
The Eagles are the three-time South Sectional champions in Massachusetts and they won the state title last year over St. John’s, 11-2. Coach Norm Walsh led the Eagles to their second straight state championship last season and was also named to the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Michigan – De La Salle Collegiate (Warren)
De La Salle won the state championship last year with a 36-5 record and loses many of the seniors on last year’s team; however, the Pilots return one of the state’s top pitchers in Steve Laudicina.
Minnesota – St. Michael-Albertville (Albertville)
The Knights won the AAA state tournament last year and return a pair of all-tournament players in third baseman Bryton Carlson and pitcher Jared Dehmer. Fifteen of the players on the Knights’ 18-man roster return to make a run at another state title.
Mississippi - Sumrall (Sumrall)
Last year’s No. 1 team in the country by MaxPreps, Sumrall returns the bulk of last year’s starting lineup to make a run at a third straight state championship. Coach Larry Knight has Chase Lewallen (SS/P, Sr), Jackson Posey (3B/P, Sr), Chad Guice (OF/C, Sr), Luke Lowery (1B/P, Jr.), Conner Barron (2B/SS, Jr.), Austin Knight (C/P, Jr.) and Austin Carter (OF, Jr.) all back after playing significant minutes during last year’s undefeated season.
Missouri – Fort Zumwalt South (St. Peters)
Ranked No. 1 in the state in the preseason coaches poll, Fort Zumwalt South returns three key seniors in Fred Ford (1B/P), AJ Walkenhorst (P) and Danny Brennan (SS/OF). Ford and Walkenhorst were the team’s top two pitchers during last year’s state championship run while Brennan and Ford were the No. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup. Senior Joe Hoffman figures to help out at catcher while junior second baseman Dan Seddon will team with Brennan in the middle of the infield.
Nebraska – Millard West (Omaha)
The Wildcats get the nod in Nebraska thanks to a strong junior class and a solid group of returning seniors that include Kyle Kruger, Brett Bass, Chris Klosterman and Tyler Ware.
Nevada – Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
The Gaels began last season as the No. 1 team in the nation and finished in the top five. A No. 1 ranking wouldn’t be out of the question for Chris Sheff’s team as he has 14 letterman back from last year including standout infielder Johnny Field (.518, 14 HR), catcher Erik Van Meetren (.496, 12 HR), and sophomore sensation Joey Gallo (.402, 6 HR).
New Hampshire - Portsmouth (Portsmouth)
The Clippers head into the 2010 season with 43 straight wins after defeating St. Thomas 10-8 in last year’s Class I final. Portsmouth has one of the state’s best players returning from last year in first baseman Mike Montville, who batted .532 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI last year.
New Jersey – Toms River South (Toms River)
The Indians return 17 players from last year’s team that went 22-8, including pitchers Andrew McGee, infielder Kyle Driscoll and catcher Dan Scheller.
New Mexico – La Cueva (Albuquerque)
The Bears lost just two games last year, but one was to Rio Rancho in the state finals. La Cueva returns nine players from last year’s squad, including Nathan Ross (.436, 7 HR), Stephen Carbajal (.435), Ryan Winter (.328), Ryan Padilla (.406, 7 HR) and Zach Nelson (.385).
New York - Mamaroneck (Mamaroneck)
Coach Mike Chiapparelli and the Mamaroneck Tigers will make a run at another Class AA state title behind the play of veteran catcher Michael Rosenfeld. A total of 17 lettermen return from last year’s championship team.
North Carolina – Charlotte Christian (Charlotte)
Coach Greg Simmons and his Charlotte Christian squad will find out just how good they are this year as they play what Simmons calls his toughest schedule in 20 years of coaching. Although they lost their top two players from last year in Luke Bard (Ga. Tech) and Andy Clifford (Furman), seven other starters return, including Ty Linton, who is headed to UNC-Chapel Hill. Also back are shortstop Jake Watson, who signed with South Carolina, second baseman Trey Laney, who signed with Western Carolina and outfielder John Kincaid, who signed with Appalachian State.
North Dakota – Dickinson (Dickinson)
The Midgets lose Cole Frenzel, who was one of the state’s top prospects last year and helped lead Dickinson to a 1-0 win over Fargo South in the state championship game. However Dickinson lost just three seniors from last year’s championship squad.
Ohio – Walsh Jesuit (Cuyahoga Falls)
Walsh Jesuit figures to start the season near the top of the Xcellent 25 preseason baseball rankings thanks to the return of the three of the state’s best players in Tyler Skulina, Johnny Fasola and Greg Greve. Skulina is the returning state player of the year and is headed to the University of Virginia next year. Meanwhile Fasola has committed to Kansas State and Greve to Ohio State. The trio forms an impressive pitching corps for Walsh Jesuit with Skulina likely getting high consideration in the June MLB draft. Other standout seniors include Patrick Ammar and Zach O’Driscoll while lefthanded pitchers Tim Faix and Joe Keller head the list of juniors. Walsh Jesuit also has some standout sophomores as well with righthanded pitcher Forrest Perron and lefthanded pitchers Michael Marsinek.
Oklahoma – Owasso (Owasso)
Sure, the Rams lost a ton of talent from last year’s 35-4 team, but it’s hard to pick against a program that has won three straight state championships and eight in the last 13 seasons. Coach Larry Turner has a young team this year with only five seniors, but three of them, Ryan Wilson, Garrett Schaede and Kyle Wood, have signed to play baseball at the college level next season. The Rams also have transfer Dylan Bundy from Sperry. Bundy was the Gatorade State Player of the Year last year as a sophomore.
Oregon – Roseburg (Roseburg)
The Indians reached the 6A state final with a relatively young squad last year, led by Southwest Conference MVP Mitch Huff. An all-state outfielder, Huff is one of three returning all-state players for Roseburg. Infielder John Farrington was also honored, along with pitcher Brandon Jackson. Other returning all-league players include second team picks Vince Ampi at catcher, Derek Priestley in the infield and Cameron Newell in the outfield. The Indians figure to get their toughest test this year within their own league from the North Medford Black Tornado.
Pennsylvania – Germantown Academy (Fort Washington)
Playing in the competitive Inter-Academic League, Germantown Academy will play plenty of tough opponents this year, including Penn Charter and Malvern Prep. Germantown Academy might have the edge, however, thanks to the return of all-conference standouts Sean Coyle in the infield and Keenan Kish at pitcher. Coyle is ranked No. 44 in the country by Baseball America while Kish ranks No. 85.
Rhode Island – Bishop Hendricken (Warwick)
The Hawks lose MLB draft pick Chris Costantino, who was the state player of the year in 2009 while leading Bishop Hendricken to a state championship. However all-state pick Jeff Roy returns along with all-league pick Thomas Verdi, senior, and Billy Walker, sophomore.
South Carolina - Wando (Mt. Pleasant)
With seven starters back in the lineup, including the state’s top prospect in pitcher Drew Cisco, the Warriors have already secured the No. 1 ranking in the state by the South Carolina Coaches Association. Cisco figures to be a high draft pick by the Major Leagues in June. Others who figure to contribute include Reid Langdale (headed to Winthrop), Brad Cherry, Robbie Dodds, Evan Hunt, juniors Connor Bright and Jordan Eysen and freshman Nicholas Ciuffo.
South Dakota – Washington (Sioux Falls)
Washington reached the state finals last year, falling to Mitchell, but has several all-state players returning in 2010. Outfielder Cole Halgerson was all-state as a sophomore. Meanwhile Jordan Schievielbein was a second team choice at pitcher. All-district players Jared Miller (1B) and sophomore Patrick Fiala (LF) also return.
Tennessee – Farragut (Knoxville)
The Admirals won the Class AAA state championship again last year and return two of the state’s top juniors to make another run at the crown. Farragut will try for the state crown without last year’s head coach as Tommy Pharr has moved on to another school. Matt Buckner takes over and he’ll have two of the state’s best juniors in second baseman Nicky Delmonico (.465, 12 HR, 57 RBI), and pitcher Philip Pfeifer (12-2, 138 Ks, 1.53 ERA). Nick Williams (6-0, 0.82) gives the Admirals a strong second arm.
Texas – Bellaire (Bellaire)
The Cardinals spent most of last season at the top of the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings, but a loss to Brazoswood in the state playoffs brought an early end to the season for coach Rocky Manuel’s club. However, Bellaire returns seven starters and two of the team’s top three pitchers, signaling that Bellaire should once again be the team to beat in Texas. Pitcher Toller Boardman was the district MVP as a sophomore and is joined by returning starters Alex Silver (SS, Sr), Kirby Taylor (2B, Sr), Kyle Chaskin (3B/P, Sr), Daniel Gerow (C, Sr) and Sean Washington (LHP/1B, Jr).
Utah – Juan Diego Catholic (Draper)
With Spanish Fork losing most of its players off of last year’s state championship team, 3A champ Juan Diego Catholic could be the team to beat in Utah this year. Besides all-state pitcher A.J. Begay (1.93 ERA), Juan Diego Catholic also has all-state shortstop Kody Davis (.457) and honorable mention all-state infielder Yuto Kata returning.
Vermont – Lyndon Institute (Lyndon Center)
Lyndon Institute will be without star pitcher Buddy Lamothe, but the team is riding an 18-game win streak heading into the 2010 season after going undefeated last year and winning the Division II state championship.
Virginia - Menchville (Newport News)
The Monarchs won the Division AAA state championship last year and are favored to do so again in 2010. Austin Chrismon, a senior P/3B, figures to be one of the state’s top players. He is headed to East Carolina next year. Coach Phil Forbes also has solid senior returning lettermen Teddy Brewer (OF), Hunter Lewis (P/1B), and Dan Moschler (3B). Junior pitcher DeShorn Lake is one of the top junior pitchers in the country according to Forbes while sophomore Josh Moore was 17-1 as a pitcher on the JV team last year. Others who figure to contribute include junior shortstop Deron Hanley and senior outfielder Cody Joyner.
Washington – Puyallup (Puyallup)
Seven starters return for Puyallup, which finished second in Class 4A last year behind Richland. Three of the returners made the all-state team last year, including three-time all-league pitcher and right-handed pitcher Sal Arena and three-time all-league centerfielder Sean Rehon. Puyallup also has a pair of two-time all-league players in the infield with senior Andrew Barry back at shortstop and junior Robbie Ingram behind the plate. Senior second baseman Brett Bitow was also an all-league choice last year while junior Scott Kuzminsky was second-team all-league. Coach Marc Wiese likes his team’s blend of speed and power and he says an all-league transfer from Rogers will add pop to the lineup. Replacing last year’s No. 1 pitcher is a concern, but Arena currently throws in the low 90’s and could end up as the team’s top thrower.
West Virginia - Martinsburg (Martinsburg)
The defending state champion Bulldogs lose state MVP Brandon King, but return a wealth of talent including a pair of talented juniors. First baseman Zach Stolipher hit .356 with nine home runs as a sophomore last year while utility Zach Woolcock batted .491 with 18 doubles, six home runs and 49 RBI. Junior Kam Puller also had a strong sophomore campaign while seniors Noon Jordan and T.J. Weisenburg both earned all-area mention.
Wisconsin – La Crosse Central (La Crosse)
The Red Raiders return three all-district players from a team that went 26-3 overall last year. Catcher Mitch Ghel made the All-District 3 first team as a sophomore while Bobby Juan made the first team on the infield. Ryan Ledvina was an all-district outfielder.