Duneland Athletic Conference
Players to watch: Aery Pratt, Sr., P-1B (.364; 2-1, 3.09 ERA); Jordan Morandini, Sr., 2B-OF (.444); Andrew Ralph, Jr., OF (.281); Nate Crownover, Sr., 2B; Austin VanderZanden, Sr., UT (.268).
Outlook: The Trojans (15-13) must replace fireballers Jake Post (Ohio State) and Bobby Humphreys, leaving Pratt as the sole experienced arm. There will be plenty of competition with several positions up for grabs.
Players to watch: Zach Plesac, Sr., P (8-2, 1.08, 92 K; .298, 4 HR, 33 RBIs); David Kepshire, Sr., P (6-0, 3.10, 48 K); Johnny Lynk, Sr., DH (.448); Bobby Morgan, Sr., C (.431, 20 RBIs).
Outlook: The Bulldogs have a deep staff, returning 17 wins among a four-man rotation that includes the Ball State-bound Plesac. In addition to the hard-hitting seniors, they return the bulk of the infield and outfield.
Players to watch: Alec Olund, Jr., LF (.348, 7 2B); Nick Kellams, Sr., P/OF (.387, 16 RBIs, 12 2B, 2 HR, 33 R; 5-0, 1.93, 38 K); Ryan Burvan, Sr., SS (.352, 24 R, 6 2B); Antonio Majstorov, Sr., 3B/P (4-0, 1.29, 17 K); Aaron Glatt, Sr., P.
Outlook: After a Class 4A state title, L.C. graduated 10 players. The Indians have a strong pitching staff and return three of their top five hitters. Another long playoff run isn’t out of the question.
Players to watch: Ban Saliwanchik, Sr., P (55.2 P, 76 K; .268, 13 RBI); Francis Silfa, Sr., INF (.333, 8 2Bs); Brody Kutch, Sr., P (25.2 IP, 2.45 ERA).
Outlook: The Slicers look to rebound from a rare losing season (12-19), but sustained a blow with the loss of top pitcher Wally Dickman.
Players to watch: Aaron Dye, Sr., OF (.429, 5 2B, 4 3B); Jon Feliciano, Sr., P/3B (.289; 1-4); Jose Carbajal, Sr., 1B (.300, 13 R, 15 RBIs).
Outlook: The Pirates return experience that includes speed and defensive acumen. They will be lacking early in pitching.
Players to watch: Andrew Ray, Sr., P-3B; Danny Lemon, Sr., 1B; Logan Kaletha, Jr., SS; Scott Thomas, So., 2B-P; Ryan Washington, So., 1B-3B.
Outlook: The Wolves have eight starters back from coach David Ortiz's first winning season (14-13) in his five years at M.C. Ray, who will play at Northern Illinois, anchors the pitching.
Players to watch: CJ Haupt, Sr., SS (.316, 10 RBI); Eric Mesarch, Sr., 1B (.435, 6 2B, 12 RBI); Tyler Newcomb, Sr., RF (.317, 5 2B, 20 RBI); Tyler Kniola, Sr., P (5-0, 1.67 ERA); Chris Klenk, Jr., C.
Outlook: The transfer of hard-throwing junior Kevin Jones from Chesterton bolsters the pitching staff. Coach Tim Pirowski said the Indians have reached the point where success is an expectation.
Players to watch: Devin Bafia, Sr., P-1B (.400, 24 RBIs, 32 runs; 8-3, 2.81, 80 K, 57.1 IP); Jeff Holmes, Sr., 2B (.353, 8 2B, 8 SB, 24 RBI); Stephen Simms, Sr., SS (.275, 14 SB, 26 R); Andrew Sykes, Sr., P (4-3, 2.36, 35.2 IP, 53 K); CJ Gear, Sr., C (.346).
Outlook: The senior-laden sectional champions return six starters and 12 pitching wins, eight by the Evansville-bound Bafia.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Players to watch: Dillon Slowiak, Jr., SS/P (.330); Daniel Klus, Jr., OF (.275); Rene Domora, So., OF; Zach Busco, Fr., C/1B.
Outlook: The Pioneers are reloading after graduating six starters. The inexperience will show early, but there’s a lot of athleticism.
Players to watch: James Thompson, Sr., C (.440, 3 HR); Alex Maskovich, Sr., P/1B; Kyle Byrd, Sr., P/2B; Josh Lumbera, Sr., SS/C.
Outlook: The Gladiators have a powerful pack of seniors full of experience. Gavit's defense is solid, as is senior pitching.
Players to watch: Leron Burnett, Sr., 3B/P; Jalaal Abdur-Rashid, Sr., P/2B; Jerry Tietz, Fr., LF/P; Marcos Arredondo, Jr., P.
Outlook: New coach Brian Demantes sees the young Wildcats vying to win the conference ASAP. With good work ethic and athleticism, Hammond is quickly progressing.
Players to watch: Aurielo Cazares, Sr., P/SS (.260, 17 RBIs, 3 3B; 3-7, 3.74, 58 K; Cody Earl, So., P/SS (2-1, 1.90); Devonte Robinson, So., 2B (22 R, 7 SB); Billy Rosas, Sr., P (1-1, 3.04 18 K).
Outlook: The Governors are looking at a strong sophomore class that saw varsity experience as freshmen. The future is bright, and seniors like Cazares see the future as now.
Greater South Shore Conference
Players to watch: Danny Pobereyko, Sr., 1B/P (.338, 25 R, 32 RBIs; 4-0, 1 S, 2.17, 66 K); Julian Guerrero, Sr., P/3B (7-3, 3.44, 57 K); Chad Mateja, Sr., RHP (3-0, 2 S, 2.31, 56 K); Matt Sandoval, Sr., UT.
Outlook: With 119 innings of experience, the Warriors will be strong on the mound. There’s a mixture of experience and new players ready to fight for lineup spots. Consistent execution will be key to a long postseason.
Players to watch: Marcus Jackson, Sr., SS/P; TJ Thomas, So., P/CF; Tommy Qualls, Sr., C; AJ Willis, So., 2B/P; Collin Garcia, Jr., LF.
Outlook: As the mindset has improved, the defense has shown, too. Coach Brian Arthur continues to stress fundamentals, and the number of runs allowed last year decreased.
Players to watch: Chris Szostek, Sr., UT (.329, 8 2B, 27 R, 21 RBIs); Robert Fazekas, Jr., C; Tyler Ramirez, Jr., UT (15 R, 14 RBIs); Matt Forsythe, Jr., 1B (.349, 6 2B, 19 R, 16 RBIs).
Outlook: The Eagles graduated the bulk of their offense, but return Szostek, a junior North-South All-Star, and a strong infield. Watch for this team to produce runs as the juniors and sophomores develop.
Players to watch: Patrick Cannon, Sr., P-C-CF; Henry Papineau, Sr., 1B-OF; Parker Buell, Sr., 3B-P; William Connelly, Jr., OF; Isaiah Papineau, Jr., P-IF; Nathan Shinn, So., P-INF.
Outlook: The Blazers return largely intact from a rough 2012. Tommy Anderson, who led the team in hitting as a freshman, is back from injury along with Dan Miller.
Players to watch: Chad Schultz, Sr., SS (.361, 31 SB); Brandon Allen, Sr., OF; Brandon Propes, Jr., P/1B (.427); Austin Satori, Jr., P.
Outlook: The Spartans have a new coach in old assistant Doug Belt, who lost just three to graduation. Schultz stole 31 bases and is 14 short of the school record of 94. North Newton is still young, so the cupboard is stocked for another couple years.
Players to watch: O’Shea Owens, Sr., C (.389, 33-35 SB); Geno Flores, Jr., P/3B (2-2; .279); Chris Lauderbach, Jr., P/CF/1B (2-4; .260).
Outlook: The Ingots are fast, stealing 130 of 138 bases last season. Of that, they graduated only 30. The catch is finding the offense to reach first.
Players to watch: Tyler Crussen, Sr., SS (.460, 25 RBI, 35 R); Sam Bolla, So., OF/P (.430, 17 RBI, 24 runs; 3-1, 3.85); Matt Pappas, Jr., P/3B (3-1, 4.59); C.J. Wodetzki, Sr., P/1B (3-2. 3.74); Austin Whitaker, So., P/3B (2-0, 1.69).
Outlook: The Bearcats return nearly 100 pitching innings, but have to replace most of their lineup.
Players to watch: Matt Dvorscak, Jr., P/OF (.398, 24 R, 6 2B, 15 SB; 4-1, 2.63 ERA, 41 K); Nick Filipek, Sr., P/OF (.333, 6 R, 21 AB; 2-4, 2.48 ERA, 46 K); Tom Hildebranski, Sr., 2B (.306, 18 RBIs, 12 R); Justin Jendreas, Sr., SS (.330, 35 R, 15 SB, 20 RBIs).
Outlook: Whiting will rely on a veteran infield and solid 1-2 pitching. “I think we have good contact hitters and we’ll have to play some small ball,” coach Kevin Lenz said.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Players to watch: Zac Ryan, Sr., P (.427, 10 2B, 3 HR, 26 RBIs, 9 SB; 9-1, 1.49, 70 K, 56 IP, 6 shutouts); Matt DeSomer, Jr., P/OF (3-0, 2.70, 25 K, 23 IP; .303); Jeremy Wright, Sr., INF (.303, 14 RBIs, 11 SB).
Outlook: The Niners have three starters back after graduating 10 seniors. They bring back 19 of their 27 wins in pitchers. Ryan, a Georgia Tech recruit, highlights the pitching staff. DeSomer, hampered by knee surgery last season, will be counted on for big innings early.
Players to watch: Jesse Smith, Sr., P/INF (.275, 21 RBIs, 17 R; 4-4, 2.96, 61 K); Anthony Carter, Sr., P (6-3, 2.53, 46 K); Brett Brinkley, Sr., CF (.318, 32 R, 22 SB); Kyle Buikema, Jr., C (.992 fielding, .720 CS).
Outlook: The Panthers lost one everyday player from the team that reached a regional final. Smith is the consummate utility player, and Buikema is ferocious behind the plate.
Players to watch: Tyler Fraley, Sr., SS (.250, 16 R, 19 H); Alec Smith, Jr., DH/RF (.294); Alex Freitag, Sr., P, Danny Hamilton, Sr., CF/P (.240; 1-1); Clay Keltner, So., 3B/P (1-1); Jeremy O’Donnell, So., C.
Outlook: Highland expects to be more effective defensively while the bats catch up. Losing ace Jordan Minch (Purdue) creates a big hole.
Players to watch: Brandon Murray, Jr., P/UT (6-4, 3.03, 105 K; .292, 17 R, 21 RBIs, 7 2B); Nick Bokun, Jr., C/1B (.371, 36 R, 28 RBIs, 9 2B, 2 HR, 18 SB); CJ Komosa, Sr., P (6-0, 1.83, 43 K); Tyrus Joseforsky, Jr., SS/P (.416, 35 R, 22 RBIs, 12 2B, 15 SB).
Outlook: The Brickies return the bulk of a successful team, including South Carolina commit Murray. Hobart has speed in Bokun and Joseforsky, and depth at pitching.
Players to watch: Jack Miles, Jr., P (5-3, 45 K, 58 1/3 IP; .271); Tim Schoonveld, Jr., CF; Matt Myers, Jr., 3B; Matt Berdine, Sr., P/1B.
Outlook: The Kougars graduated eight, including a pair of first-team all-staters, so youth is the name of the game. With just 42 hits back, early offense will be important. K.V. boasts a 10-man pitching staff. That depth will be the team's strength.
Players to watch: Bryan Thomas, Sr., C/IF (.324, 5 2B, 13 RBIs); Mike Hilbrich, Sr., OF (.302, RBIs); Myles Siedentopf, So., P/IF (.260, 7 2B, 20 RBIs; 49 2/3 IP, 2-5, 45 K); Dan Garza, Jr, P/IF (24 2/3 IP, 3-2, 20 K).
Outlook: The Red Devils graduated six, but return eight seniors.
Players to watch: Mike Poulos, Sr., P (2-0, 4.38 ERA); Alex Crowe, Sr., P (2.63, 2 S); Allan Korem, Sr., C (.343); Mike Mueller, Sr., 3B (.289); Alec Skalka, Jr., SS (.417); Craig Dedelow, Sr., CF (.330, 23 R, 7 2B, 20 RBIs); Alex Del Rio, Jr., LF (.405, 18 RBIs, 9 2B).
Outlook: What the Mustangs lack in deep pitching experience, they make up for defensively. Veterans Dedelow and Del Rio will help answer many early questions.
Players to watch: Paco Jordan, Jr., P/1B/OF; Anthony Cherry, Jr., C/3B; Byron Jones, Jr., RHP/UT.; Kevin Suttles, Jr., SS/3B.
Outlook: The Cougars boast a large junior class and have no seniors. They’re fast and athletic, and have strong infield defense.
Porter County Conference
Players to watch: Jason Sawa, Sr., C; Jake Wright, Sr., SS; Dean Hill, Sr., 3B-P; Cody Poynter, Sr., CF; Jon Hogg, Sr., LF.
Outlook: The Wolves (14-12) graduated plenty of innings, but return a senior-laden lineup, including Poynter, who is back after a football knee injury.
Players to watch: Dan Stum, Sr., P/3B (.462, 12 2B, 4 3B, 28 RBIs, 11 SB; 4-4, 3.09 ERA, 24 K); Zach Maciejewski, Sr., C (.392, 16 SB, 10 2B, 42 R, 19 RBIs); Jesse Wilkening, So., OF/C (.472, 28 RBIs, 8 SB); Daniel Ballach, So., 2B/P (.360, 13 RBIs, 29 R); Riley Welch, So., LHP/1B (.413, 20 R, 12 RBIs; 3-2, 4.82 ERA, 25 K).
Outlook: Wilkening was impressive as a freshman, and Stum was the PCC co-MVP. Add to that a sophomore class itching to prove itself, and there are high expectations.
Players to watch: Kyle Joyce, Sr., P-SS (.407, 19 RBI, 29 R; 4-1, 2.45, 34.1 IP, 49 K); Jon Moneta, Sr., 1B (.316); Mike Mikulich, Jr., SS-P (.341, 19 RBI, 23 R); Bryce Hanaway, So., OF (.250, 12 RBI, 16 R); Jarrett Majcher, So., 3B (.289, 15 R); Zac Hernandez, So., C-P. (3-1).
Outlook: Hebron returns several starters and an influx of young talent will fill the voids. Speed and defense will be strengths.
Players to watch: Max Everaert, Jr., P (.405, 14 RBIs, 28 R; 5-5, 2.84 ERA, 72 K/44.1 IP); Andrew Birky, Sr., P (.323, 14 RBIs, 11 SB; 30.2 IP); Jake Moore, Jr., C (.385, 25 RBIs); Jake Bekelya, Jr., CF (.333, 22 R, 12 RBIs).
Outlook: The Mustangs (12-12) aren't deep, but return more than 100 innings and the same group comprises the lineup core.
Players to watch: Jared Dyjak, Jr., SS-P (.458, 7 HR, 28 R, 31 RBIs); Tyler Sharp, Sr., CF; Bryce Guse, Jr.; Wylie Brown, So.
Outlook: New coach Zach Prairie has six freshmen on a roster of 14. The Tigers lost one of their few veterans when catcher Sam Culver tore his ACL in basketball.
Players to watch: Joe Dougherty, Sr., P-1B (9-3, 1.83 ERA, 80.1 IP, 102 K; .324, 3 HR); Ryan Klikus, Sr., SS-P (.426, 11 2B, 25 RBI, 35 R; 3-2, 3.41 ERA, 41 IP); Adam Rettinger, Sr., C (.340, 28 RBI); Austin Porter, Sr., 3B (.360, 25 R, 30 RBI); Tresten Pozil, Sr., OF (.288).
Outlook: Dougherty anchors a deeper pitching staff for the sectional champions. With the outfield graduated and positions changed, defense is the biggest concern.
Players to watch: Adam Clindaniel, Sr., 3B-P (.348, 24 RBI; 3-2); Josh Mohlke, Sr., C (.310); Logan Lionberger, So., OF-P (.286); Austen Hanna, Jr., SS-OF (.262); JT Snyder, So., INF (15 RBIs).
Outlook: The Satellites graduated a ton from a senior group that won four consecutive sectionals, but new coach Ryan Kruszka isn't conceding to a rebuilding season.
Players to watch: Justin Landgrebe, Sr., P-OF; Tyler Frye, Sr., P; Bobby Ross, Sr., 1B; Jake Goodan, Jr., 2B; Corey Holderread, Jr., UT.
Outlook: The Senators (22-10) return their top two pitchers as well as most of their lineup. The addition of shortstop Tyler Byerly, ineligible much of last year after transferring from Crown Point, will be a boost.
Players to watch: Francisco Pineiro, Sr., C; Steve Patton, Sr., UT.
Outlook: Seventeen players have junior varsity experience. In two years, they’ll have the experience of a program, and for now will rely on the offensive prowess of Pineiro.
Players to watch: Adam Campos, Sr., 3B/P (14 RBIs); D’Angelo Gonzalez, Jr., 1B/P (.294, 18 RBIs); Reyes Moldonado, Jr., CF/P (11 R); Luis Rodriguez, Jr., SS/P (.258).
Outlook: Graduation left the Cardinals with a hole in the infield, so finding replacements at shortstop and center field will be key.
Players to watch: Cody Glass, Jr., P (.381, 14 R, 7 RBIs); Xaiver Reillo, Jr., P/3B (.385, 10 H, 15 R); Brandon Swart, Jr., C (.483, 14 H, 16 R, 16 RBIs); Caden Bell, Fr., SS.
Outlook: The Hawks (10-2) are in their third season, and the oldest players are juniors. They are starting to schedule more IHSAA games.
Players to watch: Jay Resendez, Sr., C; Ryan Lattimore, Sr., CF/LHP (.371, 5 2B, 13 SB); Jacob Foster, Jr., 1B/DH.
Outlook: The young staff will take lumps early, but with a run-manufacturing attitude, Rensselaer expects to be part of the sectional title race.
Players to watch: Eric Quinn, Sr., 1B-P; Austin Swistek, So., SS-P; Austin Hisick, Sr., 3B-C-P.
Outlook: The Blackhawks will be young under new coach Randy Weisner, who was surprised by the prospects of a talented freshman class.
— By Times reporters Jim Peters and Hillary Smith