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2024 baseball area watch list

Mar. 30—PLAYERS TO WATCH

(in alphabetical order)

LF Joey Barch, Sr., Mayfield: A strong bat for the Wildcats. In 2023, hit .309 with 17 RBI and two doubles. Will be a part of an experienced bunch that wants to get back into contention in the WRC.

1B/P Gino Blasini, Sr., Kirtland: Equally strong from the batter's box and on the mound. Hit .311 with seven RBI while recording seven wins with 58 strikeouts and a 1.24 ERA.

P/INF Lucas Brandt, Sr., Hawken: Was strong on the mound as a sophomore but made more of an impact from the batter's box as a junior, as he was unable to pitch. Had 16 RBI and 18 stolen bases last season and will be the leader for a young Hawks team.

INF/P Jimmy Cerha, Sr., Kenston: A consistent hitter when needed a season ago with eight RBI and three doubles. Will also be a strong arm for the defending D-II state champs. He had three wins and 39 strikeouts a season ago. Ohio baseball signee.

SS/P Frankie Clark, Jr., NDCL: The leading returning hitter for the Lions from a regional final run a year ago. Hit .391 with 13 RBI and legged out eight doubles to lead the team.

C Stone Fawcett, Jr., Chardon: Back in his natural position behind the plate, will also shoulder more of the load from the offensive side, as well. Hit .301 with 21 RBI and two triples a season ago.

OF/P Niko Frizell, Sr., South: The Lake Erie signee aims to build on a strong season as the leader for the Rebels. Had seven RBI, three doubles and a home run to go with strong defense. Mercyhurst signee.

P/INF Sam Hoffman, Sr., NDCL: Came on strong from the mount during the Lions' postseason run. Finished with a 3.19 ERA and 33 strikeouts last season.

1B/DH Jacob McCartney, Jr., Mentor: A strong bat in the middle of the lineup. Had two home runs to lead the Cardinals and was second with 13 RBI.

C Owen McKoon, Jr., Perry: Leads a high-powered offense for the Pirates as he hit .522 with three home runs, 39 RBI, five doubles and four triples. Can also move from behind the plate to the mound when needed. Racked up seven wins with a 0.53 ERA and 41 strikeouts.

C LA Mighton, Sr., Kenston: The defensive voice for the Bombers behind the plate. Also strong in the box as he hit .323 with a team-high 22 RBI and 10 doubles. Akron signee.

SS/P Aaron Moss, Jr., University: Returned to the lineup for the Preppers with 14 RBI but also made an impact on the mound as the No. 2 in the rotation with five wins and 34 strikeouts.

SS/P Deacon Nelson, So., University: Made an immediate impact as a freshman, hit .392 with 33 RBI, eight doubles and two triples, second in all categories for the Preppers.

OF/P Riley Penn, Sr., University: Caps the three-headed monster for the Preppers as he led all hitters for the team with .397. Added 20 RBI, four doubles, two triples and a team-high 19 stolen bases.

INF/P Jacob Pentek, Sr., Perry: Played a strong second hitter role for the Pirates last season as he hit .315 with 25 RBI and 13 stolen bases. Also a strong arm with four wins, a 2.63 ERA and 43 strikeouts.

P/1B/OF Logan Queen, Sr., Geneva: Highlighted a strong group for the Eagles a year ago as he hit .449 with a home run along with a team high 30 RBI. Also had six doubles, two triples while also strong on the mound with three wins and a 1.24 ERA.

P Josh Rosenblitt, Jr., Beachwood: While able to contribute from the plate, hit .324 with 16 RBI and six doubles, a force every time he takes the mound. Racked up six wins, 90 strikeouts and a 0.88 ERA last year.

INF Samuel Tharp, Sr., Perry: Able to turn any hit into extra bases as he had six doubles and a pair of triples a season ago. Also hit .329 with 19 RBI for the Pirates. Mercyhurst signee.

P/OF Matthew Tierno, Sr., Lake Catholic: The Walsh University signee settled into his role as the team's ace last season with three wins, 57 strikeouts and a 1.92 ERA. Will again be the No. 1 arm for the Cougars aim for another deep postseason run.

P/INF Zach Titas, Jr., Gilmour: A consistent bat for the regional qualifiers in the Lancers, hit .319 with a pair of home runs and 14 RBIs. Also strong in the outfield for a team that again eyes a late postseason run.

C AJ Trobenter, Jr., Lake Catholic: Emerged as the lead bat for the Cougars last season, hitting .405 with 21 RBI and seven doubles, both of which led the team. Will also be the defensive leader for the team.

P/1B/OR Hewitt Wilt, Sr., Geneva: Like Rosenblit, can make an impact from the plate, hit .294 with a home run and 13 RBI a season ago, Wilt is more comfortable on the mound. Had a team-high five wins with 71 strikeouts and a 1.16 ERA. Mercyhurst signee.

SS Peyton Zupancic, Sr., Mentor: Both strong in the field and at the plate. Hit .317 with a home run along with a team-high 18 RBI and six doubles. Also led the Cardinals with 17 stolen bases.

ON DECK CIRCLE

—Twelve area teams advanced to the district round a season ago, and many of the area teams bring back a lot of firepower. Many coverage area teams have their eyes on a path to Canal Park for the state round, and the super regional pools offer teams a choose-your-own-adventure style challenge to get there.

—Beachwood had eventual D-III state champions Waynedale on the ropes a year ago when Rosenblitt threw 6 1/3 strong innings with six strikeouts and took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh. He has returned with a vengeance with a 14-strikeout performance against Firestone.

—Chagrin Falls had its CVC title win streak snapped, as they had won at least a share of a conference title since 2017. The Tigers bring back a roster full of experience to compete in a challenging CVC Chagrin Division with Perry, Beachwood and Hawken.

—Speaking of the CVC, the new divisions for this season should feature some good battles. Geneva aims for back-to-back titles, with the second coming in the Lake division. Kirtland is the early favorite in the Valley Division, but Berkshire will be a strong challenge for the Hornets.

—Baseball returns to The Port, led by coach Jerry Hites. One of the area's most historic programs returns after not fielding a team a year ago. The Skippers have a bevy of youth and aim to use this season as a building block back to the heights it has been at.

—The WRC is going to be a battle once again. The past two D-II state champions have come from the conference, and Riverside has won the last two conference championships. Mayfield, Chardon, Keston and South bring strong teams to the season with the Beavers and North also having teams that can contend for the conference title.