Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Players to watch
Matt Bagnato, Sr., Peak to Peak: The shortstop for the Pumas returns after hitting .317 with 18 walks, 26 steals and 23 RBIs.
Noah Befus, Sr., Longmont: In Befus, the Trojans have a three-year varsity player that’s carried a .356 career average.
Austen Clark, Sr., Lyons: Showed promise in all three phases of the game last year, and the Lions need him to lead this spring.
Jackson Dinkel, Sr., Boulder: Had a nice season last year as BHS’ sturdiest pitcher, and he got even better this past summer.
Chase Fulkerson, Sr., Dawson School: His production has increased dramatically three straight seasons. If a fourth is in store … watch out.
Tanner Garner, Sr., Broomfield: Put simply, the kid knows what he’s doing on any playing surface — but on the diamond, Garner is a pure slugger.
Andrew Morris, Sr., Monarch: An unknown commodity at this point, but head coach Scott Weiss said he will turn heads this spring.
Phillip Neill, Sr., Holy Family: Quietly, Neill finished second on the team in several batting categories in 2017. In 2018, he’ll be the one making the noise.
Hunter Owens, Jr., Fairview: One of BoCo’s better power hitters, Owens had five home runs last year and drove in 28. He’ll be looking to cut down on K’s.
Ryan Overboe, Sr., Legacy: An in-the-zone pitcher the Lightning can rely on, Overboe will look to bounce back from a tough season at the plate.
The regular season will end by April 29 for Class 1A and between May 5-8 for all other classifications. Teams will compete in district and regional tournaments until championships on May 17 (1A) and May 25-26 (Class 2A through 5A).
Coach: Jack Taylor (first year in second stint with BHS).
Last year: 10-9 overall; 5-7 Class 5A Front Range League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Jackson Dinkel (Sr., P/1B); Liam Yuill (Sr., CF).
Others to watch: Dorsey Chatham (So., P/3B); Noel Hackett (Sr., Util.); Ethan Prout (Sr., INF); Teddy Schoenfeld (Jr., OF); Sanjay Solomon (Sr., P).
Outlook: The senior-heavy Panthers underachieved last year, but Taylor returns to the dugout with hopes that the program rekindles its tradition of reloading with three large classes of players. Several Legion B kids that Taylor coached to a state title figure to be in the mix, while Dinkel is a steady ace coming off a great summer. Chatham is highly touted in his class and should provide a big boost for the next few years.
Coach: Garren Estes (15th year).
Last year: 20-7 overall; 10-2 Front Range League (lost to Rocky Mountain in state championship game).
Returning starters: Tyler Conover (Sr., INF); Tanner Garner (Sr., INF); Mitch Morales (Jr., OF/P); Ben Peterson (Sr., P); Hayden VanDePol (Sr., Util.).
Others to watch: Estes was still watching with a keen eye when contacted.
Outlook: Fresh off an appearance in the state championship series, the Eagles are riding a wave of hope in their own dugout as contenders in the Front Range League, so long as a few kids perform well outside of those expected to. Peterson and Morales were great last year and continue to beef up their repertoire of pitches, and five kids return that hit better than a .385 clip.
Coach: Doug Kinney (second year).
Last year: 7-12 overall; 4-10 Class 4A Northern League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Trevor Erickson (Jr., OF/P); Greg Smith (Sr., SS/P).
Others to watch: Carson Renjillian (Jr., 1B/P); Brayden Rizzi (Jr., 1B/P); Kaden Sheppard (Jr., C/INF); Max Whiton (So., C/INF).
Outlook: The Warriors sputtered a bit in the Northern League after a great start, but the youth of the team should serve them well this year and next. A lot of players got experience at the Legion B state tournament, Kinney said, and the competition from within should provide for a stronger unit on the diamond. They’ll lean on Erickson at the heart of the order after he batted .400 last year.
DAWSON SCHOOL MUSTANGS
Coach: Joe McKenzie (fifth year).
Last year: 12-9 overall; 6-2 Class 2A District 7 (lost in district championship game).
Returning starters: Brandon Day (So., INF/P); Simon Dodge (Jr., C); Chase Fulkerson (Sr., SS/P); Tucker Heroux (Jr., OF/P); Finn Jones (Sr., OF); Donovan Muniz (Jr., 2B/P); Wyeth Thompson (Sr., 1B).
Others to watch: Nate Bernstein (So., 3B/P); Eli Merritt (Fr., INF/P/OF); Evan Moll (Fr., OF/P/1B); Tommy Noonan (Fr., Util.); Luke Ramos (Fr., C/INF).
Outlook: The Mustangs were still a good team last year coming off winning the 2016 state title in 2A, but McKenzie said this group is primed for a deep run in the playoffs with pitching depth and a lot of experience up the middle of the field. There is a large group of freshmen to groom, but some will get to do so while playing varsity.
Coach: Harold Simmons (10th year).
Last year: 4-15 overall; 4-10 Class 4A Tri-Valley League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Connor Leach (Sr., P).
Others to watch: Kyle Couper (Sr., P/OF); Matt Kelly (Sr., INF/P); Austin Klingenmeier (Sr., P/OF); Zach Rees (Sr., C/Util.); Dan Rogers (Jr., OF).
Outlook: The Tigers were a tough-luck team last year in a lot of ways, but the consensus remains Erie will bounce back and at least contend for a playoff spot this year. Leach will be looked to as an innings-eater, but there will be competition for a ton of playing positions to hopefully breed intensity.
Coach: David Castillo (third year).
Last year: 12-8 overall; 7-5 Front Range League (lost in regionals).
Returning starters: Cole Carrigan (Sr., INF); Hunter Owens (Sr., 1B/P); Henry Rock (Jr., OF/P).
Others to watch: Ryan Caraballo (Sr., P); Ben Baecher (Jr., P); Elliot Dineen (Sr., P); Jeff Erickson (Sr., OF); Colt Futter (Sr., P); Graham Gilchrist (Jr., P); David Hopkins (So., OF/INF); Hall Humphrey (Jr., OF); Brett Jones (So., INF); J.D. Jones (Fr., C); Logan McMinn (Sr., Util./P); Ian McNice (Jr., OF/P); Harry Paul (Sr., P); Kush Tewari (Sr., P./Util.); Kohlor Von Eschen (Jr., Util.); Liam Blom Walker (Sr., P) .
Outlook: The Knights will seek a higher place in the pecking order of the Front Range League by being a deep, specialized team. The depth at pitching will ensure that only the most dedicated players will see innings, while spots in the lineup will be hard-fought for, too. Fairview again had a lot of players emerge in summer ball — the Jones brothers stick out — but Owens will be the big bat in the middle of the lineup.
Coach: Blaine Shirley .
Last year: 4-15 overall; 2-12 Tri-Valley League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Ryan Bacca (Jr., INF/P); Jacob Green (So., 3B/P/OF); Trevor Hazlett (Jr., CF); Cole Hoffman (Jr., C); Brandon Hornby (So., OF); Colton Laidig (Sr., INF).
Others to watch: Luke Dunker (So., 1B); Reid Johnson (So., P); Kyle Polansky (Sr., P); Jackson Ramer (So., C); Jonah Sanders (Jr., INF).
Outlook: Shirley admitted the Warriors have some ‘edges that needed to be sanded out’, but there are a lot of young guys that got varsity experience last year and hope to be difference-makers this season. A lot of the players know what Shirley expects, but the idea is to slowly build up after three straight losing seasons. Johnson, a 6-foot-6 pitcher, could give FHS an intimidating arm on the bump.
HOLY FAMILY TIGERS
Coach: Marc Cowell (12th year overall).
Last year: 13-8 overall; 9-5 Tri-Valley League (lost in regionals).
Returning starters: Zach Becker (Jr., P/SS); Will Brassil (Sr., P/1B); Jordan Closen (Sr., 3B); Colin Kringlen (Jr., P/1B); Davis Martinek (Jr., OF); Phil Neill (Sr., OF); Austin Sasser (Sr., P/OF); Wes Siefken (Jr., P/2B).
Others to watch: Josh Baker (Jr., P/2B); Jacob Callaway (Jr., C); Matthews Delgado (Jr., P/1B); Jordan McFarland (Jr., 1B).
Outlook: With six returning starters and three of four pitchers from last year back, Cowell and his staff said this year’s team has a high ceiling. The pitching staff is full of live arms, and Callaway will be primarily responsible for handling that. Neill and Becker had more than respectable batting averages last year and will be looking to drive in more runs.
JEFFERSON ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Gino Carbajal (second year).
Last year: 10-10 overall; 4-8 Class 3A Metro League (lost in regionals).
Returning starters: Grant Anderson (Jr., P/SS/OF); Brennan Baker (Jr., C/3B); Elian Gutierrez, (So., SS/P); Kade Leuthhauser (Jr., Util.); Caleb Lumbard (Sr., 3B/C); Damion Nelson (Sr., 1B/OF); Ryan Ponzio (Jr., Util.); Vinny Scarato (Sr., P/1B); Jacob VanDyk (Sr., P/1B/OF).
Others to watch: Pearson Gardner (So., So., P/OF).
Outlook: After breaking a seven-year stretch without postseason, the Jaguars are excited to make a significant run in 2018 with a bevy of pitchers and athletes that can play multiple positions. In terms of per-game scoring, the Jaguars overall were solid, but numbers dipped a bit when in league play. If they can find ways to touch up opposing league pitchers a bit more frequently, a top-half Metro finish is more than possible.
Coach: Ty Giordano (.10th year)
Last year: 16-7 overall; 9-3 Front Range League (won regional; 0-2 at the state tournament).
Returning starters: Josh Kelnhofer (Sr., 3B/P); Ryan Overboe (Sr., 1B/P); Ross Smith (Sr., OF/P).
Others to watch: Tyler Lyons (So., SS).
Outlook: Giordano has a number of kids who he feels will keep Legacy high up in the FRL standings, but the fact that the above-mentioned seniors can lock down the corner infield and provide steady pitching is huge. Overboe is looking to get back to his sophomore form at the plate (he batted .443 in 2016), and Smith drove in a team-most 29 runs last year with three home runs.
Coach: Tom Fobes (19th year).
Last year: 11-9 overall; 7-7 Northern League (lost in regionals).
Returning starters: Noah Befus (Sr., OF/P); Hayden Carson (Sr., 1B); Kascen Deeter (Jr., INF/P); Chris Gumeson (Jr., OF/C); Austin Hassler (Sr., P/C); Avery Peterson (Sr., C/P/INF); Brady Renck (Jr., 2B/SS); Alec Thompson (Sr., OF); Matt Zamudio (Sr., 3B/2B).
Others to watch: Michael Cox (Sr., OF); Grant Rulon (Jr., OF/P).
Outlook: With just one losing season in the past 11 years under Fobes, one can assume the Trojans will be in contention for the Northern League title, and this year there is added belief that Hassler, Befus and Peterson will throw solid innings as the rotation. Renck has the glove at second — the infield overall is steady — and he has been working on the steadiness at the plate he showed as a sophomore. Not a lot of power resides in the lineup overall, which stresses situational baseball to maximize runs.
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN WARRIORS
Coach: Kami Puchino (first year).
Last year: 1-16 overall (did not qualify for postseason).
Returning starters: Rylee Dugan (So., P/OF/C); Christian Hudgins (Jr., Util.); Lee Saunders (So., INF/P); Ryan Schellenberger (So., SS).
Others to watch: Tucker Kennedy (So., OF); Dominic Puchino (So., P/1B).
Outlook: Puchino has a lengthy history of coaching softball, and the Warriors have nowhere to go but up in 2018 with her leading the way. Dominic Puchino, a 6-foot-6 lefty, has a huge presence on the mound at the 1A level, while his coach sees new life in the form of Saunders, Hudgins, Kennedy, Dugan and Schellenberger.
Coach: Ken Rosales.
Last year: 19-4 overall; 8-1 Class 2A District 7 (won Mile High League; made state semifinals).
Returning starters: Keegan Bean (Sr., 3B/C); David Brett (Jr., INF); Austen Clark (Sr., P/1B); Leif Klopsen (Sr., OF/C); Justin Lear (Sr., P/OF); Joe McCain (Sr., INF)); Evan Reeves (Sr., INF); Brandon Sanders (Sr., P/1B).
Others to watch: Colton Bashor (So., OF).
Outlook: The Lions are as deep as any small-school program in the state and have a stable of returners from last year’s semifinal qualifier. Lear, Clark and Sanders provide LHS with a good rotation, but there will be more guys filling in for a few innings here and there to keep arms fresh. Of course the Mile High League is always tough and serves as a great primer for playoffs.
Coach: Randy Click (second year).
Last year: 8-11 overall; 4-10 Tri-Valley League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Caleb Ayers (Jr., P/OF); Brett Boaz (Sr., 2B); Brady Carstens (Sr., P/SS/3B); John Edwards (Sr., P/OF); Lucas Hale (Sr., P/SS); Ryan McDaniel (Jr., C/OF); Greyson Young (Sr., CF).
Others to watch: Nick Jacobs (So., INF/P); Tanner Leise (Jr., OF); Brady Veltien (So., INF).
Outlook: It’s pretty hard to believe the Mavericks missed playoffs after starting out 5-0 last year, but the team found ways to lose league games they shouldn’t have and bottomed out. However, Click firmly believes this team is more capable of sustaining success, largely because of a deep group of pitchers led by Carstens, Hale and Edwards. Finding a good third baseman is a must, and McDaniel has big shoes to fill behind the plate.
Coach: Scott Weiss (seventh year).
Last year: 7-12 overall; 4-8 Front Range League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Ben Coatney (Sr., SS/OF); Ben Cole (Sr., 1B); Nico Hartojo (Sr., 1B); Luke Martin (Jr., INF/P).
Others to watch: Ben Kowalski (Jr., OF/P); Andrew Morris (Sr., P/3B).
Outlook: The Coyotes weren’t a bad team last year, but they just couldn’t muster enough runs to support their defensive effort nor the guys on the hill. Cole returns as the leading RBI guy (he drove in 13 off 15 hits), and Weiss has depth in the infield. Expect Morris, a 16-year-old senior, to be a household name on the mound.
Coach: Adam Strah (first year).
Last year: 7-12 overall; 4-10 Northern League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Joey Desenfants (Jr., INF/P); Colton Goldfarb (Sr., C); Cameron Hassert (So., INF/P); Caleb Martinez (Sr., P/OF).
Others to watch: Aidan Galloway (Jr., OF/P); Ben Goss (Sr., 1B).
Outlook: Though the Cougars lost several close games last year and could easily have finished 12-7, it’s been three straight losing seasons for the program. Strah represents a change at the top that may spark something. Goldfarb and DesEnfants combined for 14 doubles last year, so NHS has some gap guys to work with in the middle of the lineup. Defensively, the Cougars have a lot of room for improvement.
PEAK TO PEAK PUMAS
Coach: Derek Urban.
Last year: 17-6 overall; 9-3 Metro League (won regional; 1-2 at state tournament).
Returning starters: Matt Bagnato (Sr., SS); Niko DeNiro (Sr., P/OF); Max Higdon (Jr., P/CF); Nate Poretz (Jr., C); Isaac VanTol (Jr., 3B/P); Baylor Weyer (Sr., P/1B); .
Others to watch: Brandon Alvarez (Sr., OF/P); Andrew Bagnato (So., 2B); Kade Genrou (Jr., Util.); Isaac Nevandomski (So., Util.); Garrett Shriver (So., 3B/P); Ethan Tartaglia (Sr., Util.).
Outlook: Urban said he is blessed with coaching a program that replenishes itself and has players eager to grow, and the Pumas should be right in the thick of the Metro League race despite losing some solid players and pitchers. The coach said a key for them is to manufacture runs to relieve stress from the pitching, and with no real ace at the moment everyone will have to ‘bring it’ for a few innings here and there.
PROSPECT RIDGE MINERS
Coach: Mark Knudson (first full year).
Last year: 4-15 overall; 1-11 Metro League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: Connor Akerson (Sr., 1B/P); Nic Carder (Sr., P/OF); Hunter Drake (Sr., P/Util.); Spencer Herivel (Sr., 3B); Micah Honea (Sr., LF); Brandon Huffman (Jr., 2B/P); Jake Thiret (Jr., P/OF).
Others to watch: James Luehr (So., C); Andrew VanOtterloo (So., INF).
Outlook: Knudson, a long-time Major Leaguer who donned Rockies colors for a stint, is eager to have the Miners’ first senior class out on the diamond. They only won one Metro League game last year, but the hope is off-season conditioning and added maturity will help steer them in the right direction. Thiret batted .375 last year with two homers.
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
Coach: Mike Apodaca (fourth year).
Last year: 16-8 overall; 11-3 Northern League (won regional; 1-2 in 4A state tournament).
Returning starters: Travis Bicknell (Sr., DH/OF); Rex Olinger (Jr., C); Spencer Rich (Jr., SS/OF); Christopher Smedley (Sr., SS/P); .
Others to watch: Jack Carlough (Sr., 2B/P); Charlie Jackson (So., OF); Tanner Reagan (Jr., INF/P).
Outlook: The Raptors have had a wonderful couple of years, and the current crop of varsity returners are going to do everything in their power to keep it going. Another Cole Winn (who moved to California for his senior year) they have not discovered, but Apodaca-coached teams are fundamentally sound and typically have a bulldog or two helping things along. Silver Creek will need to find run producers.
Coach: Travis Schlagel (third year).
Last year: 10-9 overall; 8-6 Tri-Valley League (did not qualify for regional play).
Returning starters: James Canar (Sr., 2B/P); Juan Chaparro (Jr., INF); Braeden Elwood (So., C/INF); Nick Hamby (Sr., 1B/P).
Others to watch: Skylar Baltierras (Jr., OF); Ethan Drewes (Jr., P/OH); Roman Marcotte (Sr., OF/2B); Nate McGregor (Jr., P/3B/OF); Ben Piggott (Sr., P/C/3B); Conner Scott (Jr. OF/P); Jaylon Scott (Sr., OF/P).
Outlook: The Falcons felt the sting of missing out on playoffs by losing three straight games to end the regular season — the final one coming via a walk-off home run. If Skyline can find three or four reliable arms, Schlagel believes the offense should be able to provide more run support. Hamby leads the way as a four-year varsity player looking to finish strong.
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