League and team outlook
Front Range League
Teams and trends: Boulder, Broomfield, Fairview, Fort Collins, Fossil Ridge, Greeley West, Horizon, Legacy, Loveland, Monarch, Mountain Range, Poudre, Rocky Mountain. The chase for the league crown has been tight the past two seasons with three teams atop the standings in both 2018 and 2019. Last year, Rocky Mountain, Horizon and Legacy each finished with three losses in league. The year before Monarch, Legacy and Rocky Mountain each led the league standings, also at 9-3.
2019 league leaders: Fort Collins outfielder Colby Shade led the league in batting average at .533 with 40 hits in 95 plate appearances last year. He also led the league in slugging (.840), on-base percentage (.617), runs scored (36) and steals (27). … Seven players in the league had four home runs last season, including Boulder’s Teddy Schoenfeld, Nathan Bach and Dorsey Chatham. Monarch’s Nate Leash also had four homers. … Legacy’s Macully Sehr had the lowest ERA among pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched with a 1.77 ERA through 27 2/3 innings. … Loveland’s Jackson Bakovich led the league with 79 strikeouts followed by Legacy’s Dylan Grierson (69) and Fairview’s Greysen Carter (67). … Fossil Ridge’s Thaniel Trumper, Mountain Range’s Tristan Wolf and Bakovich each had a league-high six wins on the mound.
Numbers game: Rocky Mountain and Legacy were the only two teams in the league to earn a spot in the state tournament (both lost their opening games and got eliminated on the second day). Yet despite their deep runs, neither team led the league in any major batting category. From the mound, on the other hand, Rocky Mountain led the league with a 3.38 ERA, while Legacy was seventh at 4.57.
Coach: Jack Taylor
The Scorecard: The Panthers have a nice returning cast from a 15-9 campaign from 2019, including Xavier pitching prospect Dorsey Chatham and Pepperdine outfield commit Luke Pemberton. Chatham had a 3.19 ERA in 12 appearances on the mound in 2019, allowing 17 earned runs in 37 1/3 innings. Pemberton, meanwhile, hit .306. Those two probable all-conference players make up seven committed collegiate players on the Panthers roster, Taylor said — a group he goes on to note that, “with a combination of pitching and hitting, (they) look to be strong in a competitive Front Range League.” More good news: Returning for Boulder elsewhere is a talented infield that includes Nate Bach, Jackson Woolwine, Noah Ghiselli and Vincent Sauza. Last year, Ghiselli led the team with a .429 batting average. Bach drove in 25 runs, and he and Chatham each had four homers. Senior pitcher/outfielder Julian Zamora also returns.
Coach: Garren Estes
The Scorecard: The Eagles were involved in 13 games decided by two runs or fewer a season ago, going 6-7 in them. Adding to the theme of a season where nearly everything teetered one way, then the other, and back, they finished 11-12 overall, .500 in league and scored just 10 more runs than they allowed in 23 games. There was no discrepancy at home or on the road, either, where they were finished one game above .500 at each. Perhaps a breakout season was just a couple big swings or pitches away. The Eagles return a nice group that includes shortstop Trenton Harris, pitcher Ryan Collins, infielder Joey DeCamillis, outfielder/pitcher Aaron Brakel, infielder Justin Spencer and picher Garrett Klein. Harris led the returning group in hitting last year, averaging .368 at the plate with nine doubles and 13 RBIs in 81 plate appearances. Klein, a freshman last year, had a 4.94 ERA in 22 2/3 innings.
Coach: David Castillo
The Scorecard: The Knights could be in store for a quick turnaround with eight returning starters from a team that finished 8-15 a year ago. Greysen Carter is an interesting prospect on the mound. The junior, who helped the school’s basketball team reach the Final Four this weekend, had a 2.72 ERA in 38 2/3 innings a year ago, striking out 67 and walking 28. Carter, of course, has made plenty of headlines on the court this winter as he went from a talented sophomore to a no-doubt BoCoPreps.com player of the year candidate as a junior. Now, if that growth can reach his baseball talent as well, look out. Also returning for the Knights is outfielder/infielder David Hopkins, infielder/pitcher Ken Stephens, catcher/infielder/outfielder J.D. Jones, senior infielder/pitcher Brett Jones, outfielder Adam Moser, infielder/pitcher Travis Rasmussen and infielder Gabe Springer. “With many returning starters from the 2019 season,” Castillo wrote, “the Fairview Knights are looking to have strong leadership on the field.”
Coach: Ty Giordano
The Scorecard: Legacy won a share of the FRL title and reached the Class 5A state tournament a year ago. Chase Esplin is back after hitting .421 with 40 hits, 24 runs scored and 16 RBIs. So is Cale Claridge, who drove in a team-high 20 runs while hitting .351 and had a 2.92 ERA with 26 1/3 innings pitched. Last year, the Lightning were masters in even the jittery moments, going 5-0 in games decided by a run. They beat Dakota Ridge in walk-off fashion in a wild, nine inning affair in the regular season. Then in their regional championship, they rallied from 7-3 down to beat Douglas County 9-8. This spring, the team’s makeup should be similar with a number of returning starters, including Macully Sehr, who had the team’s best ERA at 1.77 over 27 2/3 innings while walking just nine. Also back is shortstop/pitcher Tyler Lyons, outfielder/pitcher Cole Walker and first baseman/pitcher Henry Kisselman, second baseman Cole Jaeger, third baseman/outfielder/pitcher Josh Maestes, third baseman/pitcher Kiernan Gaffney, outfielder Blake Roberts, pitcher Owen Petrak and catcher/outfielder/pitcher Tyler Teitscheld.
Coach: Scott Weiss
The Scorecard: Monarch will have a strong senior contingent that Weiss believes will be key to the team’s overall success in 2020. Senior catcher Nate Leash will get help from former Silver Creek catcher Matt Siedem, who caught for Hofstra University and is now an assistant coach. Matt’s brother Sean Siedem, meanwhile, will also be a big piece to the puzzle after he hit .423 and drove in 19 runs last spring. However, if the Coyotes want to compete for a league title, they will also need to find some stability on the mound after losing Zach Given, now at the University of Massachusetts, and 2018 FRL player of the year Andrew Morris, now at Mesa State. Peter Nickerson may be asked to take over the top spot in the rotation after throwing 23 innings a year ago. Alex Messman and Tyler Hadeen may have big roles on the mound, too. If it all comes together well, “this team has a chance to compete for a league title,” Weiss said.
Teams and trends: Centaurus, Greeley Central, Longmont, Mountain View, Niwot, Northridge, Silver Creek, Thompson Valley. The Raptors and Trojans have won at least a share of the league title over the past three seasons. Last year, Silver Creek went a perfect 14-0 in league, the first undefeated mark in the league since Broomfield did so in 2012. The Raptors went on to reach the state finals before bowing out to Pueblo West.
2019 League leaders: Northridge’s Tayler Aguilar had 10 homers, a 1.194 slugging percentage and a .667 on-base percentage. … Silver Creek’s Spencer Rich drove in 36 runs and had 45 scored runs. … Longmont’s Brady Renck hit .557, was second in runs to Rich with 39 in five less games, and was second to Aguilar in on-base percentage at .640. All three graduated. … Centaurus’ Brayden Rizzi had a 1.81 ERA in 19 1/3 innings pitched. Longmont’s Leif Nuesken had a mark of 2.13 in 42 2/3 innings … Greeley Central’s Cesar Loma had 88 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings pitched. … Silver Creek junior Michael Wegleitner had eight wins, going 8-2, while graduated teammate Tanner Regan was 7-0.
Numbers game: Silver Creek had far and away the top batting average in the league at .373 as three of its players were in the top five (Wegleitner’s .500, Rich’s .477 and Charlie Jackson’s .465). It was tied with the most homers with Northridge at 13. It also had the best slugging percentage at .554, the best on-base percentage at .446, the most RBIs at 224, the most runs at 261 and the most stolen bases at 85.
Coach: Douglas Kinney
The Scorecard: Centaurus went 16-9 last spring and narrowly missed qualifying for the state tournament after bowing out in its regional final. Its top two innings eaters return in pitchers David Jackimiak and Nick Van Tassel. Jachimiak threw 51 innings and finished 4-4, while Van Tassel tossed 36 frames and was 5-3. Junior catcher Eddie Zygowicz will return behind the dish after driving in 24 runs last season, while senior outfielder/pitcher Connor Larson and second baseman Jack Batisstelli also return. The “expectation,” Kinney said, “is to build upon the success of last year, to compete at a high level and qualify for the state tournament.” The Warriors jumped up from four wins in 2018.
Coach: Tom Fobes
The Scorecard: Fobes enters his 21st season as head of the baseball program at Longmont, which finished 17-8 and just missed a spot in the state tournament after bowing out in its regional championship. The loss of Brady Renck will sting, but the Trojans have plenty of talent back. Pitcher/third baseman Devon Nowells hit .300 and drove in a team-high 26 runs as a sophomore. He also had a 3.65 ERA in 48 innings with 46 strikeouts. Shortstop Adam Benes also had a nice sophomore campaign, hitting .333 with 17 RBIs. “We have a solid core of returners and good group that are stepping in where we have spots to fill,” Fobes said. “Our expectations are always to compete and look forward to another very tough Northern (League).” Other returning starters include outfielder/pitcher Toby Martinez, first baseman/second baseman Alec Northouse and pitcher/outfielder Owen Kroeger.
Coach: Adam Strah
The Scorecard: The Cougars finished 4-19 a year ago and didn’t win a game inside league. But there were some shining moments and performances, too. Then-freshman Nick Yard hit .302 and had a .430 on-base percentage, driving in 11 runs. He also tossed 35 innings, allowing 21 earned runs while striking out 35 and walking 18. Micah Sheats, meanwhile, threw 38 innings and allowed 28 runs while striking out 33 and walking 21. Overall, the Cougars will look to improve upon their .235 team batting average and 6.44 ERA. Their last winning season came in 2014 when they reached the championship game in the 4A state tournament.
Silver Creek Raptors
Coach: Brad Steward
The Scorecard: The Raptors are aiming to get back to the state finals, where they dropped two straight to Pueblo West in the double-elimination tournament. Then to now, they bring back quite a bit, albeit with some notable losses in players like slugger Spencer Rich and pitcher Tanner Regan. But back is infielder/pitcher Michael Wegleitner, who went 8-2 on the mound and posted a 2.38 ERA in a team-high 61 2/3 innings. He also hit .500 with 28 RBIs. Outfielder Charlie Jackson also returns after hitting .465 with 25 runs driven in. And so is shortstop/pitcher Cam Hassert, who hit .371 with 24 RBIs and three homers. Other returning starters include outfielder Chris Brown, utilityman/pitcher Matt Koelfgen, infielder Declan Magill, infielder Alex Rich and pitcher Davin Vialpando. “This group has put in a lot of work during the offseason to hopefully compete in a usually tough Northern (League) and get back to the championship game,” Steward said. “We will look to the experience of our seniors to hopefully have big years and help us achieve our goal of playing our best baseball in May and June.”
Teams and trends: Berthoud, Erie, Fort Morgan, Frederick, Holy Family, Mead, Roosevelt, Skyline, Windsor. Windsor (5A for playoffs) has won at least a share of the league title since 2016. Erie won it 2015. Despite the Wizards winning league last year, Holy Family and Erie were the league’s representatives at the 4A state tournament. The league has sent five teams to the state tournament in the past two seasons.
2019 League leaders: Windsor’s Derek Baessler homered seven times in 86 plate appearances and had a slugging percentage of .861. … Holy Family’s Collin Kringlen hit .476. … Fort Morgan’s Isaac Linker drove in 28 runs, while teammate JP Hamer had 39 runs scored. … Berthoud’s Aaron Hardy had an on-base percentage of .571. … Roosevelt’s Dylan Poley had 14 stolen bases. … Windsor’s Owen Lockner had an ERA of 0.58. … Erie’s Jon Thoren struck out 120 batters and was the only nine-game winner, going 9-4.
Numbers game: Holy Family and Erie both went deep into the 4A state tournament. Holy Family outscored teams by 100 runs over 29 games, while Erie outscored teams by 23 in 27. The two met on the second day of the tournament as Kringlen homered for a third straight game in Holy Family’s 13-2 win.
Coach: Mike Newton
The Scorecard: Newton took over the program along with Craig McBride after the dismissal of coach Harold Simmons in the midst of last season — and the Tigers reached the state tournament. In the opening round, they lost to Pueblo West, then went on to beat Golden before getting eliminated by Holy Family. Newton said the team returns starters in the infield and outfield and is “looking forward to seeing our pitching staff development.” The Tigers, of course, graduated ace Jon Thoren, who had a 2.50 ERA over 70 innings while striking out 120. Really, 120. But they do bring back pitcher/outfielder Trey Rearick, who struck out an impressive 61 batters in 36 innings. Meanwhile, senior first baseman/pitcher/catcher Nolan Marthaler helps lead the other returnees after hitting .381 while driving in a team-high 25 runs a year ago. Other returning starters include catcher Gavin Mendoza, shortstop/pitcher Trevor Ball, second baseman/shortstop Nash Phillips, third baseman Brandon Hewell, outfielder Grayson Schenbeck, outfielder Benji Havener, pitcher Mason Veve and pitcher/outfielder Will Khanna.
Coach: Nathan Howell
The Scorecard: The Warriors look to change the tide of the program under their new coach, Howell. The program is coming off four straight seasons in which it didn’t win more than four games in any of them. Last season, they went 1-15 inside league. “I look for us to be competitive in a very strong conference,” Howell said. “Our goals … are to lay the foundation for the rebuilding process.” Adding, “We are excited to see the improvements pay off that we have made over the offseason.” Infielder/pitcher Tyler Segura returns after pitching a team-high 40 innings last season, allowing 34 earned runs while striking out 27. Other returning starters include utilityman/catcher Brayden Weingardt, outfielder Riley Dufour and outfielder Jonah Sanders.
Holy Family Tigers
Coach: John Ray
The Scorecard: Ray takes over for the baseball program after Marc Cowell stepped down. The new skipper has a nice baseball resume that includes playing at Monarch and the University of Northern Colorado before getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2003. He inherits a team that graduated 13 seniors and seven starters, which included Collin Kringlen, who tore up the state tournament with homers in each of the first three games. Returning starters include outfielder/pitcher AJ Perez, infielder/pitcher Izaak Siefken and outfielder/pitcher Conner Cooney. Cooney hit .314 with seven RBIs. Siefken tossed 22 2/3 innings, allowing 10 runs with 35 strikeouts to just six walks.
Coach: Joe McKenzie
The Scorecard: McKenzie takes over a program that fell to six wins a year ago and finished sixth in league. Pitcher/infielder Nick Jacobs is a promising talent and returns for his final year before he joins the program at the Air Force Academy. Last year, he threw 33 1/3 innings, allowed just 13 earned runs while striking out 34 and walking 14. He also led the team with 15 RBIs. Going forward, he’s expected to join the team full-time following the end of Mead’s basketball run, which moves into the 4A Final Four this weekend. Outfielder Matthew French also returns after hitting .400 with 26 hits in 65 at-bats. Pitcher/infielder Brady Veltien, meanwhile, could be a bigger part of the rotation after he allowed just one hit in two innings pitched. Pitcher/infielder Wyatt Zsidisin and infielder Ethan Watkins also return after starting last year.
Coach: Travis Schlagel
The Scorecard: Skyline went 7-15 overall and 4-12 in league a year ago. They also started the year 7-6 before finishing on an nine-game losing streak — so, all in all, “looking to rebound and compete with the best teams in the Tri-Valley (League)” this season, Schlagel said of the team’s outlook. The Falcons return five starters including shortstop Wynn Drewes, who hit .300 and drove in seven runs last spring. Lucas Hart also returns after throwing a team-most 40 1/3 innings, allowing 27 earned runs while striking out 37. The other returning starters are outfielder Grayden Bridwell, who hit .328, infielder Patrick Chavez and infielder Braeden Elwood.
Teams and trends: Bishop Machebeuf, Colorado Academy, Faith Christian, Jefferson Academy, Kent Denver, Lutheran, Manual, Peak to Peak, Prospect Ridge Academy and SkyView Academy. Faith Christian missed out winning league for just the second time in 10 years with Peak to Peak’s title win a year ago.
League leaders: Lutheran’s Brody Schneider hit .548, had 44 RBIs and homered 11 times. … Peak to Peak’s Nathan Poretz had a 1.117 slugging percentage and a .633 on-base percentage. … Colorado Academy’s Emmett Ela had 36 runs scored, and Francisco Salazar had 33 stolen bases. … Colorado Academy’s Graham Osman had an ERA of 0.37 with 131 strikeouts and went 8-1.
Numbers game: Prospect Ridge Academy led the league in batting average despite finishing seventh in the league. The Miners hit .359 followed by Peak to Peak at .356 and Lutheran at .355. Colorado Academy, meanwhile, had an ERA of 1.16, two full points better than any other team, and yet it couldn’t beat out Peak to Peak for the league title.
Coach: Eugene Carbajal
The Scorecard: The Jags went 13-9 overall and finished fifth in league at 9-6. They graduated Kade Leuthauser, who hit .333 and drove in a team-most 23 runs. But they did have a nice contingent of non-senior standouts, too. Then-junior Pearson Gardner hit .429 and drove in 21 runs. He also threw 45 2/3 innings, allowed 31 earned runs while striking out 50 and walking 24. Then-junior Elian Soto hit .305 and drove in 17 runs. On the mound, he allowed 26 earned runs in 48 1/3 innings, striking out 51 while walking 13. The Jags won the first round of their regional tournament against Cedaredge before bowing out to Eaton.
Peak to Peak Pumas
Coach: Matthew Castilleja
The Scorecard: The Pumas won the league and bring back eight starters from that group. Senior pitcher/second baseman Garrett Shriver had a 2.38 ERA in 53 innings pitched last year, striking out 76 while walking just 18. Senior shortstop/third baseman Hayden Wilcox hit .433 and drove in 25 runs. Junior third baseman/pitcher Riley Feddema hit .418 with 19 RBIs. Other returners include first baseman/pitcher Isaac Nevadomski, catcher/pitcher Colton Nelson, second baseman/pitcher Andrew Bagnato, catcher/outfielder Dylan Hall and outfielder/pitcher Zach Yeakley. A year ago, the Pumas lost just once in league, and that came in eight innings to Faith Christian. They bowed out in their regional championship to Alamosa.
Prospect Ridge Academy
Coach: Mark Knudson
The Scorecard: The Miners made huge strides in their third year as a varsity program, upping their win total to 12 after having seven through their first two years. Knudson said his team lost its two best players in the program’s brief history in Jake Thiret and Brandon Huffman — noting “replacing them will be very hard.” But he also believes his 2020 group is the deepest and most overall-talented team the program has had. Among the returners are outfielder/pitcher Austin Shaffer, who was an honorable mention all-league player in 2019 after hitting .463. Another promising prospect is outfielder/pitcher Justin Huffman, who drove in 16 runs and hit .358. Other starters include sophomore catcher Rocco Cassano, senior first baseman James Luehr, senior second baseman/pitcher Andrew Van Otterloo, junior shortstop/pitcher Nick Farel, sophomore center fielder Griffin Hill and pitcher/first baseman Malachi Peterson.
Mile High League
Teams and trends: Clear Creek, Dawson, Dayspring Christian Academy, Denver Academy, Denver Christian, Front Range Christian, Gilpin County, Highland, Longmont Christian, Lyons. The league has had at least one team in the Elite Eight of the state tournament since 2016. Last year’s winner, Dawson, bowed out to Fowler in that round.
2019 League leaders: Front Range Christian’s Josh Lang hit .552, slugged 1.015 and had 35 runs scored. Teammate Drew Lloyd hit four home runs and drove in 41 runs. … Clear Creek’s George Hogan had an on-base percentage of .625. … Longmont Christian’s Kyle Saunders had 37 stolen bases followed by teammates Timmy Eldred (34) and Austin Szabo (30). … Dawson’s Conor Wolf had a 0.76 ERA over 46 1/3 innings. … Gilpin County’s Will Lorenz had 91 strikeouts. … Front Range Christian’s Connor Courtney went 8-0.
Numbers game: While league-winner Dawson took the reins with its pitching, leading the group with a 2.18 ERA, Longmont Christian proved mighty, too. Mighty fast at least. It had 256 stolen bases, per MaxPreps, 102 more than second-best Highland at 154.
Coach: Pete Chandler
The Scorecard: Chandler takes over the Mustangs after they went 15-7 and were among the final eight teams standing in Class 2A. Dawson has had plenty of success lately with last year’s Elite Eight appearance and its state title in 2016. Now, the attention turns to a team with a mix of veteran players and young promise. Conor Wolf returns after a sensational freshman campaign on the mound and at the plate. He allowed just five earned runs in 46 1/3 innings and hit .355 with 26 RBIs. Other returning starters include outfielder/second baseman Brandon Day, third baseman/pitcher Nate Bernstein and infielder/catcher Tommy Noonan.
Longmont Christian Warriors
Coach: Colin Armstrong and Cameron Gibson
The Scorecard: The Warriors were one of the final eight teams standing in the Class 1A state bracket. Playing in a league dominated by 2A teams, they went 4-5 in league and finished 13-9 overall. In the tournament, they beat Springfield before falling to Nucla in the regional finals. Then-sophomore Kyle Saunders drove in a team-most 19 runs and hit .516 in 84 plate appearances. He also threw 51 1/3 innings, allowing 34 earned runs while striking out 72 and walking 47. Then-junior Rylee Dugan, meanwhile, drove in 18 runs and threw 29 1/3 innings. Other 2019 junior Lee Saunders hit .370.
Coach: Ken Rosales
The Scorecard: The Lions finished 4-16 overall and 2-7 in league — but, for all the struggles, they did have some nice young talent. Then-sophomore Ryan Schechter hit .306 and drove in 16 runs, while Rafael Ruiz Jr. hit .341 with 14 RBIs. On the mound, however, they graduated their top two inning eaters in David Brett and Sam Glasgow who combined to throw 64 2/3 of the team’s 109 2/3 innings. Last year’s losing season followed winning years in both 2018 and 2017.
Bringing it home: recent state champions
2019 — Regis Jesuit (5A), Pueblo West (4A), University (3A), Peyton (2A), Cornerstone Christian (1A)
2018 — Mountain Vista (5A), Valor Christian (4A), University (3A), Paonia (2A), Caliche (1A)
2017 — Rocky Mountain (5A), Valor Christian (4A), Valley (3A), Paonia (2A), Nucla (1A)
2016 — Cherokee Trail (5A), Valor Christian (4A), Faith Christian (3A), Dawson School (2A), Holly (1A)
2015 — Rock Canyon (5A), Green Mountain (4A), Eaton (3A), Rye (2A), Dove Creek (1A)
Point me to the postseason
Regular season play determines league champions and RPI for the purposes of regional seeding. Regional champions in 5A, 4A and 3A play into a double-elimination state tournament (May 29-30, June 5-6). Smaller schools play into 16-team, single elimination brackets (1A is May 16 and May 21, 2A is May 22-23 and May 30).