Varsity Sports Now covers baseball. We’ve covered high school football and basketball for two years now. The popularity of our coverage has allowed us to continue into baseball season. This year we’ll be ranking the top teams during the spring season in both North Dakota and South Dakota. Here is our first rankings!
South Dakota Class A
Joel Sage brings back six players with post-season experience from the state runner-up team last season to make a run at a title this year.
“We have to be focused, and we have to be ready to execute offensively and defensively to help us win a lot of close games,” said Sage.
The Riders have already been involved in two close ones to open the season. They used timely hitting and an overpowering pitching performance by Connor Grove and Josh Baumgart to beat Brandon Valley in the opener 3-2, then on Thursday night got a walk-off single by Lucas Wilber to beat Lincoln 4-3 to move to 2-0 on the season.
Connor Grove, Josh Baumgart, Lucas Wilber, Tyler Mitzel, and Seth Peterson should be the top pitchers this year. Also look for solid contributions from Chris Phillips, Jake Eichacker, and Ryan Leslie.
Many point to catcher Kenny Dobberpuhl as one of the top hitters in the state. Dobberpuhl is joined by Lucas Wilber, Josh Baumgart, Seth Bjordal and Kyle Schroeder to make up one of the deepest lineups in the class.
Manager Alex Sommers has a tough pitching staff and a seasoned lineup for the Patriots this season. They have gotten off to a 2-1 start against some very tough competition. They beat Harrisburg in a battle of two of the best pitchers in the state in their opener 3-1.
Ethan Landon is the Patriots 6’6” dominant right-hander who has been clocked at 90 mph with his fastball. Landon is primarily a fastball pitcher who has great control and will make Lincoln the favorite every time he steps on the mound.
The Pats followed up their opener with another win against a good Mitchell team 6-5 and dropped a one-run game on Thursday night to Roosevelt 4-3.
Head Coach Chris Janisch will manage the Warriors this season as they use their two division one recruits to lead the way.
Jon Hander brings a career 2.34 ERA to the mound with 46 strikeouts in 34 innings. Hander has signed to play his college ball with Kansas University. Another D-1 commit, Austin Kost, pitches for the Warriors. He has a 1.77 ERA and has recorded 33 K’s in 35.2 innings pitched last season. Both Hander and Kost are no slouches at the plate either.
Seniors, Alec Brink, Reid Nachtigal and Brandon Ruud are experienced players who will help this offense a great deal.
4. Brandon Valley
Brandon Valley has a weapon that not many in the state can rival, Jacob Adams. He is a power hitting third baseman who even with a wood bat has proven to be able to go yard often.
Their pitching starts with 6’3” Tom Gardner who did an efficient job against the Rough Rider offense in their opener this week. But the depth of the pitching will determine the Lynx’ fate this season.
This fifth spot could go to many teams, O’Gorman, Mitchell, Watertown, Huron and Pierre were all considered, but Ryan Bauer’s crew might be the team that creeps up the rankings all year. Brookings features Konnor Beste and Corey Roach as two of the best players in the state.
Konnor Beste is a staple at third base and has a great bat while Corey Roach is the ace of the staff and can single-handedly shut teams down.