Ninth Region Baseball Preview
After seeing their female counterparts win the fast pitch softball state title last year, the guys at Ryle are ready to make a championship run of their own.
The Raiders (27-12) return a ton of seniors and should have just enough pitching to get them to the state tournament for the first time.
Ryan Hughes (7-2, 2.58 ERA) will likely be the ace of a staff that should include Jeff Hatfield (6-2, 3.67), and J.C. Collins (5-3, 3.40 ERA).
Vince Murray (1B/3B - .361, 33 RBI), shortstop Brent Humphrey (.248, 11 SB), and second baseman Garrett Wagner (.383, 23 RBI, 16 SB) also return for head coach Pat Roesel’s offense.
Ryle ended a four-year absence from the region tournament by advancing to the title game last year, losing to Beechwood. If they can get the pieces to fall into place, they should get out of the Ninth Region this year.
Covington Catholic (21-13) has advanced past the first round of the region tournament just once in the past four years, a stretch that includes a 2-1 loss to Newport Central Catholic in last year’s first round.
Veteran coach Bill Krumpelbeck has five starters returning, including two pitchers.
Senior Kyle Houlihan won six games, and Josh Bleser won eight, with Bleser also batting .340 with 15 extra base hits.
Second baseman Conner Larkin (.341) and catcher Luke Maile (.333) also return for the Colonels, who are looking for the school’s first state tournament berth in five years.
Holy Cross (21-9) nearly doubled their win total from 2005 (11). With four pitchers returning, the Indians are poising themselves to make a deep postseason run.
Jim Ryan, a Northern Kentucky signee, was 7-2 last year with a 1.80 ERA. Matt Abeling, Joe Sullivan, and Scott Baker should also see plenty of time on the mound, with Baker also providing the big stick in the lineup after batting .425 with 16 doubles last year.
St. Henry (18-14) lost postseason games to the finalists of the Ninth Region – Ryle in the district finals and Beechwood in the region tournament.
Former Major Leaguer Walt Terrell has five starters back from last year’s team, including shortstop Craig Shanks (.452, 22 extra base hits), Nick Ryan, and Joe Gunkel.
Boone County (8-16) struggled down the stretch in 2006, losing eight of their last ten games. Head coach Matt Wilhoite is hoping the return of six starters, including region player of the year Cory Farris (.474, 10 HRs), can vault them back into title contention.
Joining Farris are junior shortstop Mark Reed and first baseman Brad Krohman.
Beechwood (37-6) won the All-A Classic state tournament and came within a game of pulling the sweep, falling instead to Lexington Catholic in the title game.
Head coach Bob Myerhoff has to replace the bulk of his team that won 98 games over the past three seasons.
Junior Cody Elliott is the lone starter returning after hitting .362 with 36 RBIs. He also picked up two wins on the mound and struck out 25 batters in 31 innings.
Junior Chris Miller (.278) and sophomore Brady Slusher (.400 in 15 at bats) also return, as does sophomore Tommy Bankemper, who was 5-0 with a 1.87 ERA last year.
Newport Central Catholic (25-11) only has two starters – Jared Harris and George Gardner – returning from last year’s team that beat Covington Catholic in the first round of the region tournament.
Noah Litmer (5-1, 4.00 ERA) will see considerable time on the mound, as will Harris, Alex Pangallo, and Michael Enzweiler.
Conner (10-17) has five starters returning, including junior Clint Hoskins, senior Ricky Harkins, and senior Shane Taylor. All three are also expected to pitch for first-year head coach Brad Arlinghaus, who added that sophomore Tyler Brake could be a surprise at first base this year.
Conner is hoping a new outdoor batting cage and new dugouts will also help the program excel in the near future.
Bellevue (6-22) was winless two years ago and won just six games last year. However, most people in northern Kentucky know head coach Rob Sanders is the right guy to get the program turned around.
The Tigers have seven starters returning from last year, including shortstop Shain Ball, first baseman Thomas Richter, junior catcher Roger Babb, and sophomore second baseman David Combs.
Richter also posted a 3.23 ERA on the mound.
Sanders will be helped by the transfer of sophomore third baseman Billy Snider from Highlands.
Holmes expects to improve on last year’s 5-21 record. Senior third baseman John Smith and senior outfielders Dontae Whatley and Matt Rice should pick up the offensive slack after averaging nearly five runs a game last year.
Smith and seniors Drew Mullins and Tim Roberts should make up the rotation for first year head coach Jeff Schneider.
Lloyd Memorial (8-16) returns four starting underclassmen, led by junior Trey Milligan and junior Kaleb Downey.
Head coach Aaron Moore is also excited about the improvements made to Lloyd’s home field and feels the Juggernaut program is headed in the right direction.
Ninth Region Rankings
2. Covington Catholic
3. Holy Cross
4. St. Henry
5. Boone County
7. Newport Central Catholic
8. Dixie Heights
14. Villa Madonna
15. Lloyd Memorial
18. Heritage Academy