Prep Baseball

2018 prep baseball preview: Area players and teams to watch

Eastern Iowa loaded with top talent and state title contenders

Cedar Rapids Washington’s Brady Bunten (2) can’t pull in a throw as Iowa City West’s Nate Disterhoft (9) steals second base during the 3rd inning of their Class 4A quarterfinal game in the State Baseball Tournament at Principal Park in Des Moines on Wednesday, Jul. 26, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Washington’s Brady Bunten (2) can’t pull in a throw as Iowa City West’s Nate Disterhoft (9) steals second base during the 3rd inning of their Class 4A quarterfinal game in the State Baseball Tournament at Principal Park in Des Moines on Wednesday, Jul. 26, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

A preseason look at the top Eastern Iowa high school baseball players and teams this summer.

Players to watch

Levi Usher, Cedar Rapids Prairie, sr., INA first-team Class 4A all-state. Named to all-state Super Team by IHSBCA. MVC Valley Division Player of the Year. Hit .468 with 59 hits, including seven home runs, eight doubles and four triples. Ranked among 4A leaders in stolen bases (37), hits, home runs and walks (29), and sits 379th in Baseball America’s MLB Amateur draft rankings.

Read more: Levi Usher balances senior season with draft prospects

Connor Van Scoyoc, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, sr., Class 4A second-team all-state by INA and IHSBCA. First-team all-MVC Mississippi Division. Posted 5-0 record with 0.96 earned-run average, 44 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings pitched. Arizona State commit.

Brady Bunten, Cedar Rapids Washington, sr., Class 4A first-team all-state by IHSBCA and second-team by INA. First-team all-MVC Valley. Batted .461 with .549 on-base percentage, 53 hits with 11 doubles, 43 runs and 37 RBIs. SIU-Edwardsville commit.

Brayden Frazier, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, sr., Class 4A first-team all-state by INA and second-team by IHSBCA. First-team all-MVC Mississippi. Hit .432 with 51 hits, including 4A best 24 doubles. Tallied 33 RBIs and scored 33 runs. Iowa commit.

Luke Ira, Solon, sr., Class 3A first-team all-state by IHSBCA and second-team by INA. Led 3A and Wamac with 71 hits, batting .511 with 14 doubles, six home runs and 39 RBIs. Owns .574 on-base percentage. South Dakota State commit.

Jackson Bennett, Dyersville Beckman, sr., Class 2A first-team all-state by INA and IHSBCA. Posted 8-0 record with 1.02 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings pitched. Batted .393 with .497 on-base percentage, 49 hits, 21 doubles, 49 RBIs and 37 runs.

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Ryne Schooley, Iowa City Regina, sr., Class 2A first-team all-state by INA and IHSBCA. Went 7-1 with 2.24 ERA. Batted .361 with .453 on-base percentage, 43 hits and 23 RBIs.

Jacob Manternach, Monticello, sr., Class 2A first-team all-state by INA and IHSBCA. Batted .455 with 45 hits and 41 RBIs, 12 doubles, six home runs and 24 runs. Threw out 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) of attempted base stealers.

Jake Hilmer, North Linn, jr., Class 1A first-team all-state by INA and IHSBCA. Posted 11-0 record with 0.60 ERA, Struck out 80 in 69 2/3 innings pitched, Batted .510 with .560 on-base percentage, 73 hits, including 17 doubles, 67 runs, 49 RBIs and state-best 58 stolen bases.

Ryan Miller, North Linn, sr., Class 1A first-team all-state by INA and IHSBCA. Led entire state with 77 runs. Tied for state lead with 11 triples. Batted .406 with .511 on-base percentage, 17 doubles and 49 stolen bases. Went 7-2 with 1.12 ERA, 75 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings.

Austin Krob, Lisbon, sr., Class 1A first-team all-state by INA and second-team by IHSBCA. Posted 7-1 record with 1.52 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings. Batted .407 with 48 hits, including seven doubles, four triples, three home runs, 46 RBIs and 42 runs scored.

Braden Houston, Iowa City West, sr., Class 4A first-team all-state INA and second-team by IHSBCA. First-team all-MVC Mississippi. Went 9-1 with 0.89 ERA and 60 strikeouts. Batted .312 with .460 on-base percentage.

Calvin Harris, Western Dubuque, soph., Named to IHSBCA all-state Super Team by IHSBCA. Batted .390 with .475 on-base percentage, 46 hits, including seven triples and 46 RBIs. Mississippi commit.

Harrison Cook, Cedar Rapids Prairie, jr., Class 4A second-team all-state by INA. First-team all-MVC Valley. Batted .390 with .450 on-base percentage, 53 hits, including 16 doubles, 47 RBIs, 32 runs.

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Gannon O’Brien, Cascade, sr., Class 2A third-team all-state by INA. Batted .413 with .505 on-base percentage, 33 hits, 32 RBIs and 28 runs. Went 5-1 with 1.33 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings.

Teams to watch

Cedar Rapids Prairie: The Hawks are coming off their second straight trip to the state tournament, winning the Class 4A title in 2016. They return some key figures in Levi Usher, Harrison Cook and pitcher Casey Day, who was 7-1 with a 1.92 earned-run average last season. Prairie Coach Todd Rima said he likes the team’s offense and pitching depth. The defense will need to improve throughout the season for another postseason run. It will be interesting to see how Usher’s MLB draft status impacts the Hawks.

Cedar Rapids Washington: The Warriors earned their first trip to the state tournament since 2009 and nipped at the heels of Prairie and Iowa City High in the MVC Valley Division race. Washington returns all-conference performers Brady Bunten, Lincoln Riley and Drew Christensen, who will be keys to the offense. Jacob Bockenstedt gives the Warriors an ace to build around and Kaleb Donels was 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA a year ago. The Warriors have good team speed and know the game, which could result in another solid season.

Dyersville Beckman: The Blazers are coming off an emotional year that saw them win the Class 2A title in the final year for the late coaching great Tom Jenk Jr. The philosophy woven into the program by Jenk will continue. Beckman has a strong pitching staff, returning Jackson Bennett and C.J. McDermott. They combined to go 17-2 with 180 strikeouts in 124 innings. Neither had an ERA above 1.62. They have two more of their top throwers back and four of their top seven hit leaders from last season. Beckman will be a tough out for anyone.

Iowa City Regina: The Regals reached the Class 2A state semifinals before falling to eventual champion Beckman. Regina has the pieces for another strong run. Everyone returns, including 10 with starting experience and nine seniors. Regina hit .310 as a team and outscored opponents 265-135. Ryne Schooley and Nick Brandt give Regina a strong 1-2 punch on the mound, while Blake Berns and Trent Hoogerwerf are among the top hitters back.

Iowa City West: The Trojans could be listed in this group every year just based on Coach Charlie Stumpff’s ability to get the most out of his players. West has reached the last four state tournaments and eight of the last nine. The Trojans reached the state semifinals after three straight state runner-up finishes. West might have to rely on pitching for success this season. Braden Houston and Jack Wilson lead the way, combining for a 13-2 mark overall last season. Houston had a 0.89 ERA in 63 innings, while Wilson had a 1.17 ERA over 36 innings. Austin West is an effective closer for West. Strunk provides a little pop in the lineup with five home runs last season. Six of the Trojans' top batters graduated, but Houston and Lucas Karwal hit better than .300 a year ago.

Lisbon: The Lions have all the elements to get back to the state tournament, where they lost an extra-inning thriller in the Class 1A quarterfinals last season. Lisbon has good hitters, strong pitching and solid defense. The Lions have experience, returning eight starts from a 32-6 team. They return all but one of their top hitters from a lineup that averaged about 10 hits a game. The same goes for a pitching staff that owned a 2.10 team ERA.

North Linn: The Lynx have been one of the most fun teams to watch the last few years, regardless of class. North Linn reached the state tournament for the second time in three seasons and only graduated one player from last year. The Lynx have lots of experience and one of the deepest and strongest pitching staffs in Class 1A. Jake Hilmer and Ryan Miller combined for 18 victories and David Seber added six. Hilmer and Miller also accounted 131 total hits, 107 stolen bases and 144 runs, making them one of the most productive duos in the state. North Linn was fourth in all classes with 379 runs and eighth in the entire state with a 1.40 team ERA.

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Solon: The Spartans have a strong nucleus back from a 27-win season. The experience includes seven starters from the 2016 team that reach the state semifinals. Solon has good experience, senior leadership, talent and good camaraderie for another successful run. The Spartans return their top three hit producers in Luke Ira (71), Tyler Linderbaum (47) and Kendrick Harris (41). Cam Miller was 8-0 last season, leading the team in innings. Eric Weetman and Ira combined for nine wins and give Solon some pitching depth.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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