High school baseball: Bingham, Spanish Fork, Snow Canyon and Emery top Deseret News preseason poll
A pair of newcomers, senior Gunnar Gustin and junior Porter Gustin, will add strength to Salem Hills' batting lineup and depth to the pitching rotation.
Maple Mountain, which went 21-8 last year and lost to Salem Hills in the 4A championship game, has a couple of returning players who received all-state recognition last season in third baseman Kade Poulsen, who was a second-team selection as a freshman, and junior Jake Mafi, who earned honorable mention honors.
Other top players for coach Gary Miner's young ballclub, which has just four seniors on its roster but also returns five starters, include Nik Mafi, Jerin Hall and Bryson VanTassell.
Timpanogos, which won 19 games last season and is coached by Kim Nelson, comes in at No. 4 in the 4A rankings.
Mountain Crest, with senior pitcher Ben Weese, already a two-time all-state selection and a second-teamer last year, is ranked No. 5.
The Mustangs have a senior-laden lineup with plenty of varsity experience and are also counting on big contributions from senior outfielder Nick Taylor (who was a second-team all-state pick last year), outfielder Luke Smith, catcher Jack Godfrey, shortstop Anthony Peterson, first baseman Spenser Coombs, third baseman Ty Hall and pitcher McKay Smith.
Also in the 4A mix will be coach Marce Wilson's Murray High ballclub, last year's Region 7 champ that went 20-5 overall and brings back second-team all-state pitcher Spencer Downs along with pitchers Preston Hannay and Rigby Butikofer, catcher Zach Collins and outfielder Logan Jones.
Snow Canyon has captured back-to-back 3A state titles, and the Warriors have a couple of second-team all-state selections returning in junior catcher Brady Sargent and senior outfielder/pitcher Clint Gates.
Coach Reed Secrist, whose team went 20-9 last year, is also expecting big things from senior outfielder/pitcher Tyler Wardell, junior second baseman/pitcher Jake Frei and junior shortstop/pitcher Isaac Rhea, a transfer from Logan.
Of course, the Warriors will miss last year's 3A MVP, Riley Gates, and first-team all-state performers like Chandler Day and Brogan Secrist.
"Our infield will be young but good," Coach Secrist said. "Our outfield is solid with two key players returning from the 2013 state championship team. Pitching will be the point of emphasis this year with losing Gates, Secrist and Day. We really didn't pitch any underclassmen.
"If we can throw strikes, our defense should be solid. Our offense will be good again with players that can hit up and down the lineup."
Desert Hills, which won the Region 9 title and went 21-7 overall last season, will be counting on senior pitcher/outfielder Dylan File, a second-team all-state performer, as well as Blake Betts, Baden Powell, Braiden Irvin and Evan Moss.
"We have solid returners back from a good team last year, with some good kids to plug in the holes," Thunder coach Jerry Beck said. "Overall, I'm optimistic that we can be in the hunt again this year if we can get a few breaks along the way."
Juan Diego, which always seems to be in the hunt, lost several strong seniors from last year's team but still comes in at No. 3 in the poll.
No. 4-ranked Dixie went 19-10 last year and has some strong players returning this season, including senior first baseman/pitcher Braxton Ipson, a first-team all-state selection who batted .410 and went 4-2 on the mound last year. He'll be joined by senior outfielder Tanner Webster, senior third baseman/pitcher Gavin Graff, and senior second baseman Chance Aplanalp in leading the way.
"We have a solid senior class and look to have some key contributions from a number of juniors," Flyers coach Danny Ipson said. "We are fairly deep in regards to our pitching staff and look to compete well in the extremely difficult Region 9."