more balance from top to bottom, the path to the baseball title still runs
through familiar frontrunners Frankfort Adena and Zane Trace. The two perennial
powers both return a strong nucleus from very successful 2007 teams. Watch out for Unioto and Westfall as well.
Even though this year’s Scioto Valley Conference should have a little more balance from top to bottom, the path to the title still runs through familiar frontrunners Adena and Zane Trace. The two perennial powers both return a strong nucleus from very successful 2007 teams.
The two met in the regional semifinals last season with Zane Trace avenging two regular-season losses to Adena. Zane Trace then fell to eventual state champion Heath in the regional championship. The Pioneers finished the season at 27-5.
Coach Jeff Zickafoose enters his first season at Adena taking over for former standout mentor Ed Yates. The Warriors were last year’s top-ranked team in the final Division III state poll and return great strength on the mound and behind the plate.
Senior catcher Clay Ragland will anchor the Warrior battery that will consist of senior Colin Uhrig and juniors Buddy Barnes and Zach Skaggs. Uhrig, the reigning player of the year in the SVC, is a five-tool talent that defensively gives Adena a hard-throwing righty on the mound as well as great up-the-middle defense when not pitching. Uhrig, who swings from the left side, also leads a very potent Warrior offensive attack.
Zane Trace did graduate its top two pitchers as well as its starting catcher from a year ago – however, coach Ron Allen’s Pioneers return six offensive starters from a lineup that was considered by many one of the best, top-to-bottom hitting lineups in Division III at the end of last season. A Zane Trace lineup card that still reads Payne, Wonderleigh, Keister, Roberts, Miller, and Dailey will give the Pioneer offense a familiar and still very explosive look.
“The league will be good from top to bottom,” Allen said. “Actually, as good as I have seen in my nine years in the SVC. Adena is no doubt the favorite with the most returning including pitching. I look for the SVC to do well at tournament time.”
Tony Taylor returns at Unioto for his eighth season. The Shermans, a D-II school, are year-in, year-out a mainstay at the top half of the league standings. Unioto loses a pair of great arms from last year’s pitching staff, but it does return six returning lettermen led by the fine all-around talent of senior Michael Trainer.
Westfall is another team anxious to push Adena and Zane Trace. Coach Trevor Thomas enters his eighth season at Westfall and his Mustangs return ace pitcher Billy Fullen – who is an All-District performer last season who also plays shortstop – off of last year’s sectional championship team as well as a trio of three-year starters in Ben Cline, Adam Bower, and Chris McDonough .
The other four teams – D-III schools Huntington, Southeastern, and Piketon as well as D-IV Paint Valley – all return quite a bit of experience, and all hope to be better in 2008. Winning a league title over the 14-game conference season would be a very difficult task for these four; however, each returns a lot of experience as well as a talented ace on the mound that makes each of them capable of knocking off a frontrunner and should make each of them a tough “out” come tourney time.
Most SVC teams get started this Monday or Tuesday in the non-league before league play opens on Wednesday night.