When the baseball season ended last season, it was the Crusaders of Cincinnati Moeller that held the championship trophy after defeating Cleveland St. Ignatius 8-1 in the Division I state final.
Both teams lost talent from last year's teams, but both have reloaded, and judging by what they have coming back and the quality of their pitching staffs, on paper, they are the two best teams in the state of Ohio.
But one of these teams will be THE team to beat
Moeller is just that talented
The school that has produced the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, and Adam Hyzdu is at it again developing high caliber talent. The Crusaders not only boast five position players that have committed to Division I schools, but also a pitching staff that not only is one of the best in Ohio, but could be one of the best in the country. The top of the Crusaders rotation breaks down like this:
- Zach Logue.... Logue pitched the state final last year as a junior, giving up only one run. A University of Kentucky recruit, Logue tops out in the high 80's with his fastball, showing a sharp breaking curve and a good changeup. Went 8-1 last season with a 1.13 ERA. Rated as the 9th best player in Ohio by Prep Baseball Report.
- Gus Ragland.... A Miami (OH) recruit for football, Ragland was the starting quarterback for the state champion Moeller football team. He also CAN PITCH. Ragland went 7-0 last season with a 0.69 ERA. Fastball sits in the mid to upper 80's. Averages a strikeout per inning.
- Nick Voss.... At 6'7", this right hander can be intimidating on the mound. Fastball reaches 85 miles per hour. Went 5-1 last season with a 2.00 ERA
- Zach Hoffman.... Big 6'5" left hander that tops out at 88 miles per hour. Ranked as the 20th best player in Ohio in the junior class according to Prep Baseball Report
- Nick Bennett.... A high rising sophomore. Bennett is ranked as the third best sophomore in Ohio by Prep Baseball Report. Tops out in the high 80's with a good curve ball. One to keep an eye on the next few years.
The Crusaders also have two highly touted sophomore pitchers in Andrew Juleg and Cameron Junker who will start on the JV squad, mostly because Moeller is loaded with upper class pitchers.
The Crusaders offense starts with University of Kentucky recruit Riley Mahan
The Crusaders starting shortstop and lead off hitter, Mahan hit over.400 with 30 RBI and 27 stolen bases. The sweet swinging lefty also scored 40 runs. Mahan is ranked as the 4th best player in the state according to Prep Baseball Report. Among the other highly touted players in the Crusader lineup are junior Josh Hollander (Kent State commit), junior Grant Macciocchi (University of Missouri commit), junior Jordan Ramey (University of Cincinnati commit), senior T.J. Storer (Ohio Northern commit), and senior Joey Ludwig (Capital commit).
St. Ignatius may have something to say about the "Moeller Mystique", as they return 15 players with varsity experience, and want to make sure THEY are the team winning the last game of the year
The Wildcats have arguably the best outfield in the state, featuring center fielder Nick Fabian (West Virginia commit), left fielder Shane Skuhrovec, and right fielder Nick Longo (Miami of OH commit). Replacing All-State second baseman Dan Rowbottom will be a challenge, but coach Brad Gantor can rely on two seniors with varsity experience to tie down the middle infield positions in senior second baseman David Bodziony and senior shortstop Quillen Austria.
The Wildcats will also be strong on the mound as they return their #1 starter in Rider University recruit Nick Margevicius, who posted a 9-1 record last season. Rising junior M.J. Nara and junior catcher Alex Panstares give the Wildcats strength on the mound as well as behind the plate. Keep an eye on sophomore third baseman Dennis Grosel.
Other teams to watch:
Mason.... The Comets could be Moeller's biggest threat in getting back to the state title game. Mason can throw three quality pitchers out there that can slow anyone's lineup. Rodney Hutchinson Jr. (North Carolina commit), Chris Martin (Kent State commit), and Andy Marheuser give Mason a shot at advancing to Columbus in June.
Walsh Jesuit.... The Warriors want to remove the sting of being upset by Twinsburg in the sectional finals last season. Junior pitchers Ty Shoaff (University of Missouri commit) and Ryan Feltner (Ohio State commit) lead the mound brigade, while Feltner and junior shortstop Nick Romans lead an offensive attack that can put up runs in a hurry.
Mentor.... The Cardinals are loaded with talent, highlighted by pitcher Kade McClure (Louisville commit) who is ranked as the 8th best player in Ohio by Prep Baseball Report. The Cardinals also return the services of two other Division I signees in Caleb Potter (West Virginia) and Sam Vilk (Seton Hall)
The high school baseball season starts this week, with the goal of every team to make it to Columbus for the state finals. Anything can happen in baseball. Teams don't play best of seven games, or even best of five games. In a "one and done" scenario, anything can happen when two good teams get together.
That being said, Moeller is still the gold standard for which all other Ohio teams are measured