Pitching, defense, speed and execution never go out of style for the Highland Bulldogs, whose long list of college baseball recruits suggests another strong year.
"There's a lot of kids we're going to put out on that field with experience," said Highland coach Joel Hawkins, whose team was 25-12 last spring.
Senior center fielder Mitch Carriger (.442, 43 runs scored, 26 stolen bases, 18 RBIs) is one of the area's most explosive leadoff batters and is headed to Maryville University.
"He's an aggressive kid that makes us go," Hawkins said.
Eastern Illinois University recruit Jake Haberer is the top pitcher and also will play third base and shortstop.
Haberer (.427, 14 doubles, 29 RBIs) adds power to the lineup and is in his second year as the Bulldogs' No. 1 starter. He was 9-3 last spring with a 2.01 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings.
"He's still learning the art of pitching, but he's somewhere between 85 and 90 mph most of the time so he's a big velocity kid," Hawkins said.
Junior Joseph Duncan (.327, six doubles, three homers, 18 RBIs) returns at short and senior Joel Mason (.338, 13 RBIs) returns at second.
Senior Zach Stieb, a pitcher and corner infielder who signed with Southwestern Illinois College, hit .426 with six doubles and 10 RBIs last spring.
Senior Spencer Holzinger (.316) takes over at catcher and junior Nick Balkenbusch (.300, 11 RBIs) is in left.
Haberer anchors a deep mound staff that includes Steib, Duncan (4-2, 1.71 ERA), senior left-hander Austin McCloud (4-1, 3.43 ERA) and sophomore pitcher-outfielder Greg Geppert.
Waterloo (22-16): After catching fire late last season and reeling in a regional championship, the Waterloo Bulldogs are talented enough to do it again.
"We like our junior class and I think the juniors, with a couple seniors coming back with experience, should help us be competitive as the year goes on," Waterloo coach Mark Vogel said.
Leading the way is senior shortstop and pitcher Alex Wittenauer, who signed with Rend Lake College. Wittenauer was a starter on Waterloo's state tournament team as a sophomore and hit .304 last season with six doubles and nine RBIs.
Wittenauer also will log some important innings as a pitcher, according to Vogel.
"We're really going to limit to throwing him one day a week," Vogel said. "He's going to Rend Lake as an infielder and we want to make sure we don't to do anything to jeopardize that."
Senior Ethan Ruff (.294, five doubles, three triples, 13 RBIs) returns in the outfield.
Senior first baseman-catcher and designated hitter Logan Mueth (.258, 11 RBIs) signed with Lewis & Clark and senior pitcher Jared Lengacher signed with Lincoln Junior College.
Also on the mound are Wittenauer, Taylor Brumfield (4-0, 1.56 ERA), junior Jeremy Rettig (2-2, 3.23 ERA) and Austin Nunnery.
Mascoutah (19-15): The Indians' experience and strong pitching should keep them in most games with junior pitcher-shortstop Ryan Netemeyer already committed to SIU Carbondale and senior pitcher-outfielder standout Zach Lindsay also being recruited.
A key addition is senior transfer Tyler Greene, a second-team all-state pitcher in New Mexico last season who also plays outfield.
"He will compete with those two for who our top guy is," Mascoutah coach Don Eddy said of Green. "We've got three hopefully pretty solid arms for our rotation. I'm hoping that's one of our strengths."
Lindsay had a team-high .366 average last spring with five doubles and 14 RBIs. Catcher Majiec Milas, who signed with SWIC, hit .345 eight doubles and 16 RBIs.
Netemeyer, one of the region's top pitching prospects, hit .310 with nine doubles and 13 RBIs.
Senior first baseman Brendan Dauber (.281, seven doubles, 18 RBIs) also returns along with senior right fielder Mike Biekert (.324, seven RBIs), senior second baseman Rob Pearson (.354, six doubles, nine RBIs), left fielder Austin Waugh (.274, 14 RBIs) and Colin Renth (.289, 13 RBIs)