Prep Baseball & Softball

O’Fallon and Waterloo among favorites as Class 3A and 4A baseball playoffs begin

Belleville West’s Luke Vallandingham is 8-0 with a 1.81 ERA this season for the Maroons.
Belleville West’s Luke Vallandingham is 8-0 with a 1.81 ERA this season for the Maroons.

O’Fallon has been the dominant metro-east Class 4A baseball team all season led by senior left-hander Brad Harrison and his nearly impenetrable pitching, while Waterloo and Freeburg have been among the area’s top Class 3A teams.

With the small school baseball playoffs already underway, the metro-east large schools join the playoff party this week with Class 3A and Class 4A regionals beginning throughout the area.

Here’s a look at the Class 3A-4A baseball playoffs:

Class 4A Belleville West Regional

Top seeds: (2) Edwardsville (28-6), (3) Belleville West (22-8), (5) Belleville East (24-10)

Favorite: Edwardsville

Upset pick: The Belleville West-Belleville East semifinal winner

Analysis: Before a 6-5 loss to Springfield on Saturday, Edwardsville’s only two losses in its 20 previous games were both to O’Fallon (12-2 and 11-0). The Tigers have the deepest team here, but haven’t been as sharp as in the past. Senior Jake Garella is the top two-way threat, leading the Tigers in hitting (.547, four homers, 31 RBIs) and also strong on the mound (5-1, 0.22 ERA. Other big bats for Edwardsville are Trey Riley (.429, 13 RBIs), Joel Quirin .387, one homer, 32 RBIs), Cole Cimarolli (.378, two homers, 27 RBIs), Collin Clayton (.356, one homer, 25 RBIs) and Tyler Stamer (.346, nine homers, 40 RBIs). Garella, Tyler Hosto (7-0, 1.32 ERA) and Riley (2-3, 1.86 ERA) are the top pitching options. Garella and Belleville West senior Cal Kossina (.547, 27 RBIs) have the top batting averages in the metro-east. West posted a big conference win on Friday, beating O’Fallon 5-4 to end the top-ranked Panthers’ 21-game winning streak. West’s other top hitters are Jack Lanxon (.365, one homer, 13 RBIs) and Logan Betz (.304, 17 RBIs). West junior Luke Vallandingham (8-0, 1.81 ERA) has been dominant, as has Kossina (5-2. 0.44 ERA). Belleville East enters the playoff having won six off its last seven games, but must beat city rival Belleville West to have a shot at the regional title. The Lancers’ offense usual goes in the direction it is sent by Drew Millas (.481, three homers, 25 RBIs), Patrick Gaul (.436, 19 RBIs) and Jordan Yates (.411, two homers, 32 RBIs). East’s top pitchers are Jeff Caringer (7-2, 2.50 ERA) and Cody Freppon (4-3, 1.65 ERA) and.

Class 4A Alton Regional

Top seeds: (1) O’Fallon (30-4), (4) Alton (22-12), (7) Quincy

Favorite: O’Fallon

Upset pick: Alton

Analysis: At this point, opposing teams have to be wondering what it might take just to score a run off O’Fallon senior lefty Brad Harrison. He’s thrown five straight shutouts, hasn’t allowed a run in 33 innings, and is 11-0 with a 0.19 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 73 innings. Harrison also is hitting .364 with three homers and 29 RBIs for the Panthers, who have won 21 of their last 22 games. O’Fallon’s lineup includes Dillon Weiss (.407, 21 RBIs), Camden Bauer (.381, one homer, 21 RBIs) and Bradley Snyder (.379, one homer, 22 RBIs). When Harrison’s not on the mound, O’Fallon relies on Logan Boente (5-1, 1.70 ERA) and Max Schaefer (7-1, 1.12 ERA). Alton has the pitching to challenge for a regional title led by Gary Volz (8-1, 2.36 ERA), Jacob St. Peters (6-3, 3.09 ERA) and Sam Ballard (3-3, 3.27 ERA). Alton’s top hitters are Rob Taul (.462, 46 RBIs), Steven Nguyen (.418, 29 RBIs), Noah Rathgeb (.415, 22 RBIs), Aaron Bonnell (.400, one homer, 27 RBIs) and Jacob Kanallakan (.376, one homer, 27 RBIs). Harrison shut out Alton twice this season, winning 5-0 and 7-0.

Class 3A Mascoutah Regional

Top seeds: (1) Waterloo (23-6), (4) Columbia (19-13), (7) Mascoutah (15-17-1)

Favorite: Waterloo

Upset pick: Columbia or Mascoutah

Analysis: Waterloo was a combined 3-0 against Columbia and Mascoutah this season, and chances are those teams will be using their No. 1 pitchers against each other in the semifinals. Waterloo has enough hitting and pitching depth to reach the sectional, not to mention one of the Midwest’s top players in senior potential draft pick Jordan McFarland (.517, six homer, 27 RBIs, 33 stolen bases), but can’t get overconfident here no matter who the Bulldogs face in the regional final. Columbia hung close with Waterloo last week, losing 4-1 in the Monroe County Tournament while holding the Bulldogs to four hits. Mascoutah, which just beat Columbia 6-1 on Friday, has a solid pitcher in Jordan Kraljev (4-4, 2.56 ERA). Columbia has Andrew Hoguet (5-3) and Luke Watson (6-1). This regional also includes two of the area’s top hitters in McFarland and Columbia senior Cameron Touchette (.529, 23 RBIs). Waterloo senior Tyler McAlister (.409, five homers, 33 RBIs; 7-2, 0.68 ERA) is having a dominant season and the Bulldogs’ pitching incldues Erik Kaiser (5-0, 0.66 ERA) and Noah Thaggard (6-1, 2.59 ERA).

Class 3A Highland Regional

Top seeds: (2) Freeburg (22-8), (3) Jerseyville (20-10), (5) Civic Memorial (17-14-1)

Favorite: Too close to call

Upset pick: Too many possibilities

Analysis: It’s tough not to like Freeburg here, but Jerseyville has incredible pitching depth and Highland is the defending 3A state champ and playing at home. This is a wide-open, balanced regional that should produce some outstanding baseball. Jerseyville didn’t face Freeburg, but went 6-0 against the rest of the field here during the Mississippi Valley Conference season. Freeburg went 2-1 against the MVC and also owns a win over league champ Waterloo. Ty Dill (.435, one homer, 29 RBIs), Keegan Baxmeyer (.400, four homers, 32 RBIs) and Austin Sweet (.424, two homers, 18 RBIs) are driving the Freeburg offense and the top pitchers are Joe Wolf (4-4, 1.11 ERA) and Elias Czech (4-1, 3.47 ERA). Jerseyville is led by Jacob Witt (.422, 17 RBIs), Blake Wittman (.360, 16 RBIs) and Drake Kanallakan (.337, one homer, 36 RBIs). Kanallakan (6-1, 1.93 ERA) and Witt (6-2, 1.66) give Jerseyville a powerful 1-2 punch on the mound. Highland’s offense has struggled this season, with star Andrew Winning’s knee injury a big reason, but can never be counted out at playoff time. Jordan Smith (.314, 15 RBIs) and Mike McGill (.275, 21 RBIs) are the top run producers.

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders