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2024 Baseball Preview: Highland County teams prepare for upcoming season

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
Pictured are (top row, l-r) Hillsboro's Ashton Clemons and McClain's Kaden Penwell; and (bottom row, l-r) Lynchburg-Clay's Cole Wells, Fairfield's Zane Matthews and Whiteoak's Zander Roades. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha and Jim Jones)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

The following is a preview of all five Highland County baseball teams for the 2024 season.

Frontier Athletic Conference (FAC)
Head Coach
: Ben Miller (1st year)
2023 Overall Record: 6-19 (2-8 FAC)
Last Conference Championship: 2019 (FAC)

The Hillsboro Indians have a new head coach for the 2024 season, and they are looking to improve on their season from a year ago, all while playing in the tough Frontier Athletic Conference.

The new head coach for ’24 is Ben Miller, a former assistant for the Indians, and Miller replaces Matt Garman as head coach. 

Also new for the Indians is a new baseball diamond located on the campus of Hillsboro High School, with the facility including an all-turf field. 

HHS is coming off a 6-19 season in 2023, as they were 2-8 in the FAC. This season the Indians have two seniors, six juniors, and six sophomores on their varsity roster. The seniors for the Indians are Ashton Clemons and Peyton Aber. 

Juniors for the Indians include Nic Burns, Brayden Hunter, Gavin Greer, Gavin Issacs, Zach Burwinkel and Logan Zurface. Hunter was an Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association second-team All-District player for the Indians in 2023.

Hillsboro sophomores on the ’24 roster are Jack Cornele, Walker Pence, Zack Brown, Brayden Oberrecht, Nate Lane and Ben Miller. 

The Indians in FAC action will face rival McClain, two preseason state-ranked teams (Washington and Miami Trace), plus Jackson and Chillicothe twice each this season. 

Hillsboro’s non-conference schedule for ’24 are Portsmouth Notre Dame, Circleville, TBA teams in the Whiteoak Invitational, Unioto, Blanchester, Lynchburg-Clay, Clinton-Massie, North Adams, Goshen, Batavia, Bethel-Tate, Portsmouth West (DH), Bracken County (Ky.), Logan Elm and Clermont Northeastern. 

The Indians open the ’24 season Saturday, March 23 at home against Portsmouth Notre Dame at noon at Hillsboro High School. 

Frontier Athletic Conference (FAC)
Head Coach
: Kenny Branscom (4th year)
2023 Overall Record: 9-14-1 (1-9 FAC)
Last Conference Championship: 2010 (SCOL)

The McClain Tigers will be back to the baseball field for the 2024 season, with head coach Kenny Branscom returning for his fourth season.

The Tigers have four seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen on the roster this season, with the team coming off a year (2023) with an overall record of 9-14-1 (1-9 in the FAC). 

Seniors for the Tigers are Kaden Penwell (SS/P), Andrew Potts (3B/P), Seth Weller (CF/SS) and Jayden Allison (C). Penwell was named to the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association first team as a junior, while Potts was a second-team All-District player and Allison was honorable mention.

The four juniors for McClain this season are Cohen Six (1B/P), Connor McCune (OF/P), Alex Perie (1B/P) and Owen Sykes (OF/P).

McClain’s sophomores are Eli Douglas (OF/P), and Easton Ary (P/IF), while the two freshmen are Benny Vangundy (2B/P) and Carter Nelson (UTL). 

In FAC games this season (will face each conference member twice), the Tigers will face rival Hillsboro, two preseason state-ranked teams (Washington and Miami Trace), plus Jackson and Chillicothe.

McClain’s non-conference schedule consists of Adena, Piketon, East Clinton, Westfall, Green, Southeastern, Vinton County, Eastern, North Adams, Blanchester, Fairfield, Logan Elm, Huntington and Portsmouth West. 


Southern Hills Athletic Conference (SHAC)
Head Coach
: James Flowers (1st year)
2023 Overall Record: 9-14 (6-7 SHAC, Div. II)
Last Conference Championship: 2019 (SHAC, Div. II)

The Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs enter the 2024 season with a new head coach, and they are looking to improve on a nine-win season from a year ago. 

LC’s new head coach is James Flowers, as he takes over for Vince Pitzer, and for the Mustangs, they have a roster with one senior, 10 juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. 

The lone senior for LCHS is Micah Hall (OF, DH). 

The 10-player junior class for the Mustangs consists of Cody Bell (OF, IF), Cole Wells (IF, P), Caden Faust (P, OF), Jay Cordrey (OF, DH), Braedon West (P, IF), Josiah Burns (OF, P), Isaac Eyre (IF, P), Christian Flowers (OF, P), Asher Faust (IF, OF), Richard Fristoe (OF, DH) and Austin Bell (OF). 

Sophomores for ’24 are Ryan Creditt (C, IF) and Elam Faust (C, IF). The freshmen this season are Aric Slack (IF, P) and Trevor Niehaus (P, IF). 

In the SHAC (DIvision I) last season the Mustangs were 6-7 in conference games and overall the team was 9-14. 

Burns in ’23 led LCHS with a .377 BA as a sophomore, where in 61 at-bats (22 games) he totaled 28 runs, 23 hits, four doubles, five triples, one home run, 15 RBI, 16 steals and had a .506 OBP. Burns also pitched 18.2 innings and totaled 22 strikeouts. He was All-Southeast District Honorable Mention for the Mustangs a season ago.

Wells finished last season with a .356 BA, collecting 11 runs, 21 hits, six doubles, one triple, 16 RBI, two steals and a .394 OBP in 59 at-bats (21 games). Wells also pitched 36.1 innings (eight games), where he built a 4-3 record with 52 strikeouts and 2.312 ERA.

LC had a third player with a .300 or better BA last season, and that was West with a .328 BA. West in 22 games (61 at-bats) finished the ’23 season with 17 runs, 20 hits, four doubles, 14 RBI, seven steals, a .453 OBP and a .328 BA.

In 20 games(50 at-bats) in the ’23 season, Austin Bell totaled 11 runs, 12 hits, three doubles, nine RBI, five steals, a .367 OBP and his BA was .240. 

Cody Bell in 22 games last season finished with a .237 BA with a .328 OBP. Bell also collected 12 runs, 14 hits, one triple, seven RBI and seven steals. 

Eyre returns from a season in ’23 where he scored 10 runs, had six hits, collected eight RBI and had three steals. Asher Faust in ’23 finished with 13 runs, eight hits, one double, six RBI and seven steals. 

Flowers in ’23 totaled 10 runs, six hits, three doubles, seven RBI and five steals. On the mound, Flowers last season pitched 21.1 innings, finishing with a 3.938 ERA with 33 strikeouts and a 2-2 record in nine games.

The SHAC schedule for LCHS consists of a Division I schedule where they will face Eastern, North Adams, Peebles and West Union twice, and they will face Division II opponent Fairfield, Fayetteville, Manchester, Ripley and Whiteoak once. 

The non-conference schedule for the Mustangs in ’24 will see the team play Portsmouth, East Clinton, Paint Valley, Western Brown, Williamsburg and Zane Trace (tri-DH), Hillsboro and Blanchester (tri-DH), Wheelersburg, Circleville, Washington, Miami Trace and Batavia.

The Mustangs open their 2024 season Monday, March 25 at home against Portsmouth at 5 p.m. 


Southern Hills Athletic Conference (SHAC)
Head Coach
: Kyle Zimmerman (3rd year)
2023 Overall Record: 19-6 (12-1 SHAC Div. I)
Last Conference Championship: 2023 (SHAC Div. I)

The Fairfield Lions are the reigning Division I champions of the SHAC, but this season they are playing in Division II of the conference, so things will be a little different on their schedule as they look to add another championship to their trophy case. 

Last season, the Lions won Division I of the SHAC with a 12-1 record, and overall they were 19-6 as they finished district runners-up.

FHS enters this season with five seniors on their roster, as those players are Gabe Fouch (SS, P), Cody Frost (OF, IF), Wyatt Willey (OF, IF), Nolan Campbell (OF, IF) and Cade Miller (3B, P). 

Juniors for the Lions in ’24 are Corey Zimmerman (CF, OF), Otis Cockerill (OF), Blaine Fauber (C, IF), Corbin Willey (1B, P) and Zane Matthews (2B, P).

Fairfield’s sophomores are Heath Flint (1B, P), Zach Ahsaruk (C, IF) and Carson Chandler (C, IF). The Lions also have three freshmen, and they are Caleb Rice (C, IF), Cameron Miller (IF, P) and Van Bennington (IF, P).

Fouch in ’23 played in 25 games (70 at-bats), finishing the season with 27 runs, 25 hits, six doubles, two triples, four home runs, 24 RBI, 15 steals and a .495 OBP with a batting average of .357. On the mound, Fouch pitched in 11 games (60.2 IP), finishing with a 7-3 record while collecting 100 strikeouts and a 1.154 ERA. He was first-team All-District for the Lions as a junior, while he was also selected to the Prep Baseball Report 2023 All-Ohio list (second team).

Fauber played in 24 games last year and in 40 at-bats totaled five runs, 10 hits, six RBI and had a .318 OBP, with a .250 BA. 

Matthews in ’23 had 70 at-bats in 25 games, finishing with 25 runs, 20 hits, five doubles, three triples, 10 RBI, 11 steals, plus he had a .350 OBP with a .286 BA. As a pitcher, in six games Matthews had 26 IP, finishing with a 2-1 record and striking out 30 batters, compiling a 2.154 ERA.

Miller returns from the ’23 season, where in 25 games he had 62 at-bats. In those at-bats, he scored 26 runs, collected 22 hits (10 doubles, one triple), plus he added 20 RBI, 17 steals. He had an OBP of .500, with a BA of .355. On the mound, Miller in seven games in ’23 pitched 37.2 innings, finishing with a perfect 7-0 record. Miller struck out 46 batters and had an ERA of 1.487. He was a first-team All-District selection a year ago, as well as being named to Prep Baseball Report’s 2023 All-Ohio list (honorable mention).

Corbin Willey last season played in 13 games (30 at-bats), totaling nine runs, 10 hits, four doubles, one triple, 11 RBI, two steals and an OBP of .474, with a .333 BA.

Wyatt Willey in 22 games in ’23 totaled 52 at-bats, where he collected 11 runs, 13 hits, two doubles, eight RBI, seven steals. Willey also had an OBP of .355, with a .250 BA. In two games (10.2 IP), Willey struck out 12 batters as a pitcher. 

Fairfield in their SHAC Division II games this season will face Fayetteville, Manchester, Ripley and Whiteoak two times each this season, and will face Eastern, Lynchburg-Clay, North Adams, Peebles and West Union once each. 

The Lions’ non-conference schedule for 2024 consists of East Clinton, Portsmouth Notre Dame, Washington, Williamsburg, Paint Valley, Northwest, Georgetown, Green, Greeneview, Clinton-Massie, Portsmouth West, Huntington, McClain and Logan.

The Lions will open their 2024 season on Monday, March 25 against Portsmouth Notre Dame at Notre Dame High School, with a 5 p.m. start. The Lions’ Saturday, March 23 game (their original season opener) was postponed due to inclement weather. 


Southern Hills Athletic Conference (SHAC)
Head Coach
: Chris Veidt (33rd year)
2023 Overall Record: 27-4 (12-1 SHAC Div. II)
Last Conference Championship: 2023 (SHAC DIv. II)

The Whiteoak Wildcats enter the 2024 season with a newly minted Hall of Fame head coach, Chris Veidt, as the head coach enters his 33rd season at the helm of the Wildcats. WHS is also the reigning and defending SHAC Division II champions and a Division IV SE District champion. 

Last season WHS won Division II of the SHAC with a 12-1 record, and overall they finished 27-4. 

Veidt is the reigning Div. IV Southeast District West Coach of the Year and a 2024 inductee into the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Though the roster is a bit different than last year due to graduation, WHS still has a core of players ready to compete in defense of their championships. 

Seniors for the Wildcats are Kaden Moon-Stone (P, IF), Eli Roberts (2B, P) and Dakota Clift (C). 

Juniors for WHS are Camron Storms (OF), Wyatt Ruark (1B, OF), Zander Roades (IF, P) and Jacen Applegate (1B, P). 

Freshmen for Whiteoak in ’24 are Christian Hite (OF, C), Abraham Flader (OF, IF), Keian Moon-Stone (P, OF), Charlie Starks (OF), Zane Mitchell (OF, P), Izayah Clift (OF, P), Jacob Kiley (P, 1B), Caden Butler (OF, P) and Jonah Michael (IF, P). 

Roberts last season in 31 games totaled 84 at-bats, where he had a .381 batting average with  a .500 OBP. In his at-bats, Roberts totaled 29 runs, 32 hits, eight doubles, three home runs, 38 RBI and 20 steals. He was named to the All-District second team in 2023 and was first-team All-Ohio (Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association) as well as being named to the Prep Baseball Report All-Ohio list (honorable mention).

Applegate last season in 11 games had 18 at-bats, where he scored nine runs, had five hits (two doubles, one triple), seven RBI and one steal, with a .391 OBP and a .278 BA. As a pitcher, in five games Applegate pitched 20.2 innings, finishing with a 4-0 record, striking out 30 batters and compiling an ERA of 1.355.

During his junior year, Dakota Clift played in seven games, where in five at-bats he scored one run, had one hit and one RBI. 

Kaden Moon-Stone totaled 12 runs, four hits, six RBI and nine steals last season. He pitched 12 games (26.2 innings), finishing with a 4-1 record with one save, 30 strikeouts, one shutout and a 1.575 ERA.

Teammate Roades in 31 games (62 at-bats) totaled 31 runs, 22 hits, eight doubles, 26 RBI, 26 steals and an OBP of .577 with a BA of .403. Roades was a Division IV All-District honorable mention selection a year ago. 

Whiteoak in their SHAC Division II games this season will face Fayetteville, Manchester, Ripley and Fairfield two times each this season. WHS will face Eastern, Lynchburg-Clay, North Adams, Peebles and West Union once each. 

Whiteoak’s non-conference schedule includes games against South Webster (DH), Paint Valley, Deb’s Classic (Whiteoak Invitational), Green, Williamsburg (DH), Wellston, Symmes Valley, Felicity (DH), Lucasville Valley, New Richmond and Reedsville Eastern. 

WHS will start their 2024 season Saturday, March 23 at home in a DH against South Webster, starting at noon. 

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