The Treasure Valley remains loaded with 5A baseball state powerhouses, including Timberline, Rocky Mountain, Eagle and Capital, to name just a few.
But a new team came out on top of the 5A Southern Idaho Conference preseason coaches’ poll — Mountain View.
The Mavericks haven’t won a state tournament game since 2014. But after their Double-A Legion team made a run to the national tournament, Mountain View returns a loaded roster with college prospects that has the league’s coaches expecting a new champion.
Below are the top players and teams that pose a threat to Mountain View from the 5A SIC, which has won 10 of the past 11 state championships.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH
Gabe Hughes, P/1B, Rocky Mountain
The reigning 5A SIC and Idaho all-class player of the year has already signed with Gonzaga. He’ll pitch in college, but he’s a rare two-way threat for the Grizzlies with one of the Treasure Valley’s most dangerous bats.
He went 7-1 with a 1.84 ERA last year, striking out 59 in 45.2 innings. But he also hit in the heart of Rocky Mountain’s lineup, posting a .461 batting average with four home runs and 31 RBIs.
“(He’s) the type of player no hitter or pitcher wants to face,” Meridian coach Rod Williams said.
Kaden Hollow, C, Rocky Mountain
Opponents learned a long time ago not to test the catcher’s big arm. But the three-year starter also carries Rocky Mountain at the plate, hitting .408 with 25 RBIs from the left side last season. Those numbers should only rise this year as he hits in front of Hughes.
He has signed with Dixie State, where he’ll join his brother Tyler Hollow on the roster.
Carson Smith, 2B/P, Mountain View
If it seems like Smith has sucked up grounders forever, it’s because he has. The senior enters his fourth year in the starting lineup and remains the one the Mavericks turn to late in games as their closer. He’ll also anchor the lineup as the No. 3 hitter.
“(He’s) as tough of an out as there is at the plate,” Williams said.
Devon Sharts, P, Mountain View
The senior earned first-team all-conference honors last season despite missing the last month with Tommy John surgery. The hard-throwing righty has returned stronger than ever and has signed with Spokane Falls Community College, Mountain View coach Matt Rasmussen said.
“(He) competes on the mound and keeps you in games,” Centennial coach Brian Champion said.
Bryson Vaughn, P/3B, Skyview
The reigning 4A SIC player of the year jumps up to the 5A level and will join Sharts at Spokane Falls next season. He feasted on 4A pitching a year ago, hitting .476 with four home runs and 43 RBIs. He’ll also serve as the ace of the Hawks’ staff after going 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 32 innings a year ago.
Can’t see the above preseason coaches’ poll on your phone? Click here for the full 5A SIC poll.
MOUNTAIN VIEW MAVERICKS
Last season: 20-8, 13-3 5A SIC
Coach: Matt Rasmussen, 16th season
Key players: Carson Smith, sr.; Jon Milner, sr.; Charlie Tentinger, sr.; Braxton Mills, jr.
The Mavericks start the season with an embarrassment of riches: seven returning starters and nine players either signed or committed to a college program. The defense will remain strong up the middle with four-year starters at shortstop (Milner) and second base (Smith). And runs shouldn’t be hard to come by with such a deep lineup.
Sharts returns to lead the rotation, which starts a bit thin with Riley Harrison out with a broken hand. But Rasmussen said he could return after spring break.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRIZZLIES
Last season: 24-5, 14-2 5A SIC
Coach: Joe Santa Maria, fourth season
Key players: Gabe Hughes, sr.; Kaden Hollow, sr.
The reigning 5A SIC regular-season and district champ returns plenty of talent to compete for more hardware. Hughes and Hollow remain two of the state’s top players, Quinn McGuire (a Yakima Valley Community College commit) gives the Grizzlies another experienced arm and Andy Evans returns from injury to eat more innings.
But Rocky Mountain returns only four starters and must replace four first-team all-conference selections. Santa Maria cautioned that his team will have to learn how to win close games as it can’t count on 10-running everyone again.
Last season: 19-10, 9-7 5A SIC
Coach: Casey Coberly, first season
Key players: Layton Wagner, sr.; Jonah Hultberg, sr.
Timberline overcame all the off-the-field drama to win its seventh state baseball championship last year. It saw more coaching changes in the offseason as the school hired Coberly, its fourth coach in the past year, five weeks before practice started.
While only four starters return, they all have plenty of power. Timberline slugged its way to a title with a 5A-leading 9.8 runs per game. The Wolves should continue to rake in runs in bunches again. If it can find a few pitchers, it will contend for another title.
Last season: 16-13, 8-8 5A SIC
Coach: Tony Hilde, third season
Key players: Dalton Mashore, jr.; Ben Ford, so.; Mason Leavitt, jr.; Dawson Wagner, sr.
Eagle has a big hole to replace in its lineup with the graduation of catcher Alex Guerrero, a three-time, first-team all-conference selection drafted by the New York Yankees. Instead, the Mustangs can turn to their bounty of speed up and down the lineup to put pressure on opponents.
Hilde also said he has the deepest crop of pitchers he’s ever had at Eagle. But the young arms still have to prove themselves ready for the varsity level.
THE DARK HORSES
Last season: 20-9, 11-3 4A SIC
Coach: Ryan Bobo, 15th season
Key players: Bryson Vaughn, sr.
The Hawks stood as one of the top 4A programs in the state, winning five of their past six district championships. They move up to 5A with immediate respect from the conference’s coaches.
Led by Vaughn and nine returning starters, Skyview will remain strong on the mound and in the field. But it will have to find more consistency at the plate to compete at the 5A level, Bobo said.
Last season: 15-11, 10-6 5A SIC
Coach: Jake Chandler, first season
Key players: Ethan Horner, sr.; Jackson Reed, so.
The Eagles may not have the headline-grabbing ace pitcher they have relied on in years past, but Chandler said he has a deeper pitching staff top to bottom, including Horner, a second-team all-conference selection last year. Capitals boasts six returning starters, including five who have signed with junior college programs.
Last season: 17-12-1, 6-10 5A SIC
Coach: Wes McAllaster, 11th season
Key players: Chase Nett, sr.; Jake Standlee, sr.; Garrett Thompson, so.; Trent McDaniel, sr.
The Lions return two of the league’s top players in Nett and Standlee, both first-team all-conference selections last year. Nett, a two-time first-team member, can hit for average and power, and he will play first base, outfield and pitch for the Lions. But beyond him, McAllaster said Borah doesn’t have much varsity pitching experience and still needs an ace to emerge.
Last season: 14-12, 7-9 5A SIC
Coach: Rod Williams, 17th season
Key players: Mark Steward, jr.; Kyle Fannin, jr.
Meridian starts the season nearly from scratch with just two returning starters — Steward at catcher and Fannin on the mound. Fannin had an impressive sophomore campaign, posting a 2.93 ERA. But the Warriors will have to weather some early growing pains and try to make a late-season run.
Last season: 10-13, 5-11 5A SIC
Coach: Brian Champion, sixth season
Key players: Owen Viano, sr.; Connor Cook, sr.; Gabe Elliott, sr.; Conner Ford, sr.
The Patriots graduated one of the SIC’s top pitchers in left-hander Logan Petet, who is now a freshman on Utah Valley’s roster. Champion said Centennial will have plenty of pitching depth for the season, including Cook (Big Bend CC commit) and Elliott (Shoreline CC commit). But he’s having to shuffle new players in at new positions nearly everywhere else.
Last season: 17-9, 9-7 5A SIC
Coach: Brian Vega, third season
Key players: Oliver Massie, sr.; Finnley Butler, sr.; Nick Black, jr.
Massie and Butler give the Braves two experienced pitchers. But they are two of just three returning starters as Boise enters a rebuilding phase. Vega said that youth will allow him to shape their work ethic and attitude, but varsity experience remains irreplaceable.