Preview of the Valley’s Best Baseball PlayersApril 9th, 2013 at 12:46 pm by Ross Rowling under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog
With the weather warming up and baseball getting into full swing, I found it appropriate to recognize some of the best players in our viewing area. I’ve compiled a Wabash Valley All-Star team which consists of the ten best players in the area in my opinion along with the help of some area coaches. There are some stipulations. I’m putting together a starting lineup plus a DH, so position matters. Of course, in some situations, versatility matters. If I have ten guys and I need to go win a game- the more they can do, the better. There are lots of great players in the area this year, and surely some will some pop up that aren’t on this list, but if I’m going to battle with ten players, these are the ten I want.
Starting Pitcher- Pete Lanoo, Terre Haute South
Let’s just start with number 1 on the scorecard, the guy on the bump. Pete Lanoo leads a Terre Haute South pitching staff that is deep and talented. He looked every bit the best pitcher in the area, shutting out Indianapolis North Central in a 1-0 win on Saturday. He was in the conversation for first base, but I think he’s more consistent and dominant on the hill, so lets put him there. It didn’t play a factor in making this team, but certainly worth mentioning he’s a dynamo in the classroom. Big arm, big bat, big brain, this is a guy I want.
Catcher- Preston Tofaute, Terre Haute South
The battery consists of a pair of players from Terre Haute South, it just so happens to be the first two places on the scorecard. The Braves have the most talented and deepest pitching staff in the WabashValley. That task usually means the catcher is pretty good too. Tofaute is exceptional behind the plate. He’s fantastic at keeping balls in the dirt in front of him and a strong and accurate throwing arm keeps would be base stealers at bay. Tofaute doesn’t have huge power, but he’s a really good hitter in the third spot of Kyle Kraemers lineup. He rarely strikes out, and I think he leads the world in singles up the middle. One opposing coach told me that he thinks Tofaute is the best overall player in the area. With accolades like that, he’s the guy behind the plate.
First Base- Conner Wittmer, Loogootee
This was easily the most competitive position on the diamond, when putting this team together. Much like every level of baseball, some of the games biggest sluggers reside at first base. Wittmer is a returning all-state performer for the Lions. He has tremendous power and shows the same athleticism on the baseball field that makes him one of the area’s best basketball players. The big guy is also very tough on the mound, one of his team’s best pitchers. When you only get 10 guys, you need all the quality arms you can find, but it’s his bat that got him here.
Second Base- Jeff Woods, Turkey Run
This one might surprise readers, because Woods doesn’t play second base for the Warriors. He catches and plays shortstop. I’m putting Woods at second for a few reasons: First, I had to find a way to get this bat in the lineup. Woods can run and hit, two huge positives. He knocked two out at the Banks of the Wabash Tournament on Saturday.
Second, he’s such an athlete that I think he can handle any position on the field. (I also considered centerfield) Finally, Woods is really good defensively at both shortstop and behind the plate. He’s gaining interest from different schools to play at the next level and provides tremendous versatility with his ability to move around the field. The name of the game is to find as many great hitters and pitchers as possible. This is a great hitter.
Third Base- Patrick Green, Shakamak
You watch Patrick Green step on a baseball field and he just looks comfortable. One coach told me Green’s played more baseball in his life than any kid in the Valley, and that’s apparent. He’s not terribly big or terribly fast, but it’s obvious that he’s a player. Green is also very capable on the mound. In fact, an opposing coach said, “Patrick Green of Shakamak is the best pitcher in the Valley without question. He has velocity, movement and a command unparalleled.” No doubt, Green would certainly see time on the bump for this team, but I’m in more need for his glove and more importantly his bat at third base. He plays shortstop quite a bit for the Lakers but would be more comfortable on the hot corner. He’s a gritty, competitive winner who knows how to play the game and can flat out pound the baseball. Some kids just get it; he’s one of those kids.
Shortstop- Craig Peters, Northview
Peters spends a lot of time on the mound for the Knights, where he’s considered one of the top arms in the area. While that’s a plus for sure, he’s on this team for his ability to pick it at short. Peters has started for the Knights all four years. He’s fantastic defensively and brings a solid stick to the plate every single game. We’ve seen the Knights crank out really talented arms and shortstops in recent years. (T.J. Decker comes to mind) Peters fits the mold, he’s gritty on the mound, in the field, and at the plate. To be a really good baseball team you have to have a really good shortstop, Peters is my guy.
Left Field- Kyle Stewart, West Vigo
Every single year West Vigo has a player that can really play baseball, and this year that’s Kyle Stewart. Stewart isn’t very big and doesn’t look like your typical all-star team leftfielder, but all he does is hit. A beautiful left handed swing allows Stewart to flip the ball to the opposite field in left with ease. He stays back on the ball and drives it to all fields. He’s a good athlete in left that covers a lot of ground. This is a hitter that could literally hit in any spot in the lineup from top to bottom. He never strikes out and makes all kinds of hard contact. Stewart is a line drive machine that I want at the top of my lineup.
Center Field- Brett Yeryar, Shakamak
Brett Yeryar actually plays right field for the Lakers, along with some shortstop. He also sees time on the mound. For this team he sees time in center because I think he’s athletic enough to get the job done out there, and I want his bat in my lineup. Nicknamed “the machine” by some of his teammates and coaches, all Yeryer does is hit. He concluded the season last year for Shakamak on a 19 game hitting streak right up through the state championship games. He scorches the baseball from gap to gap and like his teammate Green, just has a feel for the game. He can hit, pitch and play anywhere in the field. Yeryar’s a fun one to watch.
Right Field- Connor Pierce, Northview
Rounding out the defensive alignment is Northview right fielder Connor Pierce. Described by one area coach as one of the top hitters in the WabashValley, Pierce can really swing it. He played a key role in the Knights sectional championship last season. He’s one of the few players on this list that is strictly an outfielder, and that speaks to what kind of hitter he is. Pierce plays right field very well and gives me a middle of the order type bat.
Designated Hitter- Sam Wolf, Terre Haute North
Speaking of middle of the order bats, Sam Wolf should strike fear into opponents. Wolf can flat out swing it. He’s a doubles machine that certainly has the power to lift his fair share of home runs out of the yard. Wolf also gives this squad another quality arm on the mound, he’s another 1st basemen that’s bat was too good to pass up. This lineup could be constructed in many different ways, but Wolf would be put in the four spot, and he’s not moving.
Up and comer- T.J. Collett, Terre Haute North
I know I began this piece talking about the 10 best players in the Valley, but I couldn’t resist including North freshman T.J. Collet. He’s that good, folks. The first time I saw Collett play was against Shakamak and their ace Patrick Green, one of the area’s best arms. A glance at the box score wouldn’t be terrifically eye popping. Collett picked up a couple of singles and a couple of walks, a really solid day. It was the way he battled through his at-bats that caught my eye. Collett is beyond the ability of a freshman, and most seniors for that matter, in every aspect of the game. From the way he takes a pitch, to the way he hits with two strikes, his plate discipline, his poise behind the plate, it’s all phenomenal. If Tofaute wasn’t so talented, Collett would be my catcher on this team as a freshman. He’s going to be a superstar for years to come at Terre Haute North.
Baseball fans enjoy! That’s my look at the best players in the WabashValley. All kinds of players could make an argument for this team, and that’s a great sign for a competitive baseball season this year. Hopefully this can spark the office debate around a baseball field near you. Until next time, I’ll see you at the field.