Monday marked the first day for official high school baseball practice as sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. The season is allowed to start March 26.
The area’s featured high school baseball showcase event during the season – the Skyline Chili Reds Futures Showcase – will announce its schedule March 3.
With that in mind, WCPO.com took a glance at 9 players to watch this spring in the Cincinnati high school baseball scene.
(In alphabetical order)
Nick Bennett, Moeller: The senior left-handed pitcher signed with the University of Louisville. He was named a Preseason Second-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper this winter. He was 7-1 with 50 strikeouts, three shutouts and a 0.90 ERA in 10 games last season. He was second-team all-Greater Catholic League South. He is one of six returning seniors on the mound for the reigning Division I state champion Crusaders, ranked No. 28 nationally this preseason by MaxPreps.
J.P. Bitzenhofer, St. Xavier: The University of Kentucky signee hit .304 with three doubles, 18 RBI and two stolen bases last season. He was second-team all-GCL South. An outfielder for the Bombers last season, he was recruited as a catcher by UK.
Cal Conley, Loveland: The sophomore second baseman verbally committed to the University of Miami (Fla.) in late 2015. He was named a Perfect Game USA Preseason High School Underclassmen All-American High Honorable Mention selection. He can hit from both sides of the plate and is a really good defender with an exceptional glove, according to Prep Baseball Report analyst JD Heilmann. Conley hit .286 with 22 hits, two doubles, two triples, 18 RBI and six stolen bases as a freshman.
Cameron Junker, Moeller: The senior right-handed pitcher is signed with the University of Notre Dame. He was 4-0 with 21 strikeouts, a shutout and a 2.29 ERA for the state champion Crusaders last spring. Moeller will rely heavily on Junker and Bennett pitch a large portion of the innings on the mound this spring.
Connor McMurray, Summit Country Day: The junior right-handed pitcher helped lead the Silver Knights to the Division III state runner-up in 2015. He’s won 12 varsity games the past two seasons and has added velocity since the end of his sophomore season. He hit .347 with 30 RBI last season and is a leader of the Silver Knights’ program.
Chase Murray, CHCA: The senior center fielder is signed with Georgia Tech. He was Division III second-team all-state last season. He will either bat leadoff or hit third. CHCA coach Nick Rosenfeldt believes Murray is an MLB Draft prospect with a chance to be selected in June.
Nick Northcut, Mason: The sophomore pitcher/third baseman verbally committed to Vanderbilt University this winter. He was second-team all-Greater Miami Conference as a designated hitter last season. He hit .373 with five doubles and 19 RBI as a freshman.
Luke Waddell, Loveland: The junior shortstop is verbally committed to Georgia Tech. He was first-team all-Eastern Cincinnati Conference last season. He hit .404 with eight doubles, 18 RBI and 22 stolen bases last season. He had a team-high 38 hits and 26 runs.
Jay Wilson, Loveland: The senior outfielder is signed with Georgia Tech. He was first-team all-ECC last season. He hit .372 with 29 hits, 25 runs, 12 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 24 RBI and three stolen bases.
Tyler Duvall, Lebanon: The senior catcher signed with Vanderbilt. He is expected to miss the majority of the season due to having Tommy John surgery last week. “That’s like losing LeBron James off the Cavaliers,” Lebanon coach Larry Price said. “That’s a gigantic dent into our season.” There is an outside chance he could return as a designated hitter in May, according to Price. Duvall still has an opportunity to be drafted this June. He is rated the state’s No. 1 player in Ohio by MaxPreps. He was Division I second-team all-state last season. He hit .460 with 29 hits, 25 runs, five doubles, three home runs and 23 RBI.