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Preseason Top 50 Poll

Compiled by Allan Simpson
February 24, 2003

Two years ago, the Baseball America National High School Baseball Coaches Association poll accurately predicted Seminole (Fla.) High's wire-to-wire run to the national title. A year ago, its top two teams in the preseason--Bishop Amat High of La Puente, Calif., and Elkins High of Missouri City, Texas--flip-flopped positions at the top of the year's final poll.

Here's how this year's top teams stack up:

1. La Quinta HS, Westminster, Calif. (29-3).
Aztecs are 137-15 over the last five years and have their best team yet. Everything focuses around the two Ians--3B Ian Stewart (.505-15-49) and RHP/OF Ian Kennedy (13-0, 0.39; .373-7-31), both of whom have committed to Southern California and are projected top draft picks in June. Brigham Young-bound SS Blake Crosby (.406-1-38) and transfer OF Cole Garner (.450-10-35 at Artesia High), a Cal State Fullerton signee, are an able supporting cast.

2. Columbus HS, Miami (31-6).
Explorers add RHP Danny Gil, a Miami recruit, to a team that returns six regulars, including RHP/DH Jo Jo Gutierrez (6-0, 1.77; .472-7-49), Miami-bound OF Jon Jay (.504-1-38) and two top juniors, C Alex Garabedian (.389-7-53) and SS Walter Diaz (.299-2-28).

3. Roswell, Ga., HS (24-10).
No team in the country has a pitching staff to match the Hornets, who can trot out a trio of 90-plus hurlers: RHP Jimmy Barthmaier (10-1, 1.33), the state's top pitching prospect; Georgia Southern-bound Allen Curtis (7-2, 1.78); and LHP Miers Quigley (2-1, 1.40), the nation's top sophomore arm.

4. Mission Bay HS, San Diego (30-4).
The reigning San Diego CIF sectional champions return seven starters, led by SS/RHP Matt Bush (.452-5-35; 12-1, 0.89), the nation's top all-around junior, and San Diego State-bound C Brock Ungricht (.400-5-42).

5. Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La. (34-7).
Off the state 5-A runner-up team, Bucs return 18 lettermen, including Mississippi-bound C Justin Brashear (.314-4-28) and Arkansas-bound SS Mike Richard (.396-2-19); McNeese State-bound LHP Wade LeBlanc (13-2, 1.10) anchors a deep pitching staff.

6. Bellaire, Texas, HS (26-7).
Cardinals annually rank among the nation's top teams, averaging 30 wins over 12 years, and this year's club features two of the nation's top two-way talents in RHP/OF Adam Hale (7-1, 1.30; .402-12-40) and RHP/3B Kyle McCulloch (9-1, 1.27, .399-4-25), along with top junior C Andrew Walker (.412-5-28).

7. Pelham, Ala., HS (29-10).
Ex-big league catcher Mike O'Berry has two of Alabama's top pitching prospects to work with in 6-foot-4 Notre Dame-bound RHP Derik Olvey (9-3, 0.86) and 6-foot-5 RHP Chris Vines (12-1, 1.60).

8. Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, Calif. (24-7).
Monarchs must replace '02 first-rounder Sergio Santos, but Southern California-bound OF Daniel Perales (.367-12-30) and UC Irvine-bound 1B Tim Stewart (.411-5-31) are among the team's five Division I signees.

9. Dunedin, Fla., HS (32-1).
OF/RHP Ryan Harvey (.385-7-40; 10-1, 1.46), a two-way standout, will be sidelined until at least midseason by knee surgery, but the Falcons have a strong supporting cast in North Carolina State-bound C Scott Leffler (.408-3-31 at Northside Christian High), South Florida-bound 3B Joey Angelberger (.289-1-21) and a deep pitching staff.

10. Tomball, Texas, HS (21-9).
Cougars move into the national spotlight on the strength of a dominant pitching staff that includes Texas A&M-bound LHP Doug Frame (4-3, 2.07), RHP Blake Rampy (5-1, 1.70) and junior LHP Troy Patton (8-1, 1.09). Texas-bound OF Carson Kainer (.416-3-23) provides offensive support.

11. A&M Consolidated HS, College Station, Texas (28-10).
Tigers have an experienced lineup that features Texas A&M-bound SS/RHP Kyle Nicholson (.330-1-22; 8-2, 2.56), Arkansas-bound 1B Brett Lawler (.339-3-23), Louisiana Tech-bound OF Zach Myatt (.283-1-16) and RHP Wade Michalsky (7-1, 2.59).

12. Lassiter HS, Marietta, Ga. (27-10).
Trojans return six regulars from state 5-A runner-up team, including Florida-bound RHP/OF Kyle Muschara (8-1, 2.23; .368-5-19), Georgia Tech-bound SS Chris Goodman (.285-2-17) and junior RHP/1B John Michael Vidic (11-1, 2.06; .310-1-17).

13. American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla. (31-3).
RHP/LHP Pete Taraskevich (11-0, 1.06), who pitches effectively with both arms, and transfer RHP Dylan Gonzalez (6-0, 1.90), a Florida signee, give the Patriots two front-line pitchers to go with an experienced lineup.

14. Lakewood Ranch HS, Bradenton, Fla. (19-9).
Mustangs had a solid nucleus in place with the return of the four-year old school's original recruiting class, led by LHP Ryan LaCross (3-1, 1.99) and SS Ryan Kennedy (.419-2-16), but the transfer of OF Lastings Milledge (.569-14-71, 30 SB at Northside Christian High) provides a major boost to their state title hopes.

15. Santa Margarita HS, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (17-11).
Jared Hughes (8-4, 2.26) is the nation's top-ranked prep righthander, while Matt Cusick (.391) is one of the state's top junior shortstops. Transfer OF/RHP Cody Campbell gives Eagles another big arm, bat.

16. Woodinville, Wash., HS (24-2).
Falcons return six starters from 4-A state championship team, including Washington-bound RHP/OF Richie Lentz (2-0, 4.10; .380-3-26), son of the No. 2 overall pick in the 1975 draft, and Oregon State-bound C Casey Priseman.

17. Brito Private HS, Miami (31-6).
Defending state 1-A champion Panthers adds Venezuelan junior national team SS Hector Gonzalez to a lineup that returns C Lester Aragon (.473-2-33), SS Edwin Totesault (.395-0-28, 25 SB), C-DH Danny Santin (.400-2-57) and team's entire pitching staff.

18. Round Rock, Texas, HS (19-13).
Few teams can match the Dragons' pitching trio of Texas-bound LHP John Danks (6-2, 1.82), Arizona-bound RHP Matt Nachreiner (6-2, 1.58) and Baylor-bound RHP Travis Schlicting, who saw action only at shortstop (.315-0-15) in 2002. Offense will be a little harder to come by as only four everyday players return.

19. Hartselle, Ala., HS (39-8). Tigers return their top two pitchers, RHP Tyler Eddy (12-1, 1.47) and LHP/RHP Joey Watson (8-1, 1.91), along with Auburn-bound OF Blake Heym (.455-4-40).

20. Chatsworth, Calif., HS (25-6).
A perennial Los Angeles power, Chancellors feature seven returning starters, among them UC Irvine-bound RHP Justin Cassel (10-2, 1.86) and junior OF/RHP Jason Dominguez (.465-8-38; 5-1, 3.11).

21. Hialeah, Fla., HS (24-10).
Florida's two-time 6-A champions return seven regulars, led by SS George Otero (.355-4-26), C Chris Lopez (.385-2-25), junior LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-2, 1.25) and junior RHP Raudel Alfonso (3-0, 1.95).

22. St. Paul's Episcopal HS, Mobile, Ala. (36-8).
Saints feature six Division I signees, led by Mississippi State-bound SS Bunky Kateon (.528-7-44), South Alabama-bound C Luke Peavy (.391-2-31) and Vanderbilt-bound OF Bill Kleinschrodt (.435-4-26).

23. Mills Godwin HS, Richmond, Va. (21-5).
Eagles feature a pair of top two-way talents in Clemson-bound 3B/RHP Matt Moses (.400-3-17; 3-2, 2.83) and outstanding sophomore SS/RHP Justin Bristow (.381-1-14; 9-0, 2.49), along with UNC Charlotte-bound C Kris Rochelle (.478-6-15).

24. Milford, Ohio, HS (25-6).
The Eagles fell one game short of the Ohio Division I title a year ago, and return every regular and six of seven pitchers. LHP/OF Kyle Rapp (2-1, 1.40; .421-4-38), Kent State-bound RHP Evan Smith (9-0, 1.00) and SS Eric Lawson (.353-2-31) are the team's key players.

25. Sarasota, Fla., HS (25-7).
The Sailors, a perennial national power in the '90s, return their two top starters, Florida-bound LHP/1B James Houser (7-1, 1.38; .345-9-26) and South Florida-bound RHP Casey Hudspeth (6-2, 2.05), and their entire starting lineup.

26. Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga. (33-4).
Two-time defending state 5-A champs will miss Braves' first-rounder Jeff Francoeur, but Georgia Tech-bound RHP Tim Gustafson (12-2, 2.15) and RHP Tim Raettig (7-1, 2.66) return to anchor a deep pitching staff.

27. Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego (29-7).
The Broncos have produced more premium draft picks than any team in the country in the last five years. This season, their two best prospects are San Diego State-bound OF/RHP John Peabody (.420-16-41; 9-1, 1.64) and San Diego-bound OF Tristan Gale (.308-10-25).

28. Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas (29-13).
Coming off a third-place finish in the Nevada 4-A tournament, the Gaels return seven regulars, including SS Chris Siewert (.353-4-41), UNLV-bound OF Anthony Garcia (.392-9-36), UNLV-bound RHP/DH Russ Warthen (7-2, 4.51; .341-5-26) and super sophomore OF Cameron Brown (.325-3-17).

29. Taylorsville, Utah, HS (25-2).
Warriors return nucleus of state 5-A championship team, led by RHP-3B Chad Barben (8-1, 2.06; .516-8-30), the team's top hitter and pitcher; No. 2 pitcher Mike Mathews and 1B Jeremy Thomas (.473-5-33), the team's second leading hitter.

30. Elkins HS, Sugar Land, Texas (35-1).
Defending national champions lost two-way stars James Loney and Wardell Starling, but the cupboard is hardly bare as 1B/LHP Kelly Shearer (.375-2-30; 5-0, 1.08), 2B Chad Huffman (.440-7-41) and 3B Matt Carpenter (.455-2-28) return.

31. Union HS, Tulsa (39-9).
The Redskins have won 78 games the last two years and return Arizona State-bound C Brian Walker (.412-10-51), along with OF Stephen Robinson (.424-3-38, 40 SB), OF Steve Ptak (..341-6-45) and SS Ryan Brown (.352-5-41, 28 SB).

32. Fuquay-Varina, N.C., HS (26-3).
Defending 4-A state champions feature four Division I signees, led by South Carolina-bound RHP Harris Honeycutt (6-0, 1.01), and North Carolina State-bound C Caleb Mangum (.367-4-33) and RHP Adam McLaurin (5-1, 2.21).

33. Ronald Reagan HS, San Antonio (30-5).
Matt Manship, ace of last year's Rattlers team, is now at Stanford but younger brother Jeff (9-1, 0.66), a Notre Dame signee, has stepped in to fill his shoes. SS Jack Harris (.453) and OF Chris Anninos (.383) also return.

34. Coral Park HS, Miami (20-12).
The Rams were a possible Top 10 team before SS Sean Rodriguez (.316-6-21), a projected high-round draft pick, transferred to Braddock High in January. They will regroup with Florida International-bound SS Robert Valido (.370-2-20), South Alabama-bound 3B Guillermo Martinez (.355-3-22) and junior RHP Eduardo Morlan (6-2, 2.96).

35. Camarillo, Calif., HS (30-4).
The Scorpions are essentially a one-man team with multi-talented Delmon Young (.542-17-56 as an outfielder; 5-1, 1.66 as a pitcher), but five other starters return from a CIF sectional championship squad.

36. Wolfson HS, Jacksonville (27-5).
Wolfpack may be a year away as RHPs Eric Hurley (10-3, 1.22) and Billy Butler (9-1, 1.71), who combined for 230 strikeouts in 158 innings, are only juniors. Butler (.452-10-31) also plays third base and was the team's top hitter in 2002.

37. Archbishop Mitty HS, San Jose, Calif. (28-4).
Monarchs are 56-9 in last two years and feature three Division I signees: Santa Clara-bound OF Robert Perry (.421, 26 SB) and RHP/2B Tyler Duran (a transfer), and Notre Dame-bound OF Dan Dressman (.406).

38. Picayune Memorial HS, Picayune, Miss. (35-3).
Defending 4-A state champs and No. 6 nationally-ranked Maroon Tide return Mississippi State-bound LHP Justin Piggott (13-0, 1.60), SS/RHP Richard Imhoff (.387-3-43; 3-0, 3.29) and 3B/RHP Heath Stevens (.374-2-27; 5-0, 2.82).

39. Riverside HS, Greer, S.C. (28-7).
The Warriors may still be a year away as their top players--OF/LHP Brad Chalk (.514-1-16; 3-1, 1.27), OF/RHP Brad Hocking (.342-0-30; 6-3, 1.51) and the Crisp twins, OF Adam and SS Andrew, both transfers--are only juniors, though all are ranked among the nation's best 2004 prospects.

40. Southridge HS, Miami (34-2).
The Spartans ranked fourth nationally a year ago, but coach Fred Burnside and ace RHP Edgar Ramirez (15-0, 0.32) are gone. Florida State-bound C Daniel Diaz (.309-1-22) and Louisiana State-bound RHP Roland Rodriguez (11-2, 1.62) return.

41. El Capitan HS, Lakeside, Calif. (25-10).
Vaqueros loset top two sluggers from a team that hit 65 homers a year ago, but C Jared Abruzzo (.431, 7 HR), San Diego State-bound OF Brandon Rauch (..391, 13 HR) and entire pitching staff return.

42. Green Hope HS, Morrisville, N.C. (22-3).
Falcons finished ahead of state 4-A champ Fuquay-Varina in conference play in school's third year of existence, and they return South Carolina-bound OF Jon Willard (.500-10-41) and James Madison-bound LHP Trevor Kaylid (12-1, 1.23).

43. St. Ignatius HS, Cleveland (27-3).
State Division I champions must replace top three hitters, but Wildcats return top two pitchers: Vanderbilt-bound LHP Greg Moviel (10-0, 1.56) and junior RHP Brian Hoyer (8-1, 1.40).

44. Dwyer HS, West Palm Beach (15-12).
Panthers feature two of the nation's best arms in Miami-bound LHP Scott Maine (2-2, 2.04, 5 SV), who will be used as a starter, and Tulane-bound RHP Chris Worster (5-4, 1.28), who is healthy after an injury-plagued season.

45. Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (29-7).
Warriors return top four hitters, including junior C/OF Doug Pickens (.461-4-40) and Michigan-bound SS Dan Lentz (.316-0-23), and top three pitchers, led by Michigan-bound LHP Matt Petry (5-0, 1.02) and Central Michigan-bound Mike Kirschenheiter (6-1, 1.24).

46. Owasso, Okla., HS (22-12).
Perennial Oklahoma power missed playoffs last year, but Rams return six regulars, including junior SS/RHP Dallas Trahern (.306-2-20; 4-2, 4.72), 1B Michael Bippus (.403-2-30) and C Jeff Lamb (.360-7-28), and they have a strong group of underclassmen.

47. Eastlake HS, Chula Vista, Calif. (28-6).
Titans won San Diego sectional CIF title a year ago, and return San Diego State-bound 3B Eddie Solis (.438-13-35) and RHP Francisco Mora (10-2, 1.74), the team's top winner.

48. Canyon del Oro HS, Tucson (28-6).
State 5-A champion Dorados lost nine seniors, but they still return OF Tyson Moll (.415-5-26), the team's top hitter, and C/RHP Mike Hastings (.349-0-14; 7-1, 3.68), the No. 2 winner.

49. Toms River South HS, Tom's River, N.J. (20-9).
Indians return eight starters from state Group 3 state championship team, including Rutgers-bound RHP Stephen Holt (6-2, 1.20) and junior SS/RHP Todd Frazier (.424-6-24; 1-4, 2.89), the hero of Tom's River's 1998 Little League World Series championship team.

50. Centennial HS, Las Vegas (34-7).
In school's third year of existence, Bulldogs lost the 4-A championship game in extra innings; they return six regulars who hit at least .368, led by junior 1B J.C. Leach (.405-6-49) and junior C Bryce Massanari (.445-4-47).

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