Other top hitters back in the lineup are Cody Bowen (.369) and Tristan Fields (.363, 30 RBIs). Fields is also the ace of the pitching staff after an 8-1 season that included 74 strikeouts in 611/3 innings and a 4.14 ERA.
Catholic (29-9) welcomed back six returning starters, including first-team all-staters Kiefer Hovorka (pitcher-shortstop) and Rocco Wilcox (outfield). The others are pitcher-outfielder Andy Hoyer, catcher Drew Cable, infielder Connor Golden and first baseman Nelson McKown.
Hovorka (7-3, 2.39 ERA) fanned an impressive 93 batters in 671/3 innings last year, and Hoyer (10-2, 2.72) also put up solid numbers, striking out 68 in 72 innings.
Wilcox hit .459 with 17 stolen bases last year, Golden .437 with 38 RBIs and 19 steals, McKown .422 with 45 RBIs and Cable .353 with 37 RBIs.
The Irish have advanced to the state tournament seven times in the last 11 years.
Capsule looks at other teams around the Kanawha Valley (with last year's record in parentheses):
Buffalo (19-16) - The Bison burst out of the gate last year, winning 10 of its first 12 games, but was inconsistent the rest of the way. Senior Levi Jordan leads the pitchers and will also play shortstop. Junior outfielder Laythen Good (27 steals) adds speed to the lineup. Expect juniors Bradley Harris, Aaron Lewis and Blake Caplinger to play big roles.
Capital (11-22) - The Cougars feature eight juniors who have started games, including infielder Justin Palmer (.379, 18 RBIs), while pitchers with the most experience are Jacob Williams (2-4, 3.27, 39 Ks in 402/3 innings), Seth Roadcap (21 Ks in 28 innings) and Kaleb Kinder (20 Ks in 26 innings).
George Washington (17-14) - The Patriots lost four seniors who hit better than .350 and blasted a combined 34 homers last season, but again expect to compete behind a strong sophomore class, led by pitchers Jeff Wong (5-4) and Clayton Anderson. In GW's opening 9-1 win against Wyoming East, Grant Wooten and John Thomas each had two hits and Wooten fired a four-hitter.
Poca (21-13) - The Dots return their top four hitters and top three pitchers. The leading sticks belong to catcher Evan McClanahan (.458, 35 RBIs), infielder Noah Frampton (.414), first baseman David Taylor (.389, 31 RBIs) and infielder Cam Cottrill (.371). Jake Payne (4-4, 1.51, 73 Ks in 51 innings), Frampton (8-3, 1.99, 58 Ks in 522/3 innings) and Travis Covert (3-3, 36 Ks in 381/3 innings) head the pitching staff.
Riverside (20-16) - The Warriors posted their first winning season since 2009 last year and won 20 games for the first time, losing to eventual Class AAA champion Princeton in the regional final. Trevor Rumberg (.388, 27 RBIs) leads the returning hitters, followed by Aaron Halstead (.325) and Tyler Hall (.297, 33 RBIs). Hall is also the top pitcher, fanning 51 in 50 innings last year with 3.25 ERA.
Sissonville (11-21) - The Indians return several experienced pitchers, led by senior left-hander Zach Null (6-8, 2.75, 93 strikeouts in 811/3 innings) and junior Eli Mooney (57 Ks in 611/3 innings). Top bats belong to catcher Dominic Walker (.389), Null (.371) and J.R. Stricklen (.358).
South Charleston (9-25) - The Black Eagles lost six senior starters, but return players such as catcher Jonathan Cline (.384, 31 RBIs, 19 steals), infielder Austin Santrock (23 RBIs, 18 steals) and pitcher Jared Jobst (3-5, 491/3 innings).
St. Albans (24-7) - The Red Dragons lost eight seniors from last year's 24-win squad, but return key talent like pitcher Joey Dodrill (5-2, 49 Ks in 401/3 innings), designated hitter-catcher Josh Burkes (.344, 20 RBIs) and infielder Dustin Turley (.319).
Winfield (18-13) - Besides Dillon, who worked 74 innings last year and struck out 61, the Generals sport more strong pitching in Dana Harper (2.35 ERA in 442/3 innings) and Zach Strong (19 Ks in 131/3 innings before an arm injury). Junior infielder Brandon Wright hit .379 last year and scored 30 runs.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.