By KEVIN HARRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
High school coaches across the state already have high expectations that the Jeffersonville and New Albany baseball teams are going to be pretty good this season.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association released its preseason rankings last week. The Red Devils are ranked second in Class 4A, while the Bulldogs are eighth in the 4A poll.
First-year Jeff coach Derek Ellis relishes the fact that his team is being considered one of the best teams in the state in the preseason.
“Of course, it’s an honor. We feel we deserve it,” Ellis said. “We have a long way to go, but it’s a nice honor.”
Several Red Devils are back from last year’s 19-8 squad that lost a heartbreaker to New Palestine on a walk-off home run in the 2012 Class 4A Evansville Reitz Regional final at Bosse Field, 11-9.
Three key players back for Jeff are seniors Trent Astle and Isaac Crafton and junior Drew Ellis.
“We do have lofty expectations and we want to play for a state championship. That’s our No. 1 goal,” Derek Ellis said. “But we’ve got to get better every day and try to win the sectional. If we can get past our sectional, I think we can make a deep run in the state tourney.”
Despite the top-10 ranking, veteran New Albany manager Chris McIntyre thinks the preseason accolade does not mean much.
“It really doesn’t,” McIntyre said. “It’s nice and it’s good recognition for your program. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.”
McIntyre has most of his pitching staff back from last year’s 25-5 Bulldog team. The returning hurlers accounted for 22 of last season’s 25 victories.
Leading New Albany’s pitching staff will be senior Josh Rogers, who posted a 9-1 record last season. Other Bulldog hurlers returning are seniors Garrett Sherrell and Shane Robison and junior Brandon Johnson.
“We should have a pretty good team,” McIntyre said. “Our sectional has as much talent — and maybe more — than any in the state.”
New Albany will have to fill some holes out in the field with the loss of four starters, including standout shortstop Jordan Striegel. Striegel and fellow 2012 graduates Clayton Poff, Cameron Mullins and Eric Burnett combined for just five errors last season.
“We’ll miss their defense more than anything,” McIntyre said.
The only other area team ranked in the preseason polls is Silver Creek. The Dragons are sixth in the Class 3A poll.
Silver Creek repeated as Class 3A sectional champions last season before losing in the Class 3A Jasper Regional final to Greensburg, 7-0. The Dragons went 23-11 last season.
A message on Silver Creek coach Joe Decker’s cell phone was not returned on Monday evening.