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Top 20 Preseason Baseball Teams - Saline named top team, Brighton is No. 2

Baseball   | Tom Markowski

Top 20 Preseason Baseball Teams - Saline named top team, Brighton is No. 2



Saline – Saline has never won a state title but this could be the year the Hornets break through.

Saline (32-10) reached the Division 1 quarterfinals last season the Hornets return their first six batters in last year’s lineup plus a sophomore class that could be one of the program’s best.

“One through nine, this will be one of our best teams,” coach Scott Theisen said.

Those at State Champs think so, too. Saline has been named our No. 1 team in the preseason.

Saline was the Division 1 runner-up in 2008-10. It also lost in the 1998 final.

Josh Smith (1B) was slated to be the ace of the staff but he had Tommy John surgery during the offseason so Smith will not pitch this season. Smith is one of the team’s top hitters and he signed with Kentucky.

Moving to the top spot in the rotation is Ricky Karcher, a transfer from Florida who signed with Michigan. Karcher is a 6-4 right-hander who uses two pitches, a fastball that he consistently throws in the high 80s and a changeup.   

The staff also features the Nearing brothers, Brett (6-5, 205), a right hander who signed with Grand Valley State, and lefthander Brendan (6-4), who signed with Cincinnati.

One to watch for on the mound is Sean O’Keefe. Part of a strong sophomore class, O’Keefe has a sharp breaking curve in his repertoire and has shown good control.

Offensively center fielder Joey Sweigert is at the leadoff spot. A left-handed hitter, Sweigert adds pressure to the opposition’s defense with his ability to take that extra base.

Junior Thomas Miller (SS) committed to Oakland and he’ll bat second. Brandon Bravdus (1B) had seven home runs last season in just 55 at bats.

The leader of the team is catcher and Theisen’s son, Trent Theisen. Theisen signed with Ball State. A four-year varsity player, Theisen bats left handed and displays tremendous awareness at the plate and behind it.  


2. Brighton (31-7), D-1: A minimum of seven players will play in college for coach Charlie Christner. Six starters return plus the top five pitchers from a team that lost to Clarkston in a quarterfinal. Alexx Zielinski is a 6-5, 225-pound left handed pitcher who signed with Miami (OH) for football. He was the ace of the staff last season as he posted an ERA of 0.90. Right handers Justin Steel (6-4) and Carson Hopman are 2-A and 2-B in the pitching rotation. Steel will play first base when not pitching and he signed with Saginaw Valley State. Hopman was 8-2 last season and he signed with Muskegon Community College, as did outfielder Zach Vithuske who was used as a closer last season. Shortstop Colin McClelland threw a gem against West Bloomfield in a regional final last season and he signed with Saginaw Valley. Alex Dixon (C/OF) and Tanner Hoard (OF) are also college-bound players.


3. Bay City Western (38-7), D-1: Coach Tim McDonald lost just three seniors from his state championship team. Four sophomores started on that team including Carson Eby who will move to the catcher position. David Fegan (OF) will again bat leadoff. Fellow senior Alec Justin is a transfer from Midland Dow and he will be either two or three in the rotation. Jason Clark (SS) is part of a strong junior class and he has the experience of pitching in a state final. Brandon Wise (3B) tossed a shutout in the quarterfinal. Two other juniors, Tyler Snover (2B/SS) and Hunter David (RF), are position players who will be counted on to come through with some offensive punch.       


4. Birmingham Brother Rice (34-3), D-1: Last season the Warriors were upset in the districts by West Bloomfield. This season they are led by a strong junior class and two high level seniors, outfielder Nick Plummer and Davis Feldman (SS/P). Plummer is the state’s top player and he signed with Kentucky. Feldman signed with Eastern Michigan. Junior right-hander Karl Kauffmann (3B) is the ace of the staff and he committed to Michigan. Behind Feldman in the rotation is junior lefthander Mitchell Tyranski (1B) who committed to Michigan State. Preston Pilat is another junior lefty and he committed to Northern Kentucky. Two other seniors, catcher Robert Iacobelli and right fielder John Gary, are expected to contribute significantly.


5. Portage Northern (27-12), D-1: Northern lost to Howell in the regionals and coach Chris Andrews returns his top three pitchers. “All of our most talented players are back,” he said. The top two pitchers are lefthanders. Junior Tommy Henry committed to Michigan. Ben Keizer signed with U-M but he’s had some arm difficulties. They don’t appear to be serious at this time. Blake Therrian is a right-hander who doesn&rsquo