Preseason Team Countdown: No. 37 Harrisburg



By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the top 75 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage:

Team: Harrisburg
Preseason Rank:
37
2013 Record:
30-4
Conference:
Southern Illinois River-to-River - Ohio Division
IHSA Class: 2A
Head Coach:
Jay Thompson
Playoff Run: Lost in Sectional Semifinal (Shelbyville)
2013 Final Rank: 24

Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers:
4

TOP PLAYERS
Brady Mayer, C, 2014 (Kaskaskia JC)
Noah Vallette, INF/RHP, 2016
Matthew Phipps, RHP/3B, 2015
Cooper Thompson, 1B, 2015
Sykes Thompson, RHP/OF/2B, 2015

X-FACTOR
Brady Mayer.
The rock-solid backstop will need to assume leadership responsibilities on the team now that Ryne Roper is gone.

KEY PLAYER LOST
Ryne Roper, SS/RHP, 2014

STAT RAT
As a freshman last spring, Noah Vallette batted .380 as an everyday starter.

OUTLOOK
The perennially strong Bulldogs are always a contender to made a run at the Class 2A title. Their road will be a lot more difficult this year now that four-year star Ryne Roper is at the University of Illinois. Indeed, legendary coach Jay Thompson and the Bulldogs will need to adjust to life without Roper, who earned the PBR Player of the Year honors last spring and was a two-time All-State recipient. In fact, it’s been a long time since a Roper wasn’t penciled in the lineup. Still, Harrisburg returns six starters from last year’s 30-win club, yet the team is still fairly young. Senior C Brady Mayer (.364 BA) is a hard-nosed catcher who will need to guide a lineup filled with juniors and sophomores. Juniors Cooper Thompson and Sykes Thompson are both three-year starters, and Noah Vallette will look to build off a strong freshman campaign. Matthew Phipps, a junior, is also a two-way contributor for the Bulldogs.

BOTTOM LINE
Jay Thompson’s teams are always hard-nosed, disciplined and fundamentally sound. Thompson, who is retiring at season’s end after a decorated career, doesn’t have the same level of talent as he’s had the last five years or so. Nevertheless, look for the Bulldogs to be one of the top teams in Class 2A. They just won’t be favored coming into the season, as they have been recently.

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Season Countdown

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+ Updated Illinois 2014 Player Rankings

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