Preseason Top 25 Team Countdown: No. 22 Highland

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the Top 25 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage:

Andrew Winning
          OF Andrew Winning

Team: Highland
Preseason Rank:
2015 Record:
Mississippi Valley
IHSA Class:
Head Coach:
Joel Hawkins
Playoff Run: Won the 3A State Championship
2015 Final Rank: 8

Returning Starters:
Returning Pitchers: 8

Name, Position, Class (College Commitment)
Will Greenwald, OF, 2016
Andrew Winning, OF, 2016
Chris Dickman, RF, 2016
Griffin Welz, 3B, 2016
Jordan Smith, 1B/RHP, 2016
Brock Troxell, 2B, 2018
Elliott Prott, RHP, 2018
Connor Pinsker, LHP/OF, 2018

Will Greenwald.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior outfielder is an offensive sparkplug who makes things happen on the bases, evidenced by his 42 stolen bases as a junior last spring.

Elliott Prott. The sophomore right-hander should provide quality innings for the Bulldogs.

RHP/OF Grant Geppert
SS Cody Bentlage

In 24 years at Highland, coach Joel Hawkins has compiled a 538-284 record that includes two state championships in 2008 and 2015. Hawkins, who was recently inducted into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame, has won at least 20 games 17 times in his career.

The Bulldogs shocked the field last year when they made a late run to win the Class 3A state championship, the St. Louis-metro area school’s second state title in eight years. To say Highland flew under the radar last season would be an understatement. Well, that won’t happen this spring. The defending 3A champs return 16 juniors from last year’s squad, including five starters and eight pitchers who logged quality innings. In addition to the experience, the Bulldogs feature excellent team speed, which suits Hall of Fame coach Joel Hawkins’ style perfectly, as few, if any, coach in the state will run, double steal, bunt-and-run more than Hawkins. (Editor’s Note: It’s a scorekeeping nightmare) Senior OFs Andrew Winning, Will Greenwald and Chris Dickman provide athleticism at the top of the lineup and excellent defense. 3B Chris Welz, who made several stellar plays in the 3A championship game to beat Nazareth, also returns at the hot corner. Senior 1B/RHP Jordan Smith, who won five games last season, also returns. While offense and defense shouldn’t be a problem for the Bulldogs, their pitching staff lacks a definitive ace. Certainly Hawkins won’t have the luxury of having former first-round pick Jake Odorizzi (now on the Rays), as he had during the 2008 state-title team. The Bulldogs’ staff will be by committee, but Hawkins has several options to pick from.

With Hawkins in the third-base box, expect the Bulldogs to run, run, run their way to another stellar season in Class 3A.

>> CLICK HERE to read about Highland’s Improbable Class 3A State Championship Run