Ohio Division IV Power Rankings: No. 1 - No. 5

By Chris Valentine and Dylan Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Director and Senior Writer 

No. 1 Minster High SchoolAdam Niemeyer
After back-to-back state championships, head coach Mike Wiss and Minster (25-6 in 2012) have high expectations and are looking for a return trip to Columbus. Wiss heads into his 19th season with a 310-146 record.

Minster defeated Cuyahoga Heights in thrilling fashion 5-4 for the state title. Take a look. The road won't be an easy one as the Midwest Athletic Conference is one of the toughest around with the likes of Versailles, Delphos St. John's, Coldwater and St. Henry.

One of the top RHP in the state, Ohio State recruit Adam Neimeyer looks to continue his dominance on the mound (0.00 ERA in 45 inn in 2012). Neimeyer can also swing the bat well with a .450 AVG. Senior Devon Poeppelman (SS-RHP) is a smooth fielding SS who hit .400 last season. Senior Jay Ellerman is a speedy CF who will be at the top of the lineup setting the table for the heart of the order. Senior Andrew Knapke is solid at 2B. Ethan Wolf (6-7 C/RHP) is a powerful, strong-armed backstop for the Wildcats. Wolf has numerous D-I offers for football as a TE. Junior Brandon Hoying will look to add depth on the mound as well as in the INF.

Doug Huber, who took over as team ace when Neimeyer was out with an injury, must be replaced after winning two games at both regionals and state last year earning PBR tournament MVP honors. Also gone are IF-P Austin Knapke, OF Drew Elson, 1B-DH Rob Wente and OF Ryan Hoying.

James ThomasNo. 2 Newark Catholic

Perennial state power Newark Catholic (19-9 in 2012) looks to continue its dominance, winning state 4 out of 5 years from 2002-2006 as well as placing 2nd four times since 2007.  Newark Catholic finished 19-9, falling in the regional finals to Berlin Hiland 5-4 in extra innings. Newark Catholic will be tested during the season as the Mid-State League-Ohio Division will be difficult with the likes of Granville, Herbon Lakewood and Licking Valley.

"How quick our pitching staft develops will determine our success. We have several candidates off our reserve team (17-5) and freshman squad (14-3) from last year. Our schedule will be demanding, so the young guys need to develop quickly. I think by tournament time we could be pretty good," stated head coach John Cannizzaro. Ashland recruit, Mitch Cox will lead an inexperienced, but talented group on the mound. Last season the 6-1 righty was 5-0. At the plate, the Green Wave are led by SS James Thomas who is a Walsh University commit and 3-year starter in the leadoff position. Chayse Crouch is a 6-4 1B who hit .342 last year as the clean-up hitter. Crouch, a highly-touted QB, will look to join the rotation in 2013. LHP Hunter Nance is expected to add depth on the mound while playing OF. Nance batted .338 last season. Mike Lohr, who hit .338 last season, is a 5-9 catcher and great leader behind the dish. Sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald (5-10, 175, S/R) started in the OF late last season and will look to continue his development this season in the field and at the plate. Sophomores Robert Engle (SS-RHP) and Patrick Oehlman (IF-OF) will look to add depth.

No. 3 Defiance Tinora High SchoolReid Renollet

After back-to-back state semifinal losses to eventual state champions - Canton Central Catholic in 2011 (Division III) and Minster in 2012 (Division IV) - Tinora and head coach Brent Renollet have high hopes again following records of 27-4 a year ago and 24-4 the year prior. Renollet begins year number 15 with a 223-81 mark.

With three key players back that all had a hand in the success the past two years, Tinora looks to reload behind talented juniors Derek Drewes, Clay Pittman and Reid Renollet.

The Rams come into this season riding a 31-game winning streak in the Green Meadows Conference, coming off a fourth consecutive league championship. Top hurler Tyler McKenney leaves a big void following graduation that also took Austin Farrington, Chris Wityk, Lincoln Cereghin, Nate Beck, Austin Little and Brad Bodenbender.

Top players include:  SS Derek Drewes – The 6-0, 180-pound three-sport athlete will provide pop in the lineup as he led team in 2Bs and 3Bs, while batting .457 in 2012. The talented left-handed slugger has gone 3-for-7 with a triple in his two state appearances. Drewes shows good plate discipline, striking out just nine times and accumulating 23 walks in 115 plate appearances as a sophomore. As a freshman, Drewes hit .528, 28-53 while striking out just three times. On the mound, the righty had a 1.69 ERA. Drewes is also a quarterback and defensive back in football as well as an all-state performer in basketball this past season.

C, Clay Pittman – The 5-11, 180-pound prospect has produced 94 hits in his short high school career (54 as a sophomore and 40 as a freshman). The righty batted .551 and led the team in home runs with four and RBIs with 45. The solid backstop also shows a bit of speed, stealing 12 bases last season. On the mound, Pittman had a 1.87 ERA.

P/OF, Reid Renollet – The 6-0, 175-pound lefty went 6-0 last season with a 2.17 ERA, while striking out one batter each inning pitched. The coach's son looks to take over as the ace of the staff this spring. At the plate, the lefty is expected to take over the lead-off position after finishing last season with a .333 BA in 73 plate appearances.

P/OF, Dylan Rumbaugh – The 5-11, 180-pound senior southpaw looks to add depth to the pitching rotation and has touched as high as 82 on the hill. Rumbaugh also looks to contribute in the outfield and at the plate, batting .357 in limited plate appearances last season.

2B/OF, EJ Kissel – The talented sophomore looks to man second base and provide some enthusiasm and excitement to the lineup.

3B, Brevin Renollet –  The son of Tinora's veteran head coach, Renollet is a right-handed third baseman who looks to add pop to the lineup, while being a vacuum at the hot corner. The 6-2 freshman brings plenty of athleticism and versatility to this year's squad.

No. 4 New Middletown Springfield High School

After a 22-6 season and a regional semifinal loss to eventual 2012 state champion Cuyahoga Heights, head coach Matt Weymer and the Tigers are ready to go in 2013. Springfield will look to capture its 4th straight ITCL upper tier league title. In addition, the Tigers will also be gunning for their 3rd straight district crown and a 3rd trip to state in the past 5 years, placing 2nd in 2011 and 2009.

With seven starters returning, the Tigers look to make a long run led by Cody Pitzo (SS-P), a senior 3-year letterwinner. Others include Ryan Kohler (OF, sophomore), top returning base stealer and run scorer; Hunter Snyder (C, sophomore), great defensive catcher and number 2 hitter; Brandon Chamberlain (OF/P), versatile player who will be counted on in multiple capacities; Dalton Donachie (P, sophomore), returning ace of the staff; and Joey Wrask (1B, junior), returning leader in average and extra base hits.


Judah WollenburgNo. 5 Toledo Ottawa Hills High School

After a 23-7 season and a loss to Leipsic in the regional semifinals, head coach Chris Hardman is excited and confident about what lies ahead in 2013. Eastern Michigan commit Judah Wollenburg (6-0, 175 switch-hitting OF) leads a talented group of Green Bears that includes senior backstop Will Lonthourne, who hit .431 last season. Ottawa Hills has reached state three times since 2001, winning the championship in 2010 and 2002. The Green Bears have also made 15 regional appearances.