PREBLE COUNTY — High school baseball in Preble County saw three teams competing for the right to be considered the best team, creating multiple options for the best player in the county.
Tri-County North came into the season looking for a repeat as conference champions after not losing a league game last season. Twin Valley South looked to be an improved team full of senior leadership and National Trail touted a young roster led by a new coach and a new mindset.
TCN finished with the best record in the county at 20-7. Twin Valley South finished as district runners up after defeating highly favored top seeded Hamilton Badin before knocking off Dayton Christian to claim their first sectional tittle since 1994.
National Trail on the other hand defeated both Twin Valley South and Tri-County North during the regular season showing the strength of their young roster.
The balance at the top of the county made the decision for Player of the Year a difficult one, however Twin Valley Souths senior Wes Cole has been named The Register Herald’s Player of the Year for baseball.
Cole helped lead the Panthers to the unlikely sectional championship and district runner-up finish. The Panthers finished the season 15-7 as they had their most successful tournament run in two decades before losing to eventual state runners-up Cincinnati Summit Country Day in the district finals.
The player of the year race came down to the wire when Cole separated himself from the rest of the field during the Panthers’ tournament run. Cole, who also won the player of the year for football and basketball, had the Panthers’ only two RBI in their 2-1 win over top-seeded Hamilton Badin, and drove in two more during the team’s 7-3 victory over Dayton Christian in the sectional championship game.
Cole hit .400 on the season after batting .476 in the second half of the year. He amassed three triples, eight doubles and a home run as nearly half of his hits were for extra bases. Cole had 17 RBI, and scored 20 runs. He acted as the team’s closing pitcher at times during conference play, and was the team’s unquestioned vocal and emotional leader during their tournament run.
Joining Cole as a First Team All-County member is teammate Jacob Bassler.
Bassler, a junior for the Panthers, was called the team’s most consistent player by head coach John Bassler. Bassler batted .386 for the season while driving in 15 runs and scoring 20 runs. Bassler, who was perhaps best known for his pitching, compiled a 4-2 record while pitching against the Panthers’ strongest opponents. Bassler was the winning pitcher against Badin, only giving up one run in the game which was unearned. He also defeated Dayton Christian, 7-3, in the sectional championship.
Senior Nick Gray from Tri-County North, perhaps Cole’s strongest competition for player of the year, is also a first team member. Gray was a dominant pitcher for the Panthers, throwing a no hitter against Mississinawa Valley. Gray also batted .550 in league play and was named First-Team All Cross County Conference. He was considered a senior leader both on the mound and at the plate for the North Panthers.
Joining Gray on the first team are teammates, senior Austin Elmore and Junior Logan Elmore. Austin was a four-year letterman for the Panthers and was consistent at the plate and on the mound. He was another valuable senior for the county team with the best overall record.
Logan’s season really came alive in the second half, during what was just his second varsity season, according to head coach Justin Tucker. Logan helped play catcher for the Panthers when needed and became one of the best outfielders in around according Tucker.
Representing Eaton on the first team are senior Cole Howard and sophomore catcher Blake Curry.
Howard led the team at the plate, batting .353 and batting in 19 runs. He also led the team in home runs, hitting two on his way to being name a first team All SWBL member.
Blake Curry, a 2nd team SWBL member, batted .385 and the led the Eagles with 20 runs batted in.
Preble Shawnee’s senior Corey Hooker is also a first-team member, after placing in the top-five in the SWBL Buckeye League in total strikeouts despite missing two weeks with an elbow injury. Hooker struck out 41 batters with an ERA of 2.00 on the season. He was also one of the best outfielders in the county with a fielding percentage of .947, 16 put-outs and two outfielder’s assists.
Rounding out the first team is Michael Bane of National Trail. Bane helped lead the Blazers to victories over three other county schools, Preble Shawnee, Twin Valley South and Tri-County North. Bane was also named a second team member for the Cross County Conference.
Special mentions for All-County were as follows: from Preble Shawnee, Clayton Morgan, Cody Chesnut and Sterling Leach; from Twin Valley South, Gunter Lautenslager and Brandon Simpson; from Tri-County North Tanner Booth, Zach Edgin and Chandler Sproles and from National Trail, Billy Lanman.