Teams to watch
Annawan-Wethersfield: First-time regional champions since 2013 and first-time section winners, the Titans (15-8 in 2021) will hope last year’s Elite Eight run will be the start of a string of successes similar to those where they won four consecutive regional titles from 2010. -13.
Sherrard: The Tigers had a great rebounding campaign under first-year coach and former Sherrard star Nick Basala. The former Mercer County coach guided the Tigers (13-10) to the West Division title at Three Rivers with an 8-1 record and came within a win of the program’s first regional title since 2015.
Fouton: Moving from TRAC West to the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference South Division, the Steamers (10-7) are looking to build on last year’s 7-3 second place finish in their old league. They finished one win away from their first regional title since 2016, losing 3-2 to eventual Elite Eight qualifier Sterling Newman in the league match.
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Riverdale: With several All-TRAC West stars back from a club that finished 9-12 and dropped its last four games, the Rams are looking to move up in the conference after their 5-4 mark put them ahead of Orion in a game for third place. .
Orion: Much like Riverdale, the Chargers (9-10) are also returning a plethora of talent from all conferences as they also look to challenge Sherrard for the No. 1 spot in the Three Rivers West, which will be tough with the addition of Erie-Prophetstown and Monmouth-Roseville.
Ridgewood: The Spartans (13-10) finished in a virtual tie for second place on the Lincoln Trail with Annawan-Wethersfield, posting an 11-4 league mark against the Titans’ 10-3 record. However, Ridgewood must address several key gaps in its lineup to maintain its traditional level of success.
Players to watch
Drew Dykstra, Sr P, Fulton: Earned unanimous All-Three Division status Rivers West by going 4-0 with a .76 ERA, recording 54 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched.
Quinn Hoftender, Sr. 1B/P, Orion: A unanimous first-team All-TRAC West selection last year after batting .435 with six doubles, three home runs, 22 RBIs, 17 runs and 11 stolen bases in just 19 games; he also went 2-3 on the mound with a 2.33 ERA and 62 strikeouts.
Colin Hornback, So. P/3B, Annawan-Wethersfield: Made the All-Lincoln Trail first team in his rookie season after going 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 36 strikeouts; he also posted a .319 batting average with four doubles, 18 RBIs and 17 runs.
Jacob Jones, Sr OF, Fulton: A unanimous first-team All-TRAC West winner in 2021 after batting .466 with nine doubles, 12 RBIs, 17 runs and 11 stolen bases in 17 games.
Hunter Meirhaeghe, Sr C/IF, Ridgewood: Battered .340 with four doubles, 22 RBIs and 17 runs to earn second-team All-Lincoln Trail honors last spring; he only batted seven times in 53 at bats.
Isaac Melton, Jr. P/1B, Annawan-Wethersfield: The honorable mention All-LTC pick had a strong all-around season in 2021, going 3-0 on the mound with a 2.21 ERA and .312 batting with two doubles, nine RBIs and 12 dots.
Dawson Peterson, So. 1B/P, Riverdale: The unanimous first-team All-TRAC West star had an impressive prep debut, batting .417 with three doubles, seven homers, 23 RBIs and 20 runs in addition to going 1-2 on the mound with 33 Ks.
Owen Relander, Jr. OF, Mercer County: Hit .442 to earn first-team All-LTC honors in addition to recording five doubles, nine RBIs and 15 runs scored in a 15-game season.
Connor Sibley, Sr. OF, Erie-Prophetstown: In 17 games with the Panthers, first-team All-Three star Rivers East posted a .368 average with three doubles, 10 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
Alex White, then. P, Ridgewood: Was 4-0 with a team-high 48 strikeouts to earn second-team All-LTC; he also hit .238 with seven doubles, two home runs, 18 RBIs and 10 runs scored.
— Compiled by Terry Duckett