"They're definitely the team to beat," said Advance coach Bob Moses. "They're well coached and they've been there before."
The Eagles (17-3), ranked No. 4 in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association poll, are seeking their third consecutive MSHSAA Final Four appearance and fifth in seven years.
Led by seniors Garrett Roslen, the leading hitter, and Matt Seyer, the top pitcher, the relatively young Eagles start four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.
Solid pitching and the ability to score runs in bunches are the Eagles' strong suits. If they have an Achilles heel, it may be occasional defensive lapses.
"We're a young team and we make a few mistakes," said Oran coach Mitch Wood, "but we seem to be able to overcome them."
Wood expects No. 2 Advance and No. 3 Chaffee to pose the top threats, but doesn't rule out No. 5 Bell City.
"They (Bell City) played us good for four or five innings," he said.
Either junior Paul Bucher or Craig Friga, also a junior, will be the pitching choice for Oran in the tournament opener against No. 8 Richland.
Advance (15-5) is expected to provide stiff competition for the district title.
The Hornets gave Oran quite a battle in a 10-7 regular-season loss.
"We're not a flashy ballclub," said Moses, in his first year at the helm. "We just go out and play ball. We feel like we can compete with them (Oran)."
Moses said defense and pitching are his team's strengths. Advance, also young, starts three seniors, one junior and five sophomores.
Junior Alex Sample leads a solid pitching corps which includes sophomores Daryl Wade and Jeremy Limbaugh and freshman Trenton Moses.
Limbaugh and senior Aaron Abernathy lead the offensive attack.
Youth is, obviously, a trend in this district as No. 3 Chaffee is also a bit green with as many as seven freshmen starting this season.
Among those freshman, Augie Orr, is the leading hitter and his twin, Alex Orr, has been Chaffee's most promising hurler.
Orr will be the likely starter in the district opener against Scott County Central.
The return of sophomore second baseman Korey Chapman, out with injury most of the season, is a plus.
Although the Red Devils enter with a lackluster 3-15 record overall, all the wins were over district opponents.
They also held their own in close defeats to the top two district seeds, Oran and Advance.
"It's a matter of getting our confidence up and realizing we can compete," said Chaffee coach Brian Horrell. "At this stage of the year, we have an outside chance."
Bernie comes in as the fourth seed, while Bell City is fifth.
If you're looking for a darkhorse, No. 6 Scott County Central may fill the bill.
On the heels of a resurgence, the Braves' baseball program sports a 5-5 record, its best in recent memory.
Scott County won one game in each of the '02 and '03 seasons, after a six-year drought in which they were winless.
Pitching talent, always a key ingredient, is present in the person of senior Daniel Holman, who has been overpowering at times.
Holman has rung up 15 and 17 strikeouts in his last two outings.
Coach Marty Vines describes his team as streaky.
"It seems like when we start hitting, everybody wakes up at the same time," he said.
"I think if we come ready to play and our pitchers perform well, we can make some noise."
Centerfielder Josh Woods and catcher Jeremy Johnson lead the Scott County offense.
No. 7 Delta (1-12), with only one win, and No. 8 Richland round out the eight-team field.