(Photo by David Jenkins)
JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association released the high school all-state baseball teams.
Three area teams had players honored as Sikeston had three players selected, East Prairie had three selected and Oran had one selection.
For Sikeston in Class 3, which finished the year 20-6 with a district championship, senior infielder J.R. Bizzell made first team all-state as an infielder, senior Cullen DeHart made second team all-state as an infielder and senior Ross Merideth made second team as a pitcher.
For East Prairie in Class 2, senior Ben Walters made second team pitcher, senior Preston Shoemaker made second team infielder and junior Hunter Jones made second team outfielder.
East Prairie finished the year 20-3 before losing in the state sectionals to Clearwater.
In Class 1, Oran had freshman outfielder Caleb Seyer make first team all-
Oran finished 17-8 before losing in the district final to Advance.
Sikeston's Bizzell had a senior year to remember as he batted .490 while collecting a whopping 51 hits, tying the school record set by his cousin Blake DeWitt.
Bizzell tied the Missouri high school state record for singles in a season with 39, and he also had five doubles, five triples and two home runs. He scored 41 runs and stole 11 bases while playing outstanding defense at shortstop for the Bulldogs.
He also had an on-base percentage of .535 and a slugging percentage of .692 while carrying a 19-game hitting streak at the end of the season.
DeHart was counted on this season to be the Bulldogs' top run producer and he delivered, belting eight home runs with 39 RBIs, 32 runs and a .402 batting average. He also had eight doubles and a triple.
He was also very strong on the mound, where he was 5-2 with a 1.09 ERA in 45 innings. He struck out 35 and walked nine.
Merideth never lost a game in his high school career as he went 5-0 as a junior and 7-0 this season. He had a 1.73 ERA in 48.2 innings while striking out 42 and walking just four.
For East Prairie, Walters was selected after posting a 7-2 mark with two saves. He threw 55 innings and had a 2.80 ERA. He struck out 74 and walked 20 in leading the Eagles to their greatest season in school history.
Walters was also one of the top hitters and defenders on the team.
"Ben was the leader of our team -- he loves the game of baseball," said East Prairie coach Jason Aycock. "I always told Ben that if he worked hard and believed in himself and what he was doing, he would be very successful as a baseball player.
"If there's anybody on the team deserving of an all-state honor, it's Ben. He's put in the time and the effort. He's a great baseball player, very smart on the mound and in the field. He's just an all-round baseball player."
Shoemaker was named a second team infielder after posting impressive numbers as a senior. He batted .449 with 17 RBIs and 21 runs scored. He had seven doubles and a triple. He was also the team's No. 2 pitcher, with a 3-1 record and a 2.14 ERA in 36 innings.
"He's a natural athlete -- he's very sound, fundamentally," said Aycock. "He was pretty green last year, but he's come a long way with the team. Preston blossomed as a baseball player and that senior leadership came out in him. There's a big difference, a huge difference, between being a junior and a senior and you could see that with Preston this year."
Jones, a junior, was one of the top leadoff men in the area and his prowess on the basepaths did not go unnoticed to the all-state voters.
He stole 26 bases this year, but he also had big offensive numbers at the plate, batting .469 with eight doubles and 26 runs scored. On top of that, he was a standout centerfielder for the Eagles.
"Hunter is a great defensive ballplayer -- he's played centerfield ever since he was a freshman," said Aycock. "He stepped right in the starting lineup. To me, he was our most improved player from last year, especially offensively. He made a huge step and I really do feel that he was one of the big reasons why our team was successful.
"As a leadoff man, hitting is contagious and he led the charge in most games. As a baserunner, Hunter's got the instincts, very sound on the basepaths. He's one of those kids that doesn't need a lot of coaching. You just put him out there and let him play ball."
Oran's string of final four runs was snapped this year, but pollsters still know where to look for top baseball players as they nabbed Seyer.
His stats tell the story as he led the area with nine home runs. He batted .418 with 33 RBIs and 37 runs scored, collecting seven doubles and a triple.
"He had a good year but as far as being a freshman, he was definitely one of the top freshmen in the area," said Oran coach Mitch Wood. "We had a good year even though we didn't go as far as we wanted to, but we won 17 ballgames and he was a big part of that. After watching him play a few games, I could tell he was a good swinger. He doesn't get cheated on his swings. If he works on his game, he could become a great hitter before it's over with."
The Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association also released its final poll.
Locally, Sikeston finished ranked ninth in Class 3 and East Prairie finished ranked sixth in Class 2.
The complete all-state list and the final coaches poll can be found in the scoreboard on page 12.