Three years ago, a group of Jeffersonville tweens became local stars when they made it all the way to the Little League World Series. Now, the core of that team is pushing the Jeffersonville high school squad to similar heights.
"This is the most talented team I've ever had," says coach Matthew Rigsby. "I've taken two teams to the state championship, and they'd both get mercied by this team. It's a ridiculously talented group."
Rigsby isn't afraid to pin big expectations on his crew because he knows they can live up to the hype. Leading the way is sophomore Drew Ellis, the star of the LLWS team. A 6-foot-4 shortstop, Ellis is on the verge of becoming the best player in Indiana. As a freshman last year, he hit cleanup and batted .383 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. And his defense was just as impressive.
"Drew won us games last year just by making some of the plays he made at shortstop," says Rigsby. "He's a tremendous athlete."
Ellis expects to take another big step forward this season.
"I've been working on improving my footwork and getting stronger," says Ellis. "I'm trying to get more power at the plate, so I'm not just hitting doubles but hitting home runs."
Junior catcher Isaac Crafton provides another big bat, coming off a season in which he led the team with a .468 average and 33 RBIs. The team's ace pitcher is Trent Astle, a junior lefty who posted a 2.15 ERA last year. Astle will be backed up in the rotation by senior right-hander Aaron Wenger, who will make the move from closer to starter this spring. Wenger's low-90s fastball should make it a smooth transition.
And Ellis isn't the only familiar face on the team — sophomore infielder Josh Burke and sophomore righty Chandler Dale are also former Little League heroes who should play significant roles.
Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).