1. Can large schools add to recent trend?

Class 4A continues to produce different state champions on nearly a yearly basis. Fifteen schools have walked off the field with the state title over the past 18 years. The only teams to win twice over that stretch are Cretin-Derham Hall (2001, 2007), Eden Prairie (2004, 2010) and Mounds View (2013, 2014). Who are the front-runners to be No. 16? Keep watch on the likes of Forest Lake, Stillwater and Woodbury from the Suburban East Conference, and Edina and Minnetonka from the Lake Conference.

2. Henry Sibley gives all teams hope

A year ago coach Greg Fehrman’s squad went into the final week of the regular season with an overall record of 4-14. Exactly one month after loss No. 14, Henry Sibley won the Class 3A state title. “Baseball is about streaks, and we got hot at the right time,” Warriors catcher Matt Richards said after an 8-4 victory over Mahtomedi in the final. “If somebody would’ve said we would be state champions, nobody would’ve believed it.” The Warriors now give all schools a reason to believe come playoff time.

3. Minnehaha Acad. is class of Class 2A

The Redhawks won their first state crown in Class 2A last season, and repeating isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Coach Scott Glenn lost his ace on the mound in the graduated Jesse Retzlaff but welcomes back seven position players from the title game, a 5-1 victory over Belle Plaine. No. 2 starter senior Alex Evenson, the winning pitcher in the semifinals, is back to anchor the staff. Minnehaha Academy was the state tournament runner-up the previous year.

4. Legacy Christian is a program on the rise

It might only be a Class 1A school, but Legacy Christian in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association appears to be on the upswing. The Lions are coming off their first state tournament appearance, winning the consolation title. They lost to Hinckley-Finlayson 4-3 in eight innings in the quarterfinals. Coach Adam Hill welcomes back eight starters and his entire pitching staff from that 21-7 squad. Four of those setbacks were by one or two runs.

5. Once again, pitching will grab the spotlight

This year’s senior class, like that of a year ago, is highlighted by Division I pitching prospects. The biggest difference is the Gophers have landed four of them in Ryan Duffy of South St. Paul, Charlie Horton of Maple Grove, Max Meyer of Woodbury and Sam Thoresen of Minnetonka. One who got away is Burnsville righthander Sam Carlson, headed to Florida.

RON HAGGSTROM