As winter high school sports wind down over the next two weeks, it means spring sports are just around the corner.

The official start date of the 2024 high school baseball season is Monday, March 4, and there’s a collective hope among all the players and coaches that Mother Nature will cooperate more kindly than she did a year ago with the spring weather.

The No. 1 teams in Deseret News preseason coaches rankings are no strangers to success, but only two are defending state champs, Juab (3A) and Kanab (2A).

The three other preseason No. 1s are Riverton (6A), Salem Hills (5A) and Snow Canyon (4A). All three made deep playoff runs a year ago, but ultimately came up short in the final couple days of the season.

In 6A, Riverton has a great group of returning players, including a pair of first team all-staters, Carson Moody and Zach Edwards.

“We are looking forward to the start of the season. We have a lot of returning players and are excited to see their rewards of all their offseason work,” said Riverton coach Jay Applegate. “We have a great nucleus seven of players and are working on building a team-first attitude.”

Defending 6A state champion American Fork is ranked second to open the season.

Salem Hills returns four key players from a year ago, as it narrowly edged No. 2 Olympus for the top spot in 5A to open the season.

“A great group of seniors. Several underclassmen will help on the mound. Good team speed and defense. Will have to replace four great hitters from a year ago in the front of the line up,” said Salem Hills coach Scott Haney.

In 4A, Snow Canyon returns a wealth of talent from last’s year’s runner-up team, including three returning first team all-staters, Ryder Harrison, Crew Secrist and Makaio Swensen.

“Returning a lot of key players and the kids continue to work hard to make my job easy. Looking forward to another successful season,” said coach Reed Secrist.

Timpanogos won last year’s 5A state championship, but checks in at No. 2 in this season’s 4A preseason rankings after dropping down a classification. Defending state champion Crimson Cliffs is ranked third.

A year ago in 3A, Juab won its first baseball state championship since 1998 with a dominant run through the playoffs. The Wasps have some big shoes to fill from a strong senior group that graduated after halting the two-decade drought, but Austin Park is back after a terrific season at the plate and on the mound and big things are expected of him.

Kanab opens the season as the preseason No. 1 in 2A a year after a surprising run to the state championship as the No. 6 seed. Coach Craig Brinkerhoff’s team only graduated two seniors from that squad, so it’s no surprise expectations are so high this season.

“With only losing two seniors last year, our team does have experience and a lot of good underclassmen. Looking forward for a great season with our guys,” said Brinkerhoff.

Among the top returning players for Kanab are Griffen Bone, the reigning Deseret News 2A Player of the Year, and first team all-stater Maddix Baird.

Kanab holds up its 2A state championship trophy
Kanab celebrates their 2A state championship win against South Sevier at the Larry H. Miller field at BYU in Provo on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The No. 6 Cowboys finished off an incredible run through the state tournament with a dominant 10-2 victory over the No. 1 and defending 2A champion South Sevier Rams. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Deseret News preseason coaches rankings

Class 6A

Team (2023 record)

  1. Riverton (21-7)
  2. American Fork (20-12)
  3. Mountain Ridge (21-9)
  4. Pleaant Grove (15-13)
  5. Bingham (15-15)

Class 5A

Team (2023 record)

  1. Salem Hills (25-7)
  2. Olympus (22-3)
  3. Orem (18-11)
  4. Jordan (20-10)
  5. Maple Mountain (16-10)

Class 4A

Team (2023 record)

  1. Snow Canyon (23-7)
  2. Timpanogos (28-7)
  3. Crimson Cliffs (27-4)
  4. Dixie (19-9)
  5. Bear River (16-11)

Class 3A

Team (2023 record)

  1. Juab (25-3)
  2. Carbon (19-7)
  3. Canyon View (20-9)
  4. Manti (16-7)
  5. Union (19-8)

Class 2A

Team (2023 record)

  1. Kanab (17-7)
  2. Duchesne (20-8)
  3. Enterprise (18-6)
  4. South Sevier (22-3)
  5. Beaver (16-8)