The Kentucky high school baseball postseason is underway, with several teams punching their ticket to the state tournament this past weekend. One of those teams is my alma mater, Danville High School, which knocked off Somerset 8-7 in a thriller to win the 12th Region last night. Turns out Danville, and one of its stars, Christian Howe, actually lead the country in home runs this season. Howe, who pitches and plays third and second base for Danville, signed with Kentucky this past November.
Howe’s two home runs vs. East Jessamine to open region tournament play brought his season total to 20, making him just the tenth player in KHSAA history with 20 home runs in a single season. He and his teammate Ethan Wood — a Louisville Baseball commit — rank No. 1 and No. 2 nationally in home runs, with fellow Admiral Preston Barnes coming in at No. 5.
|1||Christian Howe – Sr||Danville (KY)||P, 3B||20||149||41|
|2||Ethan Wood – Sr||Danville (KY)||1B, OF||17||161||41|
|3||Sal Stewart – Jr||Westminster Christian (Miami, FL)||3B, SS||17||123||31|
|4||Carter Mathison – Sr||Homestead (Fort Wayne, IN)||OF, P||16||132||33|
|5||Preston Barnes – Sr||Danville (KY)||SS||15||141||41|
Thanks to all that batting power, Danville ranks No. 1 in the country in home runs with 84, well ahead of No. 2, St. Mary Prep (Orchard Lake, MI) with 54, and Parkview (Lilburn, GA) with 52. Even if the Ads don’t hit another home run this season, they’ll finish in the top 15 nationally all-time in home runs scored in a single season.
To get the scoop on Howe, I called up Danville head coach Paul Morse this morning. Morse, a 1992 DHS graduate who pitched for Kentucky from ’92-’94, said Nick Mingione and his staff plan to use Howe primarily as a pitcher (ERA 0.57, five wins, 61 innings pitched, 95 strikeouts this season), but his batting numbers may change that.
“They’ve really come out and swung the bats well all their careers, but to put up the numbers they’re putting up this year is a crazy feat,” Morse said of Howe, Wood, and Barnes. “Christian is mainly going to UK as a pitcher, but what he’s doing this year, hitting .563 with 20 home runs, 74 RBIs, they’re definitely now going to look at him a little swinging the bat, too; you can’t ignore those numbers.”
While at Danville, Morse was a multi-sport star, setting the national home run and RBI records in baseball, quarterbacking the football team to two state championships (1989 and 1991), and coming off the bench for the basketball team during its Sweet 16 season in 1990. He still ranks first in KHSAA history in career home runs (65), pitching wins (55), and strikeouts (651), but his single-season home run mark of 23 at Danville was eclipsed by one of his players, Rich Witten, back in 2006. Howe is within striking distance of those numbers, with at least one more game to go.
“To see these guys do well and beat some of my records is awesome,” Morse said. “The progression they’ve made and all the hard work and sacrifices they and their families have made, to see them get to this point is special…It’s rewarding and it’s more than just [being] a coach; it’s family you’ve been with them for so long, seeing them do well and have success. It’s a great situation.”
Danville will face Region 9 champs Beechwood Saturday afternoon at Kentucky Proud Park. It’s already been a special season for Morse, who notched his 500th win as Danville’s coach last month and whose son, Brady, is on the team, but he said continuing the journey on UK’s campus will be a big moment for everyone, especially Howe.
“Awesome facility,” Morse said of Kentucky Proud Park. “I’ve been to a lot of places and played a lot of baseball at some pretty high levels, and to see the facility they have now at UK compared to what I played in when I was there, it’s pretty amazing. It’ll be a special moment for those guys. It’ll be great for Christian, getting on the field and playing in his future home. It’ll be exciting. Beechwood’s a really good team. They’ve got a really good record, they’re a solid group. I’m sure it’ll be a dogfight as well but we’re looking forward to it.”
Here’s the updated state tournament bracket, with several region finals still to go. Go Ads!
Thanks to Christopher Zollner of Carpe-Imago Photography for the photos. For more images from Danville’s big win over Somerset, check out his gallery here.