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NORTH SUBURBAN LAKE

LAKE ZURICH

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Coach: Gary Simon (13th season)

Last year: 24-11 (8-4 NSC Lake Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost in regional semifinal to Fremd, 5-3.

Key players lost: P Mike Lutz (Purdue), P/OF Sean Eder (Ball State), P Wyatt Spector (DePauw), OF Mike Orlando (Fullerton JC), P/IF Jake Guilianelli (Lewis and Clark), IF/2B Collin Roto, C Danny O'Connor, IF Jake LaRue

Key players returning: P Austin Foote, sr., C Anthony Drago, sr., IF/1B Tanner Kiser, sr., IF/SS Joey Pizzolato, sr., OF James DeGeorge, sr., OF Dom DeMicco, sr., P Ryan Maziarka, sr., P Mike Mulder, sr.

Key newcomers: P/OF Nick Jones, IF Joey Holtz, IF Danny Neises, jr., C Colton Wagner, jr., OF Danny Krueger, jr., P/C Braven Bacardi, jr., P Jason Sweetwood, jr., P Derek Kornfeind, jr., P/IF/1B Jeff Kudron, jr.

Outlook: Pitching will be the big question for Lake Zurich, which lost all but one of its starters from last year. The one returner will help a lot, though. Senior southpaw Austin Foote will be playing at Indiana next year. He went 6-3-2 last season and had a 2.25 earned run average. "The challenge is filling spots 2, 3 and 4 and relief for this season," Lake Zurich coach Gary Simon said. "The loss of (four) senior starters (Mike Lutz, Wyatt Spector, Jake Guilianelli and Connor Clancy) has left a huge hole in our rotation." While the pitching rotation may be a bit unsettled, the defense is not. The Bears are anchored by talent and experience in the field and boast six players besides Foote who have already made college commitments. Senior catcher Anthony Drago, who is headed to Illinois, will set the tone. "Our defense is solid. We have outstanding senior leadership," Simon said. "This is the first time in my 30-plus years of coaching that I've had seven players signed by colleges before the season even starts. But no matter how good the talent a team possesses, you still have to make it happen one practice, one game at a time."

LIBERTYVILLE

Coach: Jim Schurr (11th season)

Last year: 24-12 (9-3 NSC Lake Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost in the regional championship to Palatine, 6-3.

Key players lost: CF Nick Coutre (Villanova), P Darwin Townsend (Augustana), SS Anthony Mack (Grinnell), P Kyle Cibrario (CLC)

Key players returning: C Evan Skoug, jr., OF Justin Guarnaccio, sr., P Jason Buss, sr., P Mike Rogers, sr., OF/1B Matt Vogt, sr., OF Alec Semersky, sr., IF Matt Varner, sr., IF Connor Clark, sr., P/IF Nate Cote, sr., P/OF Nick Carlucci, sr., P/IF Dereck Ioos, sr., P/IF Kevin Calamari, sr., IF P.J. Neumann, sr.

Key newcomers: P/1B Mitchell Townsend, soph., IF Jimmy Govern, soph., 2B Noah Greenberg, jr., SS Adam Formento, jr., OF/P Matt Reed, IF Hunter Van Wagner, jr., P Ian Grant, jr., P Jeff Barton, jr., OF/P Connor Simpson, jr., P Andrew Mack, jr., P Patrick Wales

Outlook: It's not easy to outsmart Mother Nature, but the Wildcats are going to give it their best shot. Their deep pitching staff could give them a leg up. "We've got 14 kids who can pitch, not just throw, but really pitch," Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said. "We feel like if the season gets backed up due to weather and you're having to play games on back-to-back days, that could really play to our advantage because we do have such great pitching depth. We've got a lot of guys who will be able to pitch for us this year." Senior pitchers Mike Rogers, Nate Cote and Jason Buss bring the most experience to the mound for Libertyville and they've got a highly-touted catcher to throw to in Evan Skoug. Skoug, just a junior, has already gotten a scholarship offer from Vanderbilt and is going to draw all kinds of attention from scouts while Libertyville is on its annual Spring Break trip to Arizona. "Coaches from Arizona State and TCU and Texas Tech and all over the place are going to be there to watch him," Schurr said. "He's a very good player and he's so far ahead of kids his age and even some of the kids who are older than him." The Wildcats will be making their 10th straight trip to Arizona, and it's not just the weather that they love. "We always feel like we come back really ready to play and get into our season," Schurr said. "We are tested playing some of the nation's toughest west coast baseball programs."

MUNDELEIN

Coach: Todd Parola (19th season)

Last year: 34-5 (11-1 NSC Lake Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost in sectional championship to Highland Park, 7-3.

Key players lost: P/1B Ryan Borucki (drafted Toronto Blue Jays), 2B Chris Maranto (Butler), P Jared Mandel (Iowa), P Matt Langlie (Wisconsin-Whitewater), OF Torr Randau (Augustana), C Jordan Wiegold (CLC), CF Bryan Wiener (Lewis), P Zack Pawlowski (CLC)

Key players returning: SS Will Farmer, sr., P/3B Mitch Schulewitz, sr., OF Thomas Gandolfi, sr., 3B/1B Ryan Dolan, sr., OF Zach Osisek, sr., C Tony Zamora, sr.

Key newcomers:C Logan Reckert, jr., SS/2B Derek Parola, jr., DH/1B Ryan Hollander, jr., DH/1B Luke Adams, jr., IF Mike Metz, jr., P Adam Turner, jr.

Outlook: It will be tough for the Mustangs to top the excitement of last spring, which included a division and conference title, 34 wins, a sectional championship game appearance and news that one of their own had been drafted by a major league team. Gone is pitcher Ryan Borucki, who got the thrill of his life when he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 15th round. The Mustangs also lost seven other players from a talented senior class. All of them are now playing in college. "We are very inexperienced on the mound," said Mundelein coach Todd Parola, who also lost two other top-tier pitchers in Jared Mandel and Matt Langlie, who are now on the staffs at the University of Iowa and Wisconsin-Whitewater respectively. Seniors Eric Davis and Spencer Ryan will look to pick up some of the slack. "Our pitchers will not be over-powering but will mix speeds," Parola said. Defensively, the Mustangs will build around veteran shortstop Will Farmer, who was also one of the team's top hitters last season. Farmer rolled up 10 doubles and 36 RBI and finished with a .374 batting average. He is one of four returning players, including outfielders Thomas Gandolfi and Zach Osisek and infielder Ryan Dolan, who hit better than .340 last season. "We should be solid defensively with a scrappy batting order," Parola said.

STEVENSON

Coach: Paul Mazzuca (6th season)

Last year: 23-14 (6-6 NSC Lake Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost in sectional semifinal to Highland Park, 5-1.

Key players lost: SS Adam Walton (Illinois), OF Max Golembo (Washington University), 2B Jack Karras (Emory), C Steve Galanopoulos (DePauw), P Jon Savarise (Northern Illinois), P Scott Irving

Key players returning: P Matt Allen, sr., P Jake Schnierow, sr., P Jake Klancnik, sr., P Jordan Sheinkop, sr., OF Tony Heiser, sr., IF Zach Novoselsky, jr., IF Willie Bourbon, soph.

Key newcomers: P Mitchell Goll, jr., P Eli Greenspon, jr., C Joe Morris, jr., IF Michael Banakis, jr., OF Austin Black, jr., IF/OF Jimmy Marchese, soph.

Outlook: The Patriots will be young and old at the same time. There will likely be only one senior to anchor the Stevenson defense. That will be outfielder Tony Heiser. He'll be surrounded by juniors and even a couple of sophomores, including promising infielder Willie Bourbon, who is Stevenson's starting quarterback. Meanwhile, the pitching staff is just the opposite and has plenty of wise seniors to go around, headed up by Matt Allen, Jake Schnierow, Jake Klancnik and Jordan Sheinkop. "I am hopeful our pitching staff will lead us this year and allow for us to compete in one of the toughest conferences in the state," Stevenson coach Paul Mazzuca said. "We have a little more depth this year with our pitching. Our lineup will be young but the coaches are optimistic the juniors and sophomores will contribute right away." That will need to happen out of necessity. The Patriots lost a lot of talent as five of its everyday players from last year are now playing ball in college. Shortstop Adam Walton, who is now at the University of Illinois, headlined that group and played a big role in getting Stevenson to the sectional last season.

WARREN

Coach: Clint Smothers (6th season)

Last year:17-17-1

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost in regional semifinal to Carmel, 8-7.

Key players lost: OF Adam Glogovsky (Illinois Wesleyan), P Jimmy Nickell (Augustana), OF/P Pat Kenney (Purdue), OF Anthony Garza (CLC), C Alex Letto (CLC)

Key players returning: P Kyle Kennedy, sr., P Adam Ruess, sr., OF Justin Cobe, sr., DH Nick Orslini, sr., 3B Ben Dinter, jr.

Key newcomers: P Ben Gordon, jr., IF Dom Cuevas, jr., C Andrew Nickell, jr.

Outlook: With more than 100 innings pitched between them last season, Kyle Kennedy and Adam Ruess give Warren a nice one-two punch on the mound. Newcomer Ben Gordon is also showing promise to figure prominently into the rotation. Beyond that, though, head coach Clint Smothers isn't sure where he'll look for help on the mound. "We will not be very deep this season," Smothers said. "We will have to depend on our top three pitchers to keep games close. If they throw well, we will be OK this season." Ruess had 61 strikeouts in 56 innings last season and finished with a 3.08 earned run average while Kennedy had 45 strikeouts in 45 innings and finished with a 1.85 earned run average. Offensively, the Blue Devils have been working to hit more efficiently. Senior Nick Orslini returns with the best average. He was at .362 last season and tallied 23 RBI and 6 doubles. "Our hitters have worked hard in the offseason with the hope of making a jump this spring," Smothers said. "We have struggled with the new modifications of the bats."

NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIE

ANTIOCH

Coach: Paul Petty (21st season)

Last year: 23-13 (6-6 NSC Prairie Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost in regional final to Lakes, 3-2.

Key players lost: C Joe Gregory (Heartland JC), P Danny Arden (Carroll College)

Key players returning:P David Meade, sr., SS Matt DeJong, sr., P/OF Jerry LaSaint, jr.

Key newcomers: 3B Nick Muskat, jr., C Adam Harvey, jr., IF Colin Prather, soph.

Outlook: It's been an anxious off-season for the Sequoits, who have been champing at the bit to get back to work after being eliminated from the state tournament last year by archrival Lakes. "I'm still mad about that," Antioch coach Paul Petty said. "Last summer went better than the summer before. We won more games, improved as a team and players started to get to know each other better. Our offensive lineup has shown promise." Antioch returns two of its best hitters in Matt DeJong and Jerry LaSaint. DeJong starts at shortstop and hit .425 last season while LaSaint, a pitcher and outfielder, finished with a .385 average. Meanwhile, top pitcher David Meade is back after going 6-2 last season. He is a power pitcher who will be playing at CLC next season. Meade has a trusted teammate behind the plate in junior catcher Adam Harvey. Harvey got invaluable experience last season while filling in for starter Joe Gregory, who was out 10 games with an injury. "The main strength of this team seems to be depth," Petty said. "We have a few more options in the lineup defensively, offensively and pitching. We have a few more buttons to push."

GRANT

Coach: Dave Behm (4th season)

Last year: 26-12 (7-5 NSC Prairie Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Defeated Minooka in the Class 4A third place game, 7-1.

Key players lost: P/OF Jared Helmich (CLC), OF Eric Wilhelm, P Zach Niedrich

Key players returning: SS Jordan Villarreal, sr., CF/P Jake Ring, sr., 3B/P Tyler Gorski, sr., IF/P Brent Spohr, sr., P/C/IF Simeon Lucas, jr., P/C/IF Tino Torres, jr., IF Jacob Adams, sr., OF/P Ryan Noda, jr., P Jacob Trumpis, sr.

Key newcomers: IF Will Zitkus, jr., OF Ryan Mason, jr., OF Luke Lostroscio, jr.

Outlook: It was a dream season for Grant last year. The Bulldogs, who barely had a winning record in North Suburban Prairie Division play (7-5), got hot at exactly the right time and put together a postseason run that landed them all the way downstate. Grant wound up placing third in the Class 4A state finals. "We weren't necessarily expecting to go downstate, but I'm not totally surprised by how we played in the tournament," Grant coach Dave Behm said. "We still won 20 games, at one point we won nine games in a row. We showed we could play and we had some really good pitching." The Bulldogs return two of their top three pitchers from last year. Ace Jared Helmich, who dramatically cinched the supersectional title with a strikeout, is now pitching at CLC, but Jake Trumpis and Simeon Lucas are both back. Trumpis went 8-2 last season while Lucas came up big in relief. A young team last season, Grant returns almost its entire defense, headlined by Jordan Villarreal at shortstop and Jake Ring in centerfield. Ring has been making headlines for years with his speed around the bases. He rolled up 28 stolen bases last year. "For the last couple of years, we've been really young," Behm said. "This year, it's just the opposite. We'll be starting at least six seniors. We have a lot of experience this year and the good thing is we can also draw on our experience of getting downstate last year."

LAKES

Coach:Ray Gialo (3rd season)

Last year: 21-17 (6-6 NSC Prairie)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost sectional semifinal to Grayslake Central, 11-7.

Key players lost: P/OF Chris Hoffman (CLC), IF Jake Brown, IF Nick Traska

Key players returning: P Justin Demand, sr., OF Mike Bartlett, sr., C Danny Jackson, sr., 1B Ryan Burnett, sr.

Key newcomers: OF Joe Sisk, jr., 2B Justin Corona, jr., IF/P Bill Morris, soph., P/1B Chase Slota, soph., P/3B Kyle Vanderwall, sr.

Outlook: Every now and then, a coach is happy to be wrong. Lakes entered the season needing to replace the services of three-year starters Chris Hoffman, Jake Brown and Nick Traska, and head coach Ray Gialo wasn't looking forward to it. "I expected those losses to leave a void not only in our lineup, but also in our leadership," Gialo said. "So far, I have been wrong about the anticipated lack of leadership. Our seniors have done an excellent job of carrying on an attitude of hard work and great effort." The Eagles will look to their seniors on the field, too. Pitcher Justin Demand, a senior southpaw, will be the ace after finishing with a 2.97 earned run average last season. He has already committed to College of Lake County. He'll be supported by four other seniors on the staff: Nick Seketa, Eric Kuhlmann, Drake Larriuz and Adam Vassios. Offensively, Lakes returns three key contributors from last year. Senior outfielder Mike Bartlett finished with a .368 batting average while senior catcher Danny Jackson rolled up 10 doubles and senior first baseman Ryan Burnett started all of last season as a junior. "I think the experience of winning the regional taught us what is necessary to move on and advance deeper in the state tournament," Gialo said. "We have to be better at playing small ball. Bunting, hit-and-run and stealing bases will be very important to us offensively."

ROUND LAKE

Coach: Ed Adamson (5th season)

Last year: 12-20 (2-10 NSC Prairie Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost regional semifinal to Cary-Grove, 8-0.

Key players lost:SS/P Anthony Gutierrez, P/C Anthony Burton (North Park), 2B Randy Eanos (Western Illinois)

Key players returning: P/SS Ryan Newman, jr., Jalen Young, jr., IF Pedro Jaimes, sr.

Key newcomers: C/IF Benito Zalava, sr., SS/P Brandon Placencia, sr., C/1B Alex Rose, jr., P/OF Alex Gibson, soph., P/IF Eddie Garcia, jr., P/C John Riddley, jr., 3B/P Maurico Tovar, jr., P/OF Delfino Cordova, jr.

Outlook: Round Lake will be on the defensive this season. The Panthers have emphasized defensive improvement all throughout the off-season. "We lost nine seniors so we're pretty green," Round Lake coach Ed Adamson said. "We can't afford to give teams extra outs and runs. We've spent a lot of time on our defensive skills. We've really stressed making the routine plays and at least getting an out. With a young team, one main focus is improving everyone's baseball IQ and understanding in certain situations." Junior pitcher and shortstop Ryan Newman seems to understand the game pretty well. He's been starting since his freshman year and will be Round Lake's ace on the mound. He also finished with a .300 batting average last season. "He can do it all," Adamson said. "He had some arm problems last year and we didn't pitch him that much. I believe he will be a successful pitcher in our conference this season." Brandon Placencia, Alex Gibson and John Riddley will round out the Panthers' rotation. Gibson, just a sophomore, is the lone lefty on the staff.

VERNON HILLS

Coach: Jay Czarnecki (13th season)

Last year: 30-9

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost in sectional final to Grayslake Central, 4-0.

Key players lost: C Chris Marras (Butler), 3B Steve Nelson (Illinois), P/OF MJ Crowley, 1B Colin Krippinger, DH John Foley, CF Eric Lang, RF Austin Hagen

Key players returning: P Tyler Feece, sr., P Pat Crowley, jr., SS Jake Boyer, 2B Brett Peterson, sr., DH/OF Ethan McGrew, OF Connor Dickman, IF Dylan McNamara, sr., 3B/P Marco Rodriguez, sr.

Key newcomers: P Nick Newman, jr., 1B Matt Kahn, jr., OF Jake Campbell, jr., C Joey Marras, soph., P Ryan Erchinger, IF Joh Goehrke

Outlook:With some key position players, including the starting middle infield, back in the fold, defense should be a strength for Vernon Hills. Shortstop Jake Boyer had a 90 percent fielding percentage last year while Brett Peterson was solid at second base as well. "We had a lot of success doing the little things right last year," Vernon Hills coach Jay Czarnecki said. "We need to continue to improve as a program and we need to continue to develop our pitching depth." The Cougars should be in good shape at the top of the staff as both Tyler Feece and Pat Crowley return to the mound as the ace and No. 2 respectively. They combined for 19 wins last season. "Both of our established pitchers are lefties," Czarnecki said of Feece (12-2) and Crowley (7-3). "They are both good athletes and throw in the 80s. They both have two years of varsity pitching experience and have been through a lot of different situations. We expect that will help them continue to improve." Offensively, Czarnecki has seen Ethan McGrew, Nick Newman and Ryan Erchinger make great strides in the offseason.

WAUCONDA

Coach: Bill Sliker (11th season)

Last year: 21-12 (9-3 NSC Prairie Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost regional semifinal to Marian Central, 6-3.

Key players lost: CF Jake Ziolkowski (BYU), P/OF Shawn Sundquist (Mount Union), 2B Tony Kaminsky, 1B David Diol, 1B John Kamakis (Heartland JC)

Key players returning: P/SS Brandon Gibis, P Jeff Lindberg, P Ryan Gick, P Luke Kenny, Kyle Bock, Austin Piekarski, P Austin Swenson, C Ryan Geary, P James Holub, P/3B Nate Sarich

Key newcomers: OF Joe Lovelle, OF Bruce Pearl, SS/P Cody Reese, SS/P Roy Nelson, P/3B Brian Malosheski, P/2B Ben Peterson, 1B Joe Widmer, P/1B Tyler Meter, C Mike Gertz, C Mitchell Sharkey

Outlook: The Bulldogs are coming off a successful offseason in which they advanced to the final eight of the summer state tournament. "That has given us some confidence and motivation to improve on all aspects of our game," Wauconda coach Bill Sliker said. "The goal is to be a very competitive team in a very competitive division." For Wauconda, the way to hit that goal is with its pitching. Although the Bulldogs have lost top pitcher Shawn Sundquist to graduation, they do return six pitchers who got wins last season. Brandon Gibis went 5-3 last year while Jeff Lindberg, Ryan Gick and James Holub all got 2 wins apiece. "We are looking for pitching and defense to be our strength," Sliker said. "Hopefully, the offense will get better with some consistent at-bats." Kyle Bock is back after finishing with a .384 batting average. Gibis was just behind with a .370 batting average last year.

FOX VALLEY / VALLEY DIVISION

GRAYSLAKE CENTRAL

Coach: Troy Whalen (11th season)

Last year: 30-10

Last year's state tournament advancement:Lost the supersectional to Nazareth, 7-2.

Key players lost: C Kristian Meehan (Eastern Illinois), P Mark Ash (Winona State), OF Jon Gurchak, OF Nick Hosford, IF Ryan Hamrick, P Christian Edwards, P Brian Karol, OF Sean Boban

Key players returning: SS Ryan Fontana, sr., 1B/C Kyle Balling sr., P Kevin Peloza, sr., CF Matt Loeffl, jr., C Freddie Landers, jr.

Key newcomers: 3B Justin Allen, sr., OF Sterling Dixon, sr., P Jack Spicer, sr., P Ryan Dones, sr., OF Pat Burba, jr., OF Mike Stone, jr., OF/P Justin Dooley, jr., P Russell Lundius, jr., 2B Jay Hoffman, soph., P Justin Guryn, soph.

Outlook: Gone are 24 pitching wins, 190 runs scored and 230 hits. The Rams said a reluctant goodbye to a class of eight influential seniors who helped the program reach its second supersectional in four years. Now, it's time to move on and head coach Troy Whalen is doing so by trying to fire up those who remain. "I remind the squad daily that not much is expected from them from outsiders. I point to that as motivation for success," Whalen said. "It's no secret we lost some very talented and hard-working kids. This is not the first time we are restocking the shelves and it probably won't be the last. We have some talented and dedicated kids who expect to carry on the tradition as set by previous teams." Headlining that group is shortstop Ryan Fontana, the only full-time starter from last year that returns. He was an all-conference pick who hit .374 with 20 RBI. "He is an impact player both offensively and defensively," Whalen said of Fontana. "He is seen as one of the top players in the area, having played for Team Illinois last summer. Also back at a key spot is catcher Freddie Landers. He backed up Kristian Meehan last season but saw enough time to return somewhat seasoned. "We expect big things from Freddie," Whalen said. "He learned a lot last year from Kristian and had success with the varsity opportunities he had." Meanwhile, senior Kevin Peloza will be Grayslake Central's ace this season. He saw action in both the sectional and supersectional. "There is generally some pressure with being appointed ace of the staff," Whalen said. "But Kevin has the right mental makeup and is ready for the responsibility. He is a bulldog in that he attacks hitters and that's the type of competitor you want on the mound." Whalen expects to get heavy contributions from six other pitchers, including seniors Jack Spicer and Ryan Dones.

GRAYSLAKE NORTH

Coach: Andy Strahan (7th season)

Last year: 19-17 (10-9 Fox Valley Fox Division)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost regional championship to Vernon Hills, 2-1.

Key players lost: P Tom Elias (TCU), P/1B CJ Bailey

Key players returning: P/3B Adam Gomski, sr., SS Carl Russell, sr., 2B Nick Carmody, sr., P Andrew Cantor, sr., 3B/1B Sammie Stanfel, sr., OF JP Zalewski, jr., 3B/1B/OF Austyn Ruback, jr., C Kyle McBrien, sr., P Tommy DiProva, sr., OF Matt Eney, sr., IF/OF Michael Kelly, sr., P Brandon Magnini, sr.

Key newcomers: OF Alex Alvarez, jr., OF Sam Cremin, jr., OF/P Dylan Foster, jr., SS/P Ryan Gross, jr., P Sean McHugh, jr., OF/P Andrew Mikusa, jr., 1B/P Jason Petrillo, jr., C Nathan Wahlberg, jr., C Patrick Webster, jr., P Ryan Cotter, jr.

Outlook: After setting a program record for wins last season with 19, the Knights are anxious to break their own record. "We are looking to build on the success we had last spring and summer," Grayslake North coach Andy Strahan said. "We return a number of key players from last year's team, including three all-conference infielders in Nick Carmdoy (2B), Adam Gomski (3B) and Carl Russell (SS)." The Knights also welcome back catcher Kyle McBrien and pitcher Andrew Cantor, who was a closer last year and piled up 4 saves. Gomski and RJ Gross will be at the top of the pitching rotation. "We have a number of guys competing for spots in the rotation," Strahan said. "We aren't going to overpower people, but we have a number of kids who aren't afraid to compete." Meanwhile, Strahan says a strong junior class will provide some much-needed depth at all positions. "We will need to stay healthy and focused if we want to reach our program goals as we move up a class to 4A," Strahan said.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC

CARMEL

Coach: Dann Giesey (1st season)

Last year: 23-12 (12-4 ESCC)

Last year's state tournament advancement: Lost regional final to Highland Park, 8-6.

Key players lost: P Alec Young (TCU), OF Brian Brennan, 2B Blake Bucsa (CLC)

Key players returning: P/IF Matt Ryan, sr., IF Mike Stahoviak, sr., OF Tyler Murphy, sr., IF Nico Caracciolo, sr., OF Sean Brennan, sr., OF Brett Milazzo, sr., P/1B Duncan Amrein, sr., OF/P Josh Walinski, sr., P/IF Quinten Sefcik, jr., P Dalton Wright, jr., C Ian Kristan, jr.

Key newcomers: OF Nick Grandolfo, jr., OF/P Matt Skarzynski, jr., IF Andy Kantor, jr., IF Bill Weingard, jr.

Outlook: First-year coach Dann Giesey, who comes to Carmel from Johnsburg, stepped into a pretty nice situation. Carmel returns 11 key players from a team that won 23 games last year and just missed on winning a regional championship for former coach Joe May. "We bring back a lot of starters and a lot of seniors," Giesey said. "We have a lot of depth both on the field and pitching. Expectations are high, but as a new coaching staff, we are cautioning the players because we have a tough schedule and no one will take us lightly." No one could afford to do that last year with crafty ace Alec Young on the mound. But even though he's now at TCU, opponents won't get a break from tough Carmel pitching as Matt Ryan, Dalton Wright, Duncan Amrein, Quentin Sefcik, Josh Walinski and Matt Skarzynski team up for a formidable rotation. Ryan, who has signed with St. Louis, went 6-1 last year while Wright went 3-1 and Sefcik fired 50 strikeouts. Sefcik, just a junior, has already committed to Illinois. The staff will be mentored by familiar face Bill Taylor, who was the pitching coach for years at Carmel before taking off the last three years. Meanwhile, fellow assistant Scott Stahoviak is working closely to refine an offense that remains mostly in tact from last year. "We expect to be able to score runs with a combination of both speed and power," Giesey said. The offense will be led by outfielder Brett Milazzo, who has signed with Purdue, and infielder Mike Stahoviak, who has signed with UIC. Milazzo hit .500 last season while Stahoviak drove in 27 runs.

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