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updated: 3/21/2013 4:50 PM

Tri-Cities baseball preview

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  • Kurt Barbeau is moving from the outfield to shortstop for St. Charles North.

      Kurt Barbeau is moving from the outfield to shortstop for St. Charles North.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Connor Riley finished with a 6-3 record and 66 strikeouts last year for Marmion.

      Connor Riley finished with a 6-3 record and 66 strikeouts last year for Marmion.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


Aurora Central Catholic

Coach: Sean Bieterman

Last year: 14-18

Key returnees: Matt Miller SS/P, sr.; Andrew Bruss P/OF, jr.; Phil Scheutz OF/P, sr.; Steve Bellovich 2B, sr.; Jake McCarthy IF/OF, sr.; Shawn Soris C, sr.;, Mike O'Donnell P/INF, sr.; Michael Fidler P/INF, jr.

Top newcomers: Matt Rahn CF/P, so.; Hunter Fiorito INF, so.; Andy Czerak 3B, jr.

Outlook: Bieterman is in his first year with the Chargers but has plenty of experience. In seven years at Driscoll he had a 161-74 record. Also coached three seasons at Lincoln-Way Central and in 10 years is 217-119. Bieterman calls it "a completely new era of ACC baseball"after the Chargers lost to Aurora Christian in last year's regional final. This is the 30th anniversary of ACC's 1983 state championship team, and the 2013 version has a solid foundation led by Miller, Bruss, Scheutz, O'Donnell, Rahn and Fidler who form a formidable pitching rotation, according to the new coach. Bieterman views Miller, a four-year who is going to Heartland College, as an all-state caliber player. Soris "provides outstanding leadership behind the plate," Bieterman said, and Rahn and McCarthy will bat at the top of the order looking for Miller, Schuetz, Bellovich and Bruss to drive them in. Bieterman likes Fiorito's athleticism and versatility on defense which Bieterman expects to be one of the team's greatest improvements. Look for the Chargers to be aggressive on the basepaths, and Bieterman isn't waiting long to set big goals. "I feel as though our team has a great chance to go from last to first in the SCC," Bieterman said. "Our goal is to work hard on the field, in the classroom and in the community to build a model program that we can be proud of. The program's foundation reminds me a great deal of what we were able to build at Driscoll. Many of my former Driscoll assistants and ACC alums are now on our coaching staff."

Aurora Christian

Coach: Andy Zorger

Last year: 26-9

Key returners: Ian Livingston CF, sr.; J.T. Baksha LHP/OF, jr.; Brandon Walgren 3B/P/OF, jr.

Top newcomers: P.J. Cole C, jr.; Chase Tomney SS/P, jr.; Tristin Withrow 1B/P, jr.; Dustin Barrett INF/P/OF; fr.; Drew Wagner INF/P/C, fr.; R.D. Lutze RHP, fr.

Outlook: After going 12-3 to win the SCC Gold last year and then winning a 2A regional, the Eagles lost in the sectional semifinals to Herscher who went on to take third in state. The Eagles graduated three Division I players but bring back Baksha, a lefty ace has committed to Iowa and went 8-2 with a 1.37 ERA in 56 innings with 69 strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP. Walgren hit .298 with a couple homers. The Eagles have a big test ahead of them this year as they move up to the SCC Blue. "This will be a challenge, but we are looking forward to seeing where we stack up," Eagles coach Andy Zorger said. "This will benefit us as we prepare for the postseason." While Aurora Christian only brings back three starters, Zorger is excited about his junior class. "They are going to step in and contribute offensively and on the mound," said Zorger who also is going to give several freshmen a chance to make an immediate impact on varsity. "Our offense should be strong, with some pop in the middle," Zorger said. "I'm excited about working with this group of kids and look forward to challenging for another regional title."


Coach: Matt Holm

Last year: 19-17

Key returners: Austin Shanahan P, sr.; Billy Zwick SS, sr.; Rob Bowman CF, sr.; Luke Horton P/1B/DH, sr.; Laren Eustace LF, jr.; Micah Coffey 1B, jr.; Colby Green P/3B/OF, jr.

Top newcomers: Charlie Smorczewski OF, sr.; Aaron Hurd OF, sr.; Jeremy Schoessling, 2B, jr.; Dean Simoncelli, C, jr.; Andrew Seigler.

Outlook: Holm has added Bob Polinski to head the pitching staff. Polinsi has pitched in the Cubs, White Sox and Yankees organization and according to Holm "will bring elements to all of our pitchers that will strengthen the entire program." Former Batavia great Alex Beckmann will be the varsity infield coach after finishing his career at NIU. Beckman still holds the Batavia record for batting average. Another former Batavia MVP Billy Vigliotti has been added as a lower level assistant. Those new coaches will be working with a number of veteran players including Coffey who earned all-conference as a sophomore. "I am excited, as I am every year, about the returning talent we have. We had successful seasons last spring and summer, and look to build on that," Holm said. Shanahan, Zwick, Bowman and Horton are the team captains -- Bowman a three-year starter in center. The fleet-footed Eustace is next to him in left and can get on base at the top of the order with the best of them. "The returning bats at the top of our order should give us a hitting strength," Holm said, adding Green and Zwick will compete for the two spot behind Eustace and in front of No. 3 hitter Coffey. "The power of Horton, Bowman and Hurd can drive in runs in the middle of the order," Holm said. Shanahan enters the year as the team's ace. "This team is unique in the fact that it is the largest team we have kept at 25 players," Holm said. "Such a team size requires defined roles and players working on special aspects. We have a true pitching staff, with young men who know how important the position is to the game and work every day at strengthening that facet of our team."


Coach: Matt Hahn

Last year: 26-8

Key returners: Jordan Touro, P, sr.; Andy Honiotes, P, sr.; Tony Landi, P, sr.; Jake Weede, OF, sr.; Anthony Bragg, 1B, sr.; Bobby Hess, OF, sr.; Mitchell Endriukaitis, 3B, sr.; Luke Polishak, 2B, sr.

Top newcomers: Nick Derr, SS, fr.; Max Novak, P, jr.; Steffen Graham, C, jr.; Ben Slattery, C, jr.

Outlook: The Vikings are coming off a school record for wins and also went 17-8 in the Upstate Eight River to barely miss a conference title. That earned them an impressive No. 1 sectional seed only to see Bartlett shut them out 2-0 in the regional opener. Geneva certainly has the talent returning -- and coming in -- to make this a much longer postseason stay. Geneva has a pair of aces that any program would love to in Touro and Honiotes. Both right-handed, Honiotes was 7-0 with a 1.01 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings last year while Touro went 5-2 last year with a 2.29 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 55 innings. Touro is committed to South Alabama and Honiotes to Miami-Florida. Landi would be the ace on many teams after going 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA last year. Despite graduating last year's All-Area captain Matt Williams among others, Geneva has plenty of firepower back in its lineup including Weede (.352 average, 4 home runs, 29 RBI), Bragg (8 doubles), Hess (.374 avg, 4 HR, 18 RBI) and Endriukaitis (.343, 9 doubles, 25 RBI). Add into that yet another Division I commit, freshman Nick Derr who already has been offered -- and accepted -- a scholarship to Florida State. "Our goals remain the same," Hahn said. "Twenty-plus wins, conference championship, regional championship. I like our pitching staff and that should allow us to remain in games. We lost some key offensive weapons, so finding a way to score runs will be a work in progress." Hahn called St. Charles East "the team to beat" in the River with St. Charles North and Batavia also strong. "We hope to be in the mix when it is all said and done," Hahn said.


Coach: Brian Aversa

Last year: 24-12

Key returners: John Hopkins, 3B/P, sr.; Matt Limbrunner, 1B/P, sr.; Joe Pollastrini, SS/P, sr.

Top newcomers: Kyle Pollastrini, OF/P, sr.; Joe Komel, 1B/P, jr.; Blake Sowell, P/INF, sr.

Outlook: A year after going 13-2 to win its third straight Northern Illinois Big XII title, Knights coach Brian Aversa sees his team in a different role this spring. "We look to be a dark horse in the conference after proving year in and year out that we can put a good product consistently on the field," Aversa said. "A lot of our guys this year didn't start last year so there is a lot for us to prove again, but we still are the conference champs until someone knocks us out of there." Aversa said he expects Sycamore, Yorkville and DeKalb to all have strong teams, and has been the norm, for the conference race to come down to the final day of the season. Only one starter returns for the 2011 Class 3A state champs. That winning culture is something Aversa has established that this new group of varsity Knights is eager to continue. "I think that the intangibles that our team possess will be our strength," Aversa said. "No one will outwork us, no one will out-compete us, no one will out-hustle us. Experience isn't abundant with this group, but the fight in these kids is what will win this team the close games in the end." Hopkins gives Avera experience on the mound, and he is confident the team has enough talent in its lineup and the rest of the rotation to compete. "I really think the sky is the limit with this team," Aversa said. "We have a great mix of speed, defense, pitching and offense. We are well balanced this year in all aspects of the game and another tough regular season and conference schedule will prepare us for the postseason."


Coach: Dave Rakow

Last year: 22-11

Key returners: Connor Riley P/OF, sr.; AJ Bohr P/OF, sr.

Top newcomers: Alex Troop P/OF/1B, jr.; Brady Roberts C, jr.; Dan Bicknell OF/P, jr.; Shane Carmody OF/SS, jr.; Tyler Eberth OF/P, jr.

Outlook: Coming off another conference and regional championship, Rakow's program has been as consistent as any around. The Cadets have won four straight SCC titles. "We would like to continue that streak in 2013," said Rakow whose team has won three straight regional crowns. Riley went 6-3 last year with a 3.96 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings, starting two playoff games. Bohr was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA. Those are two of the only five seniors returning. "Going into the season, the goal is to keep both streaks going, but we know that it will not be easy with such a young roster," Rakow said. "We think that pitching will be a strength for us this season, and think we will be able to compete at a high level if we are able to hit and field consistently."

St. Charles East

Coach: Len Asquini

Last year: 25-11

Key returners: Joe Hoscheit, LF/P, sr.; Nick Erickson, SS, sr.; Nick Huskisson, P/1B, sr.; Jack Dellostritto, INF, sr.; Troy Dykhuis, P/3B, sr.; Anthony Sciarrino, OF, sr.; Brian Sobieski, C/1B/DH, sr.; Matt Starai, P/OF, sr.; Isaac Nimick, 3B/P, sr.; Sean Dunne, 2B, sr.

Top newcomers: Erik Anderson, OF, jr.; Brannon Barry, OF/1B, jr.; Mike Boehmer, P/OF, jr.; Ben Smith, 1B/C, jr.; Adam Rojas, C, jr. Mike Candre, OF, jr.

Outlook: A strong core of seniors return looking to keep St. Charles East on top of what is going to be another competitive Upstate Eight Conference River Division race. The Saints won it last year along with a regional championship in a successful return for the Saints' state champion coach Asquini. The Northwestern-bound Hoscheit (.412 avg, 14 doubles, 29 RBI last year) leads the way, a pure hitter who is adding pitching this year to his normal duties in left field. "He's got a nice curve ball," Asquini said. "He's a high pitch count pitcher. He competes out there." Hutchinson leads the way on the mound, a lefty who will be joined in the rotation by righties Stari, Hoscheit, Dyhkuis and Boehmer, with others working their way in. It's the lineup that figures to be the Saints' strength, along with a solid defense. Like Hoscheit, Erickson was an All-Area selection last year who hit .373 with 16 doubles, 44 hits, 20 RBI, 37 runs and 11 steals while committing just 3 errors at shortstop. The Saints' other returnees are Sciarrino in center and Sobieski who will see time at DH to keep his bat in the lineup. Some of the juniors to watch for include Smith, who hit well this summer, at first base; Rojas and his quick release at catcher; and Anderson, Barry and Candre competing for time in the outfield. Dunn is out for at least a couple weeks with a broken ankle and will help in the infield when he returns along with Dellostritto at second and Nimick at third. "We've got a lot of experience back," Asquini said. "It's a very driven group. You want to exceed what you did last year. On the mound we don't have the most innings returning but I think we can match up. Defensively we're solid. I think we've got an edge offensively. Above average team speed. We're going to be pretty solid."

St. Charles North

Coach: Todd Genke

Last year: 24-12

Key returners: Ryan Thomas, C, sr.; Tim Misner, 2B, sr.; Kurt Barbeau, SS, sr.; Ankur Shah, P, jr.

Top newcomers: Cory Wright, 1B/P, so.; Frankie Farry, 3B/P, jr.; Anthony Lambert, LF, jr.; Nick Drawant, CF, jr.; Jack Dennis, RF, jr.; Joe Kuczek, INF/P, jr.; Sawyer Chambers, P, jr.;

Outlook: There's a lot of new faces at St. Charles North this spring looking forward to carrying on the success previous North Stars teams had, and in several cases carrying on in their older brothers' footsteps playing baseball for Genke. "We graduated quite a bit of experience," Genke said. "From my No. 1 kid all the way down to No. 22 it might be one of the most talented groups I've had. We've had a lot of success at St. Charles North but we've had a lot of top talent, one to 12, but I think one to 22 they are very competitive. Not a lot of people know a lot of these kids. They are buying into the fact that they might be flying under the radar a little bit and enjoy that." Genke likes Thomas as one of the best catchers in the conference who gained confidence from a successful basketball season. Wright is one of the newcomers who will play first base and pitch. "He's a very good player," Genke said. "He's quite mature for his age." Barbeua moves from center field to shortstop. "He's a very versatile player and gives us some athleticism there," Genke said. Genke is looking for Barbeau and Thomas possibly as his No. 3 and 4 hitters while Wright and another of those newcomers, lefty-hitting Lambert in left field, at the top of the order. Genke also is excited about the depth in his pitching staff led by Shah, Chambers, Wright and Farry. "We have a lot of quality arms that need and deserve opportunities," Genke said. The North Stars again open their season headed to Marian for five games against the likes of Warren, Lockport, New Trier and Cary-Grove. "Great opportunity for team bonding and chemistry," Genke said. "The guys get to hang out and talk baseball and be around baseball 24/7. It's going to be a great barometer for us." The North Stars have talent, now it's just a matter of seeing how quickly they adjust from success on the lower levels to varsity. "The speed of the game is so much different at the varsity level," Genke said. "The velocities they will see, the catcher's throwing arms and being able to pick people off and all those things. I'm really looking forward to it."

West Aurora

Coach: John Reeves

Last year: 12-25

Key returners: Adam Lipscomb, 2B, sr.; Eric Bauer, OF, sr.; Ottavio Dattolo, P, sr.; Chris Hawks, P, sr.; P.J. Holbrook, OF, sr.; Josh Livingston, DH, sr.

Top newcomers: D.J. Varney, P/OF, jr.; Quintez Jones, 1B/P jr.; Jacob Andalcio, 3B, jr.; Mikey Golich, SS, jr.; Joe Medgyesi, INF, sr.; Jared Leibelt, P/OF, so.; Seth Palmby, C, so.

Outlook: In his sixth year, Reeves' team will try to build off an upset of Waubonsie Valley in last year's regional. West Aurora took seventh place in the DVC with a 6-15 record and will have to replace all-conference performer Richer Renner along with Marcus Diaz, Alex Pope and Bobby Drager. Dattolo returns to anchor the pitching staff. He'll be joined on the mound by Hawks, Varney and Leibelt. Lipscomb is a three-year starter at second base. "There is competition on the infield and in the outfield as well," Reeves said. The group in the mix on the left side include Andalcio, Golich and Medgyesi while Bauer, Varney, Leibelt, Holbrook and Medgyesi are battling for time in the outfield. Livingston is back at designated hitter.

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