Kyle Balling Grayslake Central
What a difference a year makes. Balling made quite a jump between his junior and senior seasons. "As a junior, he got a lot of at-bats and hit below .250, and this year, he hit over .400. Kyle worked hard and had a fantastic senior year," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. The much-improved Balling leads the Rams with 44 hits in 100 at-bats for a team-best .440 batting average. "Kyle's not a speed guy, so all of those hits are natural hits, too," Whalen said. "He swings a great bat and he's a really good gap hitter." Balling, who may try to walk on at Western Illinois next year, also has 12 doubles and 25 RBI this season.
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Kyle Bock Wauconda
It didn't take long for Bock to fit in at Wauconda. He transferred in last year as a junior from Evergreen Park and earned playing time right away. Then, this year, the senior catcher was voted the winner of the team's leadership award by his teammates. "The kids not only accepted Kyle, they accepted him as a leader," Wauconda coach Bill Sliker said. "That's very difficult in high school. But the kids see how Kyle is always hustling, always trying to improve. They see how he has a motor that never stops and they look up to that." Bock finished Wauconda's Prairie Division championship season with a .355 batting average and 28 RBI. He will be playing baseball next year at Trinity International.
Kevin Calamari Libertyville
It's clear that after two straight seasons of hitting better than .400, Calamari isn't just catching some lucky breaks at the plate. "He's a pure hitter," Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said of his senior first baseman and designated hitter. "He's just got a really balanced swing. There are intangibles a guy does in a plate appearance and Kevin just knows what he's doing up there. He's a very rhythmic kid and he's got really good hand-eye coordination. The other thing is that he's just a really calm and steady kid. When he's up there, you don't know if he's got 2 strikes or if he's about to draw a walk." Calamari has rolled up 42 hits in 102 at-bats. He's also driven in 33 runs and has a .412 batting average.
Nick Carmody Grayslake North
With Carmody in the lead-off spot, Grayslake North often got off on the right foot in many games this season. "Nick is the prototypical lead-off man, working the count and getting on base nearly 60 percent of the time," Grayslake North coach Andy Strahan said. "He also led us in the most important offensive category. He scored 39 runs. He's the smartest baserunner I've ever coached." Carmody finished with a .423 batting average. He had 33 hits and drew 26 walks. He also drove in 17 runs. Defensively, Carmody anchored the infield with a veteran, senior presence at second base. "Nick made the difficult plays at second base look routine," Strahan said. Carmody plans to try to walk on at Iowa.
Ryan Dolan Mundelein
A late bloomer, Dolan is hoping he has a big enough upside to be a serious candidate for a spot as a walk-on at Indiana, one of the better college teams in the Midwest. "He'll have his work cut out for him because Indiana is a very good program, but I think Ryan could have a great chance because his best baseball is definitely ahead of him," Mundelein coach Todd Parola said. "He came into high school small and short and skinny and you weren't sure what he'd be able to do. But now he's almost 6-foot-4, he's gained a lot of strength and he's really filling out. He's got a big upside." That upside was starting to show itself this season. The senior first baseman rolled up 41 hits, including 4 home runs and 12 doubles. He also drove in 40 runs and finished with a .406 batting average.
Anthony Drago Lake Zurich
It's surprising that Drago had time for baseball this season. The senior catcher also played the role of team advisor, designer and decorator. "Anthony was such a good leader for us," Lake Zurich coach Gary Simon said. "He took charge of things in open gyms for us, telling guys what to work on. He came up with new uniforms and convinced me that we needed a flat-bill cap and he decorated our locker room with poster boards that have all these quotes from people like Babe Ruth. He also made up a list of "Ten Commandments" for our team to follow. He was into everything that pertained to the team and to the season." Somehow, Drago managed to be just as productive on the field. He batted .381 and rolled up 23 RBI and 32 hits, including 7 doubles and 6 home runs. Drago, a three-year starter for the Bears, will play at the University of Illinois next year.
Will Farmer Mundelein
Everyone makes mistakes. But at shortstop, Farmer didn't make many. A senior and two-year starter, Farmer had just 5 errors on the season. "Most really good shortstops are going to make at least 7 to 10 errors in a season. They're probably going to lead you in errors every year," Mundelein coach Todd Parola said. "Will's defense couldn't have been much better. He's got great hands, a great arm and great range. He's a big reason we won 61 games and back-to-back conference titles over the last two years." Farmer also made a difference at the plate. He rolled up a team-leading 44 hits and 40 runs scored. He also drove in 26 runs and finished with a .463 batting average and 4 home runs. He will play at Southern Illinois next year.
Tyler Feece Vernon Hills
A lot can change in four years. Just ask Tyler Feece. What got him a spot on the varsity as a freshman isn't necessarily what made him the Cougars' ace over the last two years. "At the beginning of his career, he was this little crafty lefty who was able to get opposing hitters on their front foot to hit ground balls," Vernon Hills coach Jay Czarnecki said. "He has evolved into a power pitcher who has command of four pitches and the ability to completely dominate a good hitting team." Feece won 4 games this season and rolled up 85 strikeouts in 602⁄3 innings. He had an ERA of 2.08. Feece finished with a .432 batting average and had 38 hits in 88 at-bats, including 6 doubles, 3 triples and 2 home runs. He also drove in 28 runs. Feece will be playing next season at Illinois State.
Ryan Fontana Grayslake Central
The last out of Grayslake Central's supersectional win against Nazareth, a complete-game no-hitter for pitcher Kevin Peloza, came when Fontana fielded a choppy grounder at shortstop and fired it to first base. Under the circumstances, the play certainly wasn't routine. But Fontana did his best to disguise that. "If you're going to be a high-level shortstop, you've got to make the difficult plays look easy and that's what Ryan does," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "He's a big impact guy, not just defensively but also offensively as our leadoff hitter. Ryan has taken on a huge load for our team this year and the team is following his lead." Fontana has rolled up 41 hits in 107 at-bats for a .383 batting average. He has 13 doubles, 3 triples, a home run and 30 RBI. Fontana will play at Rose-Hulman next season.
Adam Gomski Grayslake North
As the ace, Gomski was a big reason Grayslake North won 20 games and its first-ever Fox Valley Fox Division championship this season. Gomski won 5 games on the mound en route to becoming the school's all-time leader in pitching wins with 16. "We could count on Adam every day for his pitching and his bat," Grayslake North coach Andy Strahan said. "He's in the top three for his career in most offensive categories and hit No. 3 for us." Gomski, a three-time all-conference pick who will play next year at Trinity, had a .473 batting average with 35 hits, including 9 doubles and 2 triples. He drove in 23 runs.
Brandon Gibis Wauconda
Wauconda was a major player in the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division for the last three years and Gibis was there for it all. "He's been the common denominator," Wauconda coach Bill Sliker said. "We won the division title when he was a sophomore starting on varsity and again this year and we were right there last year when he was a junior. He's a very motivated kid with a great work ethic and other kids on our team end up following what he does." Sliker would love it if all of his players would end up putting up Gibis-like numbers. Gibis had a 5-1 pitching record and a 2.39 ERA. At the plate, he finished with a .432 batting average and rolled up a total of 21 RBI. He will play baseball next year at a junior college in Madison, Wis.
Dan Jackson Lakes
With a 4.0 grade point average, Jackson is obviously good at a variety of subjects in school. Likewise, Jackson could play just about any position on the baseball field. His most frequent home was behind the plate at catcher, but the helpful senior would answer whatever call he got from his coaches. "Dan has played third base, shortstop and pitcher," Lakes coach Ray Gialo said. "He's one of the most versatile players we have had. He is a special player and I am glad to have coached him." Jackson finished with a .448 batting average while rolling up 30 hits in just 67 at-bats. Jackson missed nine games during the regular season due to injury. "When he was not in, there was an obvious hole in our lineup," Gialo said. "He's been our best hitter all year long and a rock behind the plate. He is by far the best defensive catcher we've had here at Lakes." Jackson will play at the College of Lake County next season.
Nick Jones Lake Zurich
Jones has a reputation of being a quiet kid. "He doesn't say much," Lake Zurich coach Gary Simon said of his junior outfielder and pitcher. But a weeklong stretch this season spoke volumes about Jones' hitting abilities, especially for distance. Jones hit six home runs in one week, including 3 home runs in a single game. Jones finished with 8 home runs, a total of 29 hits in 83 at-bats and a .349 batting average. "It was quite a thrill to watch Nick hit all of those homers," Simon said. "Nick has always been a contact hitter and a high average hitter, but he did a great job of also hitting them over the fence this year." Jones, who most often played centerfield, was also known for being able to cover a lot of ground to track down flyballs.
Simeon Lucas Grant
Much like filmmaker George Lucas leaves movie-goers on the edge of their seats with creations such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Simeon Lucas would stir anticipation in his teammates. "You felt that every time he came up that you were going to get something going," Grant coach Dave Behm said. "At times, he'd have games where teams just couldn't get him out." The numbers are stunning for Lucas. He drove in 44 runs and rolled up 38 hits in 78 at-bats. Of his 38 hits, 11 were doubles and 7 were home runs. He hit .487 on the season. The junior catcher has already committed to Illinois State. "Simeon's ability to drive in runs was huge for us this year," Behm said. "He continues to work hard all year round and has an exciting baseball career ahead of him."
David Meade Antioch
At his end-of-the season meeting with his players, Antioch head coach Paul Petty told them that they all needed to put in more work during the off-season. "I told them we needed to raise the bar," Petty said. "I said that if they weren't sure if they were working hard enough or how close they were to the bar that they needed to look to David Meade because David Meade is the bar. David is the hardest worker I've ever coached." The hard work paid off for Meade, a 3-year varsity player. This season, Meade finished with a 1.49 ERA, a 4-2 record over 11 games and 81 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. "David threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and was really good with his changeup," Petty said. "When he stepped on the mound, we knew we had a good chance to win." Meade will play at CLC next season.
Ryan Newman Round Lake
When Newman is healthy, he's 2-for-2. The Round Lake junior has played three varsity seasons and the only time he didn't make the North Suburban Conference all-conference team was last year as a sophomore when he missed most of the season with a broken collar bone. "We need him to do a little of everything," Round Lake coach Ed Adamson said of Newman, who plays shortstop, in the outfield and also pitches. "He was up to the challenge." Offensively, Newman finished with a .475 batting average and rolled up 28 hits in 59 at-bats, including 9 doubles, 4 triples and 1 home run.
Ryan Noda Grant
A standout basketball player, Noda is starting to see his stock go up on the baseball field, too. "Ryan had a breakout junior year and is beginning to get major attention from Division I schools," Grant coach Dave Behm said of his athletic outfielder. "He is such a hard worker and a leader in the program. He's a player who coaches love to have because you never have to question his effort." Noda rolled up 47 hits in 93 at-bats, including 16 doubles, 5 triples and 3 home runs. He also drove in 31 runs, all while maintaining a .505 batting average. Noda was quick on the bases as well. He finished with 15 stolen bases on the season.
Zach Novoselsky Stevenson
Despite suffering an off-season shoulder injury that compromised his throwing abilities and kept him from playing in the field, Novoselsky was able to shoulder much of the offensive burden for Stevenson. The junior designated hitter drove in a team-leading 32 runs while also finishing with a team-best .450 batting average. Novoselsky tallied 4 home runs as well. "Zach was swinging the bat real well (during the preseason) and then aggravated his shoulder about a week before the season started," Stevenson coach Paul Mazzuca said. "He was not in the lineup during the first few weeks of the season and we struggled. We were a different team with him in the lineup."
Nick Orslini Warren
Orslini should be singing a happy tune after the season he had at the plate. The designated hitter, who also happens to be a star singer in the school choir, had a .368 batting average. He also drove in 29 runs and rolled up 39 hits, including 7 doubles, 2 triples and a home run. "Nick had a great year. He was very consistent and could go to all fields," Warren coach Clint Smothers said. "He put in the time to get better. He's our hardest worker and he's involved in so much. He's such a diverse kid, including the choir. I've heard he's a very good singer." Orslini will be going to Augustana next year to play baseball, and possibly continue singing.
Kevin Peloza Grayslake Central
It was a pitching palooza for Peloza in the Class 3A supersectional against Nazareth. The senior lefty threw a no-hitter to carry the Rams to their second state finals appearance in five years. While the no-hitter is the pinnacle thus far, it certainly fell in line with the kind of season Peloza has had in going 8-0 on the mound. "When you think of all the impressive pitchers that have gone through our program, Kevin might not have been mentioned with them before this year, but going forward, he will be," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "He's won eight games and five of them have been shutouts. He's got an ERA under 1. He's just an effective, silent assassin. He gets guys out. He's the best pitcher that no one is talking about." Peloza has 79 strikeouts in 70 innings. He also has 1 save.
Jake Ring Grant
Ring was the stolen base king for Grant throughout his four-year career on varsity. His sophomore season he set the bar high, rolling up a school-record 40 stolen bases in just 16 games. He added another 21 to his total this season and leaves as the school's career leader in stolen bases, as well as runs, hits and walks. "It's hard to believe that Jake's career is coming to an end at Grant," Grant coach Dave Behm said. "He's left a serious mark on our program." Ring ended with a bang. Besides the 21 steals, he batted .519 while also rolling up 41 hits in 79 at-bats. He had 12 doubles, 4 triples, 2 home runs and finished with 25 RBI. Ring will play baseball next year at Missouri.
Carl Russell Grayslake North
Russell was always rushing around the bases. The senior shortstop set season (13) and career records (43) for stolen bases at Grayslake North this season. "Carl is as aggressive on the bases as anyone I've ever coached," Grayslake North coach Andy Strahan said. Russell had plenty of opportunities to steal bases because he was on base so often. He led the Knights with a .447 batting average and 36 hits, more than half of which went for extra bases. He had 13 doubles, 3 triples and 4 home runs. Russell also drove in a school-record 37 runs this season. That brought his career RBI total to 77, also a school record. He will play at Carroll College next season.
Matt Ryan Carmel
To sharpen his focus and iron out some kinks, Ryan began the season coming out of the bullpen. He was able to get more reps in that way. Once he resumed his spot as the team's ace, Ryan was as good as expected. One of Carmel's best pitchers as a junior, Ryan put together another solid season as a senior. He went 4-1 with 3 saves and had 28 strikeouts in 41 innings. He finished with a 1.03 ERA. "We got Matt to really work on his control of the strike zone while he was in the bullpen and he did a really nice job of that," Carmel coach Dann Giesey said. "He just had this bulldog mentality. No matter what the count was, he'd come at you and it seemed like he'd almost get tougher with guys on base." Ryan will pitch next season at St. Louis University.
Mitch Schulewitz Mundelein
Schulewitz wasn't much liked around the North Suburban Conference. After all, he was as stingy as could be. In the eight games he pitched (and won) in league play, he gave up just 1 run while rolling up 7 shutouts. He blanked Lake Forest, Libertyville, Stevenson, Zion-Benton, Lake Zurich and Warren twice, and gave up just the single run to Wauconda in the North Suburban Conference title game. "I've never seen anything like it since I've been coaching," said Mundelein coach Todd Parola, who just finished his 19th season. "I've never had a pitcher pitch that well in the big conference games. It was just a dominating season." Schulewitz finished with a 10-1 overall record and 70 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched. He also put up some big numbers at the plate. He had 30 hits, drove in 24 runs and finished with a .450 batting average. He also rolled up 10 stolen bases.
Evan Skoug Libertyville
There's a reason Skoug has had multiple college scholarship offers on the table. "Evan acts as though he has no offers on the table," Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said of his junior catcher. "He's the hardest worker on our team. He's got a professional, very businesslike approach to the game. He is always working, always trying to get better." Skoug worked his way right into a spot at TCU. He committed there earlier this season, turning away schools such as Stanford, Vanderbilt and Santa Clara. Skoug has rolled up 49 hits in 95 at-bats, including 14 doubles and 6 home runs. He also has a .515 batting average. Defensively, Skoug has thrown out 16 of 20 base runners who attempted to steal bases on his watch.
Dalton Wright Carmel
Even though he was technically Carmel's No. 2 pitcher, Wright got the results of an ace. And that's a big part of the reason the 6-foot-4 junior was named the East Suburban Catholic Conference's pitcher of the year. "It was pretty unanimous really that all the other coaches just felt Dalton was so tough in those second-game (of a series) situations," Carmel coach Dann Giesey said. "There were just no other No. 2 pitchers who could measure up to him, and really for us, we had a 1 (Matt Ryan) and a 1a situation. Every start Dalton had in conference was just outstanding. He's got good breaking stuff. His changeup is outstanding and he's got a very good fastball. He'll come at you with three pitches." On the season, Wright went 6-3, 5-1 in league play. He had 41 strikeouts to just 14 walks and a 2.00 ERA.
Player School Yr. Pos.
Kyle Balling Grayslake Central Sr. OF/DH
Kyle Bock Wauconda Sr. C
Kevin Calamari Libertyville Sr. 1B/DH
Nick Carmody Grayslake North Sr. 2B
Ryan Dolan Mundelein Sr. 1B
Anthony Drago Lake Zurich Sr. C
Will Farmer Mundelein Sr. SS
Tyler Feece Vernon Hills Sr. P/1B/OF
Ryan Fontana Grayslake Central Sr. SS
Brandon Gibis Wauconda Sr. P/SS
Adam Gomski Grayslake North Sr. P/1B
Dan Jackson Lakes Sr. C/IF/P
Nick Jones Lake Zurich Jr. OF/P
Simeon Lucas Grant Jr. C
David Meade Antioch Sr. P
Ryan Newman Round Lake Jr. SS/OF/P
Ryan Noda Grant Jr. OF
Zach Novoselsky Stevenson Jr. DH
Nick Orslini Warren Sr. DH/3B
Kevin Peloza Grayslake Central Sr. P
Jake Ring Grant Sr. OF
Carl Russell Grayslake North Sr. SS
Matt Ryan Carmel Sr. P
*Mitch Schulewitz Mundelein Sr. P
Evan Skoug Libertyville Jr. C
Dalton Wright Carmel Jr. P
Matt Allen (Stevenson, Sr., P), Alex Alvarez (Grayslake North, Jr., OF/P), Jeff Barton (Libertyville, Jr., P), Sean Brennan (Carmel, Sr., OF), Ryan Burnett (Lakes, Sr., 1B), Kyle Clark (Grayslake Central, Jr., 1B), Pat Crowley (Vernon Hills, Jr., CF/P), Dominic Cuevas (Warren, Jr., 2B), James DeGeorge (Lake Zurich, Sr., OF), Matt DeJong (Antioch, Sr., SS), Ben Dinter (Warren, Jr., 3B), Austin Foote (Lake Zurich, Sr., P), Jordan Freibrun (Vernon Hills, OF/3B/C), Mitch Goll (Stevenson, Jr., P), Andrew Hill (Warren, Soph., P/1B), Joey Holtz (Lake Zurich, Jr., IF/C/DH), Luke Kenny (Wauconda, Sr., P), Freddie Landers (Grayslake Central, Jr., C), Jeff Lindberg (Wauconda, Sr., 2B), Matt Loeffl (Grayslake Central, Jr., OF), Jimmy Marchese (Stevenson, Soph., IF/OF), Andrew Mikusa (Grayslake North, Jr., OF/P), Brett Milazzo (Carmel, Sr., OF), Tyler Murphy (Carmel, Sr., OF), Zach Osisek (Mundelein, Sr., OF), Derek Parola (Mundelein, Jr., 2B), Joey Pizzolato (Lake Zurich, Sr., SS), Logan Reckert (Mundelein, Jr., C), Quentin Sevcik (Carmel, Jr., P/IF), Jordan Sheinkop (Stevenson, Sr., P), Joe Sisk (Lakes, Jr., OF/1B), Jack Spicer (Grayslake Central, Sr., P), Brent Spohr (Grant, Sr., IF), Austin Swenson (Wauconda, Sr., SS), Jordan Villarreal (Grant, Sr., IF), Matt Vogt (Libertyville, Sr., OF/1B)
Selections and player profiles by Patricia Babcock McGraw