Jake Barrutia BartlettThis senior received individual instruction last summer rather than play for a travel team and the results were extremely positive. Bartlett's everyday left fielder hit .495 (50-of-101) to win the Fox Valley area batting crown. A line-drive, gap hitter, he smacked 7 doubles and 4 triples and drove in 24. He also drew 12 walks, reached base 54 percent of the time and slugged .644 for an astounding OPS of 1.19. "He worked hard and maximized his ability," Bartlett coach Chris Pemberton said. "We ask our players to approach hitting in a level-headed way and that was Jake. He had ups and downs but he kept his head focused." Barrutia intends to walk on at the University of Illinois.
Chad Caminitti StreamwoodThis senior was a tough out in the 3-hole for the Sabres. A strong-armed shortstop and starting pitcher, Caminitti hit .356 (31-for-87) with 12 doubles and a team-leading 18 RBI. He also drew a team-high 13 walks in 105 plate appearances, resulting in a .429 on-base percentage. On the mound he was responsible for 3 of Streamwood's 7 victories with 2 wins and a save. He struck out 23 in 39.2 innings. In the field, the shortstop had a .918 fielding percentage with 65 assists and 47 putouts in 122 total chances. "He did a great job for us," Streamwood coach Ryan LaSota said. "He played shortstop for us at a high level. He produced runs for us and his record on the mound (2-5) didn't indicate how well he pitched for us. He was a nice dual threat."
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RJ Consigny HampshireThis senior heated up once he switched to the leadoff spot in Hampshire's lineup. The left-handed hitter led the Whip-Purs with a .390 batting average (30-for-77) to go with 7 doubles and 7 RBI. He coaxed 13 walks in 97 plate appearances, was hit by 5 pitches and reached base on 6 errors to amass a .505 on-base percentage. He stole 5 bases and scored a team-high 22 runs. The third baseman also slugged .480. "He got himself in the best physical shape possible," Hampshire coach John Sarna said. "He was the heart and soul of this team." Consigny will continue his playing career at Kansas Wesleyan University.
Clay DeHaan Westminster ChristianThe only senior on his team, Westminster Christian's male athlete of the year took the ball 11 times this season and pitched better than his 2-5 record suggests. DeHaan finished with a 2.68 earned-run average in 52.1 innings. He struck out 65 and walked 21. "Clay was the backbone of our team," first-year Westminster Christian coach Brance Rivera said. "When he was on the mound it gave everybody on the team confidence and there wasn't one game this year he didn't throw as expected. As our only senior he was a great, consistent leader." DeHaan will continue his playing career at Trinity Christian College.
Danny Gerke Burlington CentralA two-time all-area selection, this 6-foot-2 senior was a dominant force on the mound for the Big Northern East co-champions. Gerke went 9-0 in 11 starts with a 0.63 earned-run average. He retired the side in order in 20 of his 56 innings and allowed only 5 earned runs while striking out 60 and walking 19. "When he went to the mound, our team had a different kind of confidence," Burlington Central coach Kyle Nelson said. "We were 10-1 in games he started and we were under .500 in games he didn't. He competes. He throws strikes and makes big pitches in big situations." In two varsity seasons, Gerke won 15 games and notched 128 strikeouts. He also hit .277 (23-for-83) with 3 doubles, 2 triples and 14 RBI and scored 17 runs. His 10 walks in 97 plate appearances equated to a .358 on-base percentage. His lone home run led the Rockets to a critical win against co-champion Richmond-Burton.
Larkin Hanselmann Cary-GroveThis left-handed pitcher developed into the ace of the Cary-Grove staff, and he used his speed in center field to track down the baseball. On the mound the player named Cary-Grove's Most Valuable Pitcher went 6-3 with 47 strikeouts, 24 walks and a 1.94 earned-run average in 57.2 innings. "I don't know if people were surprised by Larkin or what, but he gets the ball, climbs the hill and gets to work," Cary-Grove coach Don Sutherland said. "The games he lost he had no run support. And he can really go get the ball in the outfield as well." The 5-foot-8, 140-pound junior was also a starting defensive back last fall for Cary-Grove's successful football team.
Brett Johnson Dundee-CrownThis junior had to fill the big shoes of a graduated four-year varsity catcher and he proved he was up to the task. Johnson led the Chargers with a team-high .369 batting average (41-for-111). He also led his team in doubles (11) and runs batted in (19), tripled once and slugged .457. His 13 walks in 129 plate appearances correlated to a .457 on-base percentage. Defensively, he threw out 18 of 52 baserunners attempting to steal (34.6 percent) and limited his errors to 8 in 225 total chances for a fielding percentage of .964 with 44 assists. "To follow a four-year starter and handle the staff the way he did and do a nice job in the three-hole for us says a lot for a junior," Dundee-Crown coach Jon Anderson said. "He kept opposing running games at bay with a very strong arm. He has potential. Hopefully, he can maximize it and get to a Division-I school."
Adam Kalish HuntleyThis sidearming senior opened the season as Huntley's closer and posted 4 saves in 4 chances while limiting opponents to 1 earned run in 8.2 innings. His success out of the bullpen hastened a switch to a starting role because the Red Raiders were short an arm in that department. Kalish didn't miss a beat. In 8 starts down the stretch the right-hander went 6-0, including a 5-hit performance over 4.2 innings of a no-decision against Dundee-Crown in a 3-2 regional title-game victory. He finished the season with a 0.76 earned-run average and 0.891 WHIP in 55 innings. Kalish struck out 38 and walked 14. "He stepped into the starting rotation and did a fantastic job for us," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said, "and he had the ability to enter a game and put out a fire for us. He's been a very valuable asset the last two years. He'll go on to collegiate ball and be successful." Kalish has yet decide between preferred walk-on offers from a pair of mid-major Division-I schools
Tighe Koehring St. EdwardThis four-year varsity performer was the exception in a batting order that otherwise struggled offensively. Koehring led the Green Wave with a .413 batting average and 10 doubles. He drove in 12 runs, scored 12 more and drew 17 walks in 97 plate appearances, helping explain how he reached base in 53.2 percent of his at-bats. He slugged .573 to finish with a 1.11 OPS. "Tighe has been a consistent threat in the 3-hole year after year," St. Edward coach Tim Dovichi said of the three-time all-Suburban Christian Conference pick. Koehring will continue his playing career at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.
Grant Kale JacobsOne of only two returning position players from Jacobs' 2013 sectional championship team, this second baseman helped the Golden Eagles win their second consecutive regional title and make a second straight sectional title-game appearance. Kale hit .318 (41-for-129) with 8 doubles, 2 triples and hit .333 with runners in scoring position for 24 RBI. He drew 8 walks and was hit by pitches twice in 141 plate appearances, leading to a .362 on-base percentage and 23 runs scored. He was also a key to the good team chemistry Jacobs enjoyed the past two seasons. "In my 19 years coaching he's one of my all-time favorites because he's not only a great baseball player, but a humble, grounded, down-to-earth kid from a great family," Jacobs coach Jamie Murray said. "He never questioned anything we did. He was a grinder in the No. 3 spot in the order and teams game-planned around him."
Ahren Ludwig Dundee-CrownThis left-handed pitcher was the ace of the Dundee-Crown staff, belied by a 5-4 record. Ludwig posted a 1.88 earned-run average in 63.1 innings over 13 appearances. He struck out 82, walked 17 and limited opponents to 31 hits and a .142 batting average. He held state semifinalist Prairie Ridge to 2 earned runs on 1 hit over 8 innings and 121 pitches in a 3-2 victory on May 5. In a regional title-game loss to league champion Huntley, the senior held the Red Raiders to 3 earned runs on 2 hits in 7.1 innings. "He goes out and competes," Dundee-Crown coach Jon Anderson said. "I've seen him throw it past people and I've also seen him throw curveballs and fool people. Throw in the changeup and he can throw three pitches for strikes, which will make you successful in any league." Ludwig intends to play baseball at the next level but has yet to make a final college choice.
Eric Luecht HuntleyThis senior pitcher was a key to Huntley winning consecutive division titles within the Fox Valley Conference, thanks to his 14-6 record over a two-season span. He went 7-3 in 13 appearances for the regional champions this season and retired the side in order in 27 of his 69 innings pitched. Luecht limited opposing teams to 11 earned runs for an earned-run average of 1.12. He struck out a staff-high 78 batters and walked 24. He pitched a 3-hit shutout against Larkin in a regional semifinal before falling to state qualifier Prairie Ridge in a sectional semi despite holding the Wolves to 2 earned runs in 4 innings. "He always wanted the ball in big-game situations," coach Andy Jakubowski. He throws in the mid 80s, has a great changeup and a nice slider to go with it." Luecht will pitch collegiately for Lewis University.
Jack McCracken LarkinThis 6-footer didn't blow away hitters with overpowering fastballs, but he dominated just the same. He used his mastery of location and varying pitch speeds to post a 7-2 record with a 0.99 earned-run average in 71 innings. Also a member of Larkin's successful basketball team, he struck out 43 and walked only 10, or less than one walk per game in 11 appearances, lowering his WHIP to 1.03. McCracken's final contest as a competitive baseball player was one to remember. He struck out 5, walked 1 and did not allow an earned run in 6 innings of a 4-0 loss to top seed Huntley. "It was fun to watch a high school pitcher who dominated though he wasn't overpowering velocity-wise," Larkin coach Matt Esterino said. "He threw three pitches for strikes. He didn't walk anyone, he always kept us in the game and he was a great leader."
Ben Murray JacobsMurray has hardware. A two-year starter at first base for teams that won consecutive regional titles, a sectional title and went 7-2 in playoff games, Murray punished the baseball from the No. 2 hole in the order. The left-handed hitting senior led the Golden Eagles with a .389 batting average (49-for-126). He collected 12 doubles, a triple, a home run and scored 17 runs. He drew 15 walks, was hit by 3 pitches and reached base six times due to errors to post a .462 on-base percentage. He stole 4 bases in 5 tries and scored 25 runs. In the field he took part in turning 4 double plays. "He was a great leader," Jacobs coach Jamie Murray said. "He was a big part of why we won more games in the last two years than any period in school history. The ball jumped off his bat. He didn't hit a lot of bloops."Murray will play junior college baseball in Florida next season.
Ryan Nutof South ElginThe honorary captain of the 2014 Daily Herald all-area team in the Fox Valley, this 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander has been the driving force behind South Elgin's run to Joliet. Entering Friday's semifinal against St. Rita, Nutof has limited opponents to 4 earned runs on 34 hits and 25 walks in 71 innings, which translates to a 0.39 ERA and .831 WHIP. He has struck out 102 of 247 batters faced (41.3 percent). "Ryan is a rare find for high school," South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. "He has command of the fastball, a good, solid curveball and a changeup. When you have somebody like that he gives you a chance every time he goes out of earning a win for your team." Nutof shook off an early season slump and raised his batting average 115 points since May 3. He enters the state finals hitting .320 (32-for-100) with 5 doubles, a triple and 4 home runs and a .510 slugging percentage. He has driven in 21 runs and scored 15. His 4 homers tie him for the lead among 15 Fox Valley area teams.
Reilly Peltier JacobsThis hard-throwing, 6-foot-4 right-hander got stronger as the season progressed. Peltier went 7-2 with a 0.91 earned-run average, striking out 85 and walking 33 in 61.1 innings. He allowed only 8 earned runs all season. His signature performance came in a sectional semifinal against Hononegah when he threw 6.1 innings of 1-hit ball with 10 strikeouts to lead Jacobs to a 7-1 victory. He will pitch next season at McHenry County College. "He was the ultimate teammate and performer," Jacobs coach Jamie Murray said. "He came in with a lot of tools as a freshman and worked hard to develop them. He has an opportunity to keep developing as a pitcher and could eventually go to a Division-I school. He still has a high ceiling."
Brayden Royse LarkinThis 6-foot-5 senior was a dual threat on the mound and in the batter's box. He hit .263 and led the Royals in doubles (9), home runs (2), bases on balls (20) and slugging percentage (. 421). A three-year varsity starter who also started two seasons for Larkin's successful basketball program, Royse's 2-5 pitching record doesn't tell whole the story. Lacking run support from a team that hit .247, he always gave the Royals a chance to win with an earned-run average of 1.58. In 53 innings he struck out 60, walked 23 and hit 5 batters. He also went 2-for-2 in save opportunities. "He was our leader out there, a competitor, the guy we wanted out there in tough situations because we knew he'd grind for us and challenge the hitter," Larkin coach Matt Esterino said. Royse will continue his playing career at Judson University.
Mark Skonieczny HuntleyThis Illinois signee was the backbone of a team that repeated as champions of the rugged Fox Valley Conference Valley Division and won a regional title for the first time since 2010. Named honorary captain of the 2013 Daily Herald all-area team, this former national powerlifting champion in his age group was again the most feared slugger in the area. Hitting third in the lineup, he batted .378 (42-for-11) with 11 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and an area-best 33 RBI. Huntley's full-time catcher was outstanding behind the plate, making only 3 errors in 255 chances for a remarkable .988 fielding percentage. Opponents averaged less than 1 stolen base per game against him. "He completely shut down the other team's running game," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "He's a tremendous hitter who does a lot of the little things unselfishly and he still hits for average and power. He'll be sorely missed."
Andrew Splitt Cary-GroveThis senior was a dual threat for the 20-win Trojans. Following an early season slump at the plate, he made some adjustment and batted .370 in Fox Valley Conference games to finish with a .318 average (28-for-88), 10 doubles, a home run and 11 RBI. He also improved defensively. "Andrew ended up being a very good first baseman and he wasn't early," Cary-Grove coach Don Sutherland said. "You've got to come up with anything in the dirt and he was able to do that. On the mound he went 3-4 with a 3.02 earned run average and 19 strikeouts in 44 innings. Splitt will continue his playing career and study engineering at Wisconsin-Platteville.
Matt Sullivan HuntleyThis Chicago State signee demonstrated his Division-I talent level throughout a stellar senior season. Hitting second in the lineup, Sullivan led the outright Fox Valley Conference Valley Division champions with a .419 batting average (49-for-117) and his 20 doubles and 40 runs were the most of any player on 15 teams in the Fox Valley area. He also hit 2 triples, a home run and drove in 24. His 7 bases on balls added to a .457 on-base percentage and he slugged .650 to finish with a 1.11 OPS. A strong-armed shortstop, his .917 fielding percentage included 71 assists and 36 putouts in 117 total chances. "He was tremendous, a hitting machine," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "He likes to hit early in the count and can turn on the fastball. He loves to bang the gaps and he handles the bat so well he could hit behind runners, execute hit-and-runs, bunt, whatever was necessary. He could make an impact at Chicago State right away."
Dane Toppel South ElginThis shortstop has been the brightest of many postseason hitting stars for South Elgin. The junior hit .385 during the regular season and has gone 11-for-19 in 5 playoff wins to raise his average to .410 (48-for-117). He collected the biggest hit in South Elgin history on Monday with a run-scoring, line-drive single that drove in the supersectional-winning run in a 7-6 comeback victory against Evanston. The clutch hit wasn't surprising considering Toppel hits .465 with runners in scoring position. "He loves coming up in those situations," South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. "He is driven by them and he enjoys them. Those are the players you want to go to battle with. He has a very good baseball IQ and he really works at trying to get better." Toppel has struck out only 10 times in 138 plate appearances, has doubled 7 times and driven in 19. He has drawn 14 walks and been hit by 5 pitches, leading to a .486 on-base percentage. He has stolen 35 bases in 36 attempts and has scored a team-high 34 runs.
Mike Wick BartlettThis speedy leadoff hitter was a catalyst for the Hawks. The senior hit .362 (38-for-105) with 6 doubles and 15 RBI. He drew 11 walks, was hit by pitches twice and finished with a .432 on-base percentage. Wick led his team with 13 steals in 15 attempts and paced Bartlett in runs (24). "He was the tone-setter at the top of our lineup," Bartlett coach Chris Pemberton said. "He was a two-year starter whose hard work really paid off for him." A fleet-footed center fielder, Wick committed only 1 error in 64 total chances and had 3 assists for a .984 fielding percentage. Wick will continue his career at Division-III Webster University in Missouri.
Ryan Wilkening Crystal Lake SouthThis 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior continued his mastery of the strike zone in his second varsity season. He walked only 1 of the 185 batters he faced in 46 innings and has issued only 2 bases on balls in 60-plus innings over two seasons. "That is phenomenal," Crystal Lake South coach Brian Bogda said. "He had great command and threw all three pitches for strikes. He did a great job of keeping hitters off balance and he went deep into games for us by pitching to contact. I'm looking forward to working with him for another season." Wilkening posted a 1.37 earned-run average, struck out 32, threw 129 first-pitch strikes, threw strikes on 417 of his 579 pitches (72 percent) and held opponents to a .246 batting average. The right-hander ended the season on a strong note by limiting rival Crystal Lake Central to an unearned run on 7 hits in 7 innings of a 2-1 playoff victory. He walked none, of course.
Andrew Wiss Burlington CentralThis junior shortstop was the catalyst at the top of a lineup that averaged 6 runs per game. Wiss led the Big Northern East co-champions with a .381 batting average (37-for-97). He belted 9 doubles, tied for the area lead with 5 triples and smacked 3 home runs. The leadoff hitter drew 17 walks, was hit by 6 pitches, had a team-best on-base percentage of .500 and stole 13 bags, all of which correlated to 28 runs scored. Wiss also led the Rockets in slugging (. 670) and OPS (1.17). "The thing about Drew is I don't think his numbers even show what he does for our team," Central coach Kyle Nelson said. "He takes quality at-bats every time up. He works counts in his favor and he's learned to turn on the fastball and drive it and hit for power, which he learned to do since last year. He's on that trajectory to be a special player."