Jeremy Cox St. Charles East
Named Upstate Eight Conference pitcher of the year, this senior was the winning hurler in 35 percent of the Saints' 23 victories. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound right-hander went 8-2 in 11 starts with a 2.47 ERA in 51 innings. He struck out 62 and walked 22. Needing 3 straight wins against rival St. Charles North to win the Upstate Eight River, Cox picked up a 34-pitch save in the series opener and completed the sweep with a 6-inning, 2-run performance in Game 3. "The true definition of a stopper is not a relief guy; it's someone who stops a losing streak. Jeremy did that numerous times," St. Charles East coach Len Asquini said. "He's a superstrong guy mentally."
Jonathan Cruz Elgin Academy
Signed to play at Northern Illinois, this senior led the Hilltoppers to their second Independent School League title in 35 years with his play at the plate, in the field and on the mound. The ISL Player of the Year demonstrated all the tools. He batted .556 in 89 plate appearances and finished with a .970 fielding percentage. He pitched against the toughest teams on Elgin Academy's schedule and produced a 1.71 ERA in 44 innings. The 6-foot, 160-pound right-hander struck out 83 and walked 11. Coach Steve Shapiro said called him "a beacon of consistency over his four years at Elgin Academy. Cruz's individual honors were many, but his true value was his leadership and work ethic. He made footprints to last a lifetime."
Hunter Darnell Aurora Central Catholic
Aurora Central Catholic finished with a 19-15 record with the help of this 6-foot-1, 180-pound third baseman. Darnell led the Chargers with a .416 batting average (42-for-101), hit 7 doubles, a home run and scored 24 runs. His 35 RBI were 8 more than his closest teammate. The senior drew 18 walks and was hit by 3 pitches in 125 plate appearances, contributing to a .504 on-base percentage. "Hunter was a two-time all-conference player," ACC coach Sean Bieterman said. "He worked incredibly hard to develop himself as a player. He was a selfless teammate and a terrific kid to coach."
John Dellostritto St. Charles East
One of the quickest shortstops in the area, this 5-foot-10, 145-pound senior's glove and bat were instrumental in St. Charles East's Upstate Eight Conference title push. At the plate, the leadoff man batted .387 (46-for-119) with 5 doubles and 13 RBI. He stole 23 bases and scored 35 runs. In 134 plate appearances, he drew 10 walks and struck out 7 times. The slick fielder with above-average speed makes plays other players can't. "He has such great range that he makes plays on balls most high school shortstops never touch," St. Charles East coach Len Asquini said. "At the top of the order he set so much up for us. It seemed like he was always on base."
Jordan Goldstein Huntley
The captain of a Class 4A state qualifier flashes the leather at shortstop and leads at the plate. Signed to play at Dubuque, Goldstein enters Friday's state semifinal batting a team-best .388 (40-for-103) with 10 doubles. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior has 23 RBI from the leadoff spot because he hits .419 with runners in scoring position. He has reached base in 46.3 percent of 131 plate appearances and scored 33 runs in 38 games. "He's the person at the top that makes the rest of our lineup go," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "Last year he was looked upon as a defensive guy because he has tremendous hands and a strong arm. This year he's the total package. The leadership he's provided for us all year has allowed us to get back downstate."
Luke Gomes Kaneland
This senior outfielder got off to a fast start at the plate over spring break and never slowed his roll. He led the Knights to a Class 3A regional championship by batting a team-best .441 (45-for-102) with 8 doubles, 7 triples and 4 home runs. He led Kaneland in RBI (29), runs scored (37) and OPS (1.229). "He was unbelievable as our leadoff guy," Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. "When Gomes gets on base and scores in the first inning, it's a going to be a good ballgame. He usually gets on and the next guy hits him in. He is a huge factor."
Steven Hamer St. Charles North
Committed to Miami (Ohio), this senior was one of the area's most well-rounded players in 2018. Hamer was dominant on the mound. In 9 appearances (8 starts) he went 5-1 with a 0.85 ERA in 35.2 innings. He struck out 57 and walked 11. Opponents scored only 7 runs against him, 4 earned. At the plate he batted .383 (36-for-94) with 11 doubles, 2 home runs and recorded a team-high 34 RBI. He drew 12 walks, reached base in 56.4 percent of his 110 plate appearances and scored 18 runs. "He was our glue kid," St. Charles North coach Todd Genke said. "He was the ultimate competitor on the mound and he hit in the four-hole for us all season and led us in RBI. He took a leadership role, which is important. When your best players are leaders it's a good sign."
Ian Hanson Geneva
Recently named Geneva's Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year, this 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior gave opposing pitchers fits. Hitting left-handed, he batted .479 (34-for-71) with 8 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs and a team-best 24 RBI. He drew 20 walks and was hit by 7 pitches, stats that translate to a .587 on-base percentage. Combine that with a .761 slugging percentage for an other-wordly 1.348 OPS. "His on-base percentage is a little bit like a video game stat because he did so well and was so consistent all year," Geneva coach Brad Wendell said. A right-handed thrower, Hanson started 9 games on the mound and went 3-3 with 23 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.
Erik Hedmark Dundee-Crown
Signed to pitch at Northern Illinois, this four-year varsity player led Dundee-Crown statistically in every major offensive and pitching category. The left-handed batter set a single-season school record with 17 doubles while producing a slash line of .407/.488/.639 and resultant 1.127 OPS. He tripled, hit 2 home runs, drove in 22, stole 5 bases and batted .667 with runners in scoring position. The lefty pitcher finished with a 2.42 ERA in 46.1 innings, struck out 64, walked 20 and hit 7 batters. He was also the perfect role model and leader for a young, rebuilding team. "He is one of the finest young men I have ever coached," Dundee-Crown coach Matthew Mueller said. "He sets high standards for himself and his teammates on and off the field. Erik always kept his composure and led by example."
Ryan Ignoffo Cary-Grove
Named Region 2 Position Player of the Year by the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association, this Eastern Illinois signee swung one of the most potent bats in the Northwest suburbs. The right-handed batter led Cary-Grove with a .406 average (41-for-101). He slugged .713, thanks to 13 doubles, 3 triples and 4 home runs, all team highs, and led the Trojans with 29 RBI. The senior center fielder hit for power while striking out only 11 times in 118 plate appearances. He drew 12 walks. "He hits homers, doubles, triples and he hits to all fields," Cary-Grove coach Don Sutherland said. "He has a great arm. He can throw fast and long and very accurately from the outfield. He's fearless making diving catches. Anywhere in the field they need him to play in college, he can play it."
Ryan Knowlton Burlington Central
Committed to Wisconsin-Whitewater, this 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior raised his average to .408 (40-for-98) after batting .342 as a junior. Knowlton reached base in 49.6 percent of his 119 plate appearances and slugged .776 for a 1.271 OPS. Those slugging totals come courtesy of 13 doubles, a triple and 7 home runs. He hit 3 home runs in 3 consecutive playoff games to fuel Central's run to a Class 3A sectional final appearance. "The way he changed his approach from last year to this year was impressive," Central coach Kyle Nelson said. "He put a lot more balls in play and was able to do more as far as power numbers because he got better pitches to hit. He really improved with two strikes. Three of his home runs came with two strikes."
Jake Kuntzendorf Aurora Christian
Named Class 1A all-state as a sophomore, Kuntzendorf's success on the mound and at the plate helped Aurora Christian win the Class 1A state championship. The right-hander appeared in 15 of 35 games (13 starts) and finished 10-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 0.833 WHIP. In 71.1 innings, he struck out 105, walked 18 and hit 9 batters. He batted .438 (39-for-112) with 13 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs and 36 RBI and had a slash line of .438/.545/.742. In 112 plate appearances, he drew 16 walks and struck out only 6 times. "At the beginning of the season, I did not expect him to be as dominant as he was or have the numbers that he did," Aurora Christian coach Andy Zorger said. "I knew he would be our main pitcher, but I didn't know he'd throw strikes and be able to control almost every game the way he did. He was fantastic."
Kyle Lang Crystal Lake South
The Gators were at their best when this stalwart of the 2017 Class 4A state championship team took the mound. The 6-foot-4, 172-pound right-hander went 6-2 in 9 starts to improve his record over two seasons to 16-2. The McHenry County College-bound senior posted a 1.53 ERA in 55 innings, struck out 68 and walked 13. Lang won his final 3 starts of the season, including complete-game victories against Hampshire and Larkin. "It has been a true honor and privilege to coach Kyle these past three seasons," Crystal Lake South coach Brian Bogda said. "He has pitched in some very big games in his career and was clutch in those games. I always felt comfortable with him on the mound. Kyle finishes his career second all time in wins. I know he will continue to excel at the next level."
Brandon McPherson Marmion
No pitcher enjoyed a better season than the honorary captain of the Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area Team, even though the 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior faced arguably the toughest schedule of any pitcher areawide. Highlights include a spring-break victory over Indiana power Columbus North in Louisville, consecutive 1-0 shutouts at Brother Rice and Providence and a regional playoff shutout of Batavia. In 11 starts, he used a 93-mph fastball, 12-to-6 curveball and slider to strike out 104 while issuing 17 walks. He allowed only 14 earned runs in 63.2 innings and posted a 1.54 ERA. Also a threat at the plate, McPherson batted .364 (36-for-99) with 5 doubles and 18 RBI. He drew 17 walks and reached base in 45.8 percent of 120 plate appearances. "He goes out and competes his butt off and he's not afraid of anybody," Marmion coach Frank Chapman said. "He's highly competitive but always has a smile on his face."
Kyle Morgan Huntley
This senior pitcher completes a successful high school career with a state finals appearance. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound left-hander enters the Final Four with a 9-2 record in 12 starts. His only losses were 1-0 against Jacobs and 2-1 against McHenry. Morgan owns a 0.86 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 64 innings, has struck out 77 and walked 12. "He was the ace of our staff. He took the ball in every big game," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "Every series he was always lined up against somebody's number one. He commanded the zone, threw three pitches for strikes and was just an absolute workhorse for us. He has a huge upside. It wouldn't surprise me to see him pitching at the professional level down the road. He has a bright future."
Michael Niemiec Batavia
A two-sport athlete who owns a Class 7A football state championship ring, Niemiec bounced back from an injury that kept him from playing baseball as a junior. Before heading off to play football at Grand Valley State, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior snagged an all-Upstate Eight River nod. He batted .338 (27-for-80) with 10 doubles, a triple, a home run and 24 RBI. The left fielder used the speed he is known for on the gridiron to track down flyballs and steal 16 bases in 16 attempts. He did not ground into a double play in 90 plate appearances. "This was his first year as a player on varsity and his presence in the dugout and the way he led for our team was awesome," Batavia coach Alex Beckmann said.
Liam Oreskovich Jacobs
This senior catcher threw out 24.4 percent of attempted base stealers (10 of 41) and guided a pitching staff to a 3.17 ERA in 169 innings behind the plate. He batted .327 (32-for-98) and slugged .520 by mashing 13 doubles and 2 home runs. He reached base in 45 percent of 120 plate appearances, drove in 13 and scored 15 runs. "Liam was an incredible competitor and one of the toughest players we've had at Jacobs," coach Jamie Murray said. "He did an outstanding job with our pitchers and has a very high ceiling offensively and defensively. Expect to see him do great things at McHenry County College next year."
Jaime "JJ" Rivera West Aurora
Named Upstate Eight Conference Player of the Year, this senior devastated opposing pitching from the third spot in the West Aurora lineup. The 6-foot, right-handed hitter led the Valley Division champions with a .439 batting average (43-for-98). He hit 9 doubles a triple and drove in 22 runs. Rivera reached base 51.3 percent of the time by drawing 14 walks and stole 16 bases in 18 attempts, resulting in 36 runs scored. "He was our most dependable hitter all season long," Blackhawks coach John Reeves said. "He got out of the gates hots and continued the entire season."
Nick Skurka St. Charles North
This 6-foot-2, 200-pound left-hander was tough to hit. Skurka went 5-1 in 9 starts, posted a 1.39 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, struck out 57 and walked 16 in 40.1 innings. "I think Nick kind of sneaked up on people and flew under the radar, but when you look at his numbers he was dominant," St. Charles North coach Todd Genke said. "He was all business when it was his chance to pitch. He worked hard in the off-season to get better and was a leader by example. He's the kind of player all coaches dream of having." Skurka had collegiate baseball offers but has opted to matriculate at Illinois.
Chase Stanke Marmion
Signed to play at Minnesota, this four-year varsity catcher who bats left-handed and throws right-handed is considered among the best in Illinois. After helping lead Marmion to a third-place finish in Class 3A in 2017, this year he led the Cadets to the first Class 4A regional title in program history by batting .368 (25-for-68) with 7 doubles, 4 home runs and 23 RBI. His 55-percent on-base rate rose after being hit by 9 pitches and drawing 21 walks in 100 plate appearances. He slugged .647 to finish with a 1.197 OPS. Defensively, he threw out 28.6 percent of would-be basestealers (8 of 28) and limited passed balls to 9 in 162 innings. Stanke committed 1 error all season. "I think he's the best catcher in the state," Marmion coach Frank Chapman said, "I can't say enough about the way he calls pitches, commands the game and controls the dugout. More than that, he's a phenomenal person. It's going to be really hard not having him around just as a person because of things he takes care of outside of baseball."
Sam Tickel Aurora Christian
Named Class 1A all-state, this sweet-swinging junior was "in the zone all year long," Aurora Christian Coach Andy Zorger said. Tickel was the leading hitter for the Class 1A state champions. He helped the Eagles finish 33-2 by batting .536 (60-for-112) with 12 doubles, 8 triples, 2 home runs and 52 RBI. He drew 15 walks and reached base in 61.2 percent of 131 plate appearances, slugged .839 and posted an off-the-charts 1.424 OPS. "He's just one of those kids you can tell has been swinging a bat since he could walk," Zorger said. "He has the smoothest swing I've seen in my 11 years as coach. He seemingly hits the ball solidly every time. The biggest thing was confidence. Last year he struggled in the playoffs. This year he felt like he could hit any pitcher and get a hit every at-bat."
Dustin Tomas West Aurora
This senior was one of the big reasons West Aurora won the Upstate Eight Valley title. The 6-foot, 190-pound right-hander posted a 6-2 mark in 9 starts. He finished with a 1.43 earned-run average in 54 innings and struck out 47. Hie demonstrated command of his pitches by issuing only 5 walks and throwing 3 wild pitches. "Dustin's success this season can be attributed to his amazing work ethic," West Aurora coach John Reeves said. "He was one of our captains and led by example. His bulldog mentality and never-quit attitude on the mound rubbed off on the team and the other pitchers on the staff."
Colton Wallace Burlington Central
This 5-foot-9, 180-pound catcher controlled the game offensively at the plate and defensively behind it. Barrel met ball more often than not when this offensive force stepped into the batter's box. The junior helped the Rockets win 24 games by batting a team-high .449 (53-for-118) with 33 RBI. His 15 doubles, triple and home run translated to a .619 slugging rate. "At the end of the year he was just tearing the cover off the ball," Central coach Kyle Nelson said. "I'm glad we have him back next year." Wallace reached base 52.9 percent of the time by drawing 18 walks in 140 plate appearances. He scored 21 runs. Teams attempted only 21 stolen bases against the strong-armed backstop, who threw out 4 would-be base stealers and picked off two runners.
Brock Wilken Harvest Christian
Wilken did it on the mound and at the plate for a Class 1A regional championship team. The junior batted .420 (37-for-88) and his .841 slugging percentage can be attributed to 11 doubles, 4 triples and 6 home runs. He drove in 39. Wilken drew 20 walks, reached base in 54.3 percent of 117 plate appearances, stole 23 bases without being caught and scored 40 runs. On the mound, he finished 6-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 13 appearances (11 start). He struck out 57 and walked 20 in 45.2 innings. "Brock has always been solid but this year was truly a breakout season and he did it in every area of the game," Harvest Christian coach David Lockwood said. "He hit for average, hit for power, played great defense and was arguably our best pitcher. He's a great kid growing into a great leader."
Aurora Central Catholic -- Kyle Czerak
Aurora Christian -- MJ Stavola, Hunter Thompson
Bartlett -- Matt Angelone
Batavia -- Jared Martin, Dylan Schick
Burlington Central -- Paddy McKermitt
Cary-Grove -- Quinn Priester
Crystal Lake South -- Steven Siavelis, Noah Tyrrell
Dundee-Crown -- Nick Gregory
Elgin -- Kyle Coates
Hampshire -- Matt Jachec
Harvest Christian -- Jack Nohava
Huntley -- Nick Laxner, Matt Rodriguez
Jacobs -- Braeden Wegner, Daniel Murray
Kaneland -- Robbie Dudzinski
Larkin -- Max Anderson
Marmion -- Jake Carlson
South Elgin -- Patrick Keaty
St. Charles East -- Brett Brueske, Thomas Schroeder
St. Charles North -- Justin Dunne, Erik Larson
St. Edward -- Jack Olson
Streamwood -- Colin Caminitti
West Aurora -- Alberto Martinez, Cam Zimmerman
Westminster Christian -- Matthew Schulenburg