Scouting DuPage County baseball

 
 
Updated 3/15/2018 1:16 PM
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  • Neuqua Valley's James Kulak pitches against Metea Valley during the Class 4A Neuqua Valley baseball regional semifinal on May 24, 2017.

      Neuqua Valley's James Kulak pitches against Metea Valley during the Class 4A Neuqua Valley baseball regional semifinal on May 24, 2017. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Addison Trail

Coach: Mike Kennedy.

Last year: 13-17, 8-10, fifth in West Suburban Gold; lost 7-1 to Geneva in Class 4A Addison Trail regional semifinals.

Top players: Simon Marinelli, sr., C; Trevor Fulmer, sr., P-1B; Matt Crandall, OF-P, sr.; A.J. Parnell, 3B-P, sr.; Bryan Hidalgo-Ortiz, DH, sr.; Vince Daudelin, jr., OF; Michael Scali, jr., SS-2B; A.J. Carlson, so., P-IF; Javier Carreno, jr., P-IF-OF; Nick Daudelin, jr., P.

Scouting report: The Blazers graduated one of the area's dominant pitchers in Nick Villasenor but they still return Fulmer, who struck out 47 and had a 2.50 ERA in 42 innings. With fellow third-year starter Marinelli behind the plate, that makes for a darn good battery. "We're going to rely on our veterans and get our juniors ready," Kennedy said. "Nick was so great for us, but people don't realize how good Trevor was. And Simon's one of the best catchers in the area." Marinelli hit a team-high .396 in the leadoff spot, but he'll likely be in the heart of the order. The offense in general must do a better job around him, and that'll be possible with Carlson at the top and Hildago-Ortiz adding power. Pitching depth must develop behind Fulmer. "Collectively I think this group is really coming together," Kennedy said.

Benet

Coach: Scott Lawler.

Last year: 25-12, 11-7, tied for third in East Suburban Catholic Conference; lost 13-4 to St. Viator in Class 3A North Central College supersectional.

Top players: Jack Schneider, sr., 3B; Brandon Gorz, sr., C; Paddy Hincks, sr., 2B; Collin Berry, sr., OF; Thomas Snell, sr., OF; Dolan Glasgow, jr., SS; Tate Davison, sr., OF; Aaron Staehely, jr., OF; Mike Wymer, jr., OF; Gio Ahern, sr., P; Tony Adams, sr., P; Quinn Moriarty, sr., P; Andrew Prisby, sr., 1B-P; Jared Novak, so., P; Chris Perry, so., P; Carter Winborne, so., P.

Scouting report: Bumping up to Class 4A won't be easy, but the Redwings will be strong as usual. Even while mixing three classes with up to four sophomores on varsity. "By the end of the year, I think we could be really good," Lawler said. Benet will put its experienced bats of Berry, Gorz, Schneider -- who last season all hit over .300 -- and Hincks in the middle of the order. Wymer, a speedster, will be at the top. Benet pitched by committee with success a year ago, so expect to see that again with Ahern, Moriarty and sophomores Novak, Perry and Winborne. "We'll have a lot of guys coming out of the pen, but that's a key role for our program," Lawler said.

Downers Grove North

Coach: Kyle Briscoe.

Last year: 18-16, 8-10, fifth in West Suburban Silver; lost 7-0 to Plainfield South in Class 4A Plainfield South regional semifinals.

Top players: Sam Cogger, sr., 3B-P; Nick Bacarella, sr., 1B-P; Jake Young, sr., P-IF-C; Scott Jakobsze, jr., P-IF; Parker Webber, sr., IF; T.J. Drohan, sr., IF-P; Jack Carr, sr., C; Ben Johnson, sr., OF; Brian Kosek, sr., P.

Scouting report: Briscoe, a 2003 Downers North graduate, has been the program's sophomore coach the last five years and was a former player for Chad Isaacson, who stepped down as varsity coach after 18 years at the helm. In other words, expect a smooth transition. "There's a familiarity on both sides of it," Briscoe said. "It's been very smooth." Bacarella was second on last year's team with 52 innings pitched and had a 2.69 ERA. Beyond him, though, very little pitching experience returns. The Trojans will fill innings with arms like Cogger, Young, Kosek and others. "We'll be senior dominant, but we're still inexperienced," Briscoe said. Cogger and Bacarella each hit over .300 last year and combined for 26 RBI. With Johnson showing speed at the top of the order, there should be more scoring opportunities.

Downers Grove South

Coach: Darren Orel.

Last year: 24-12, 13-5, third in West Suburban Gold; lost 12-1 to Minooka in Class 4A Neuqua Valley regional semifinals.

Top players: Brett Riegler, sr., C; Nick Stacey, sr., P-OF; Cameron Crowley, sr., P-OF-IF; Michael Hoes, jr., 3B-P; Anthony Stellato, jr., SS; Jake Pileggi, jr., 1B; Kyle Heavey, jr., P; Keegan Garland, jr., OF-C; Andrew Alfini, jr., P; Jack Blazevich, so., IF; Gino Cozzi, jr., P.

Scouting report: The Mustangs were successful with five sophomores up last season. If they continue to progress, it'll be another strong year. "We'll be relatively young again, but they have experience," Orel said. "Being a year older I think we'll be able to compete a little better." The pitching staff, though, will be anchored by seniors. Stacey had a 1.82 ERA in 34⅔ innings while Crowley had a 2.66 ERA in 58 innings. Alfini brings back another 40 innings. Stacey was also last year's second-leading hitter with a .345 batting average. The Mustangs return three of their top run-producers with Stacey, Riegler and Stellato. Defensive improvement -- something that was a problem last season -- will make this team even tougher.

Fenton

Coach: David Schwabe.

Last year: 9-20, 2-10, tied for sixth in Metro Suburban Blue; lost 12-5 to Kaneland in Class 3A Burlington Central regional semifinals.

Top players: David Burch, fr., 2B-SS; Ethan Doliente, so., C; Ivan Lozada, jr., OF; Federico Romero, jr., DH; Tim Beecroft, sr., P-3B; Ryan Kielbasa, sr., Carlos Mercado, sr., SS.

Scouting report: This is an interesting team to watch because it's completely different from a year ago. Only a few players saw the field last season. "It's a whole new slate," Schwabe said. "They're all so young and none of them started last year." The youth is epitomized by Burch, who might be the team's best player as a freshman. Then there's the sophomore, Doliente, who will be behind the plate. And after a promotion to varsity for last year's playoffs, Lozado anchors the outfield in center. Schwabe already is committing to a pitching-by-committee strategy where everyone only sees the mound for two or three innings. Any senior experience is found there with Kielbasa and Beecroft. Mercado and power-hitting Romero provide offensive pop. "We've got to prepare as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may," Schwabe said.

Glenbard East

Coach: Joel Pelland.

Last year: 16-17, 9-10, fourth in Upstate Eight Valley; lost 4-3 to Lake Park in Class 4A Hoffman Estates regional semifinals.

Top players: Bret Bushka, jr., C; Jack Crackel, sr., P-1B; Jack Oberli, sr., OF; Taylor Westerhoff, sr., SS; Ben Campos, sr., IF-P; Jeremy Johnson, jr., IF-P; Noah Davies, sr., OF; Jimmy Cotterill, jr., OF.

Scouting report: Fifteen members of the 23-player roster are pitchers, and up to nine are ready to contribute. There may not be a definitive number-one starter, but there's strength in numbers. Crackel returns 11 innings, and he'll be backed by Campos, Westerhoff and others. "I think we'll have a pretty good core of pitchers even though we don't have much experience," Pelland said. Bushka is in his third season behind the plate and last year led the team with a .340 average and 24 RBI. Oberli was an all-conference pick, and Westerhoff, who started last season as a third-string shortstop, became a consistent starter. Johnson, Crackel and Campos all figure into the offensive plans. "We have some speed and some guys who can be situational hitters," Pelland said. "Hopefully we'll be better at the plate."

Glenbard North

Coach: Rich Smelko.

Last year: 13-21, 7-17, ninth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 12-0 to St. Charles North in Class 4A Lake Park regional final.

Top players: Mike Wellman jr., P; John Marron, sr., Jim Zay, jr., IF; Anthony Ferreri, jr., IF; Jasper Serences, so., 1B; Dom Rotundo, sr., C; Isaiah Thordarson, sr., P-OF; Francesco Sepede, sr., P; Marc Muller, jr., C; Brandon Gonzales, jr., 3B; Jon Martinez, jr., OF; Guiseppe Riggio, sr., OF.

Scouting report: Last season was a struggle for the Panthers, but they'll be better situated to handle the rigors of the DVC with the return of two of their most experienced pitchers from last year: Marron, who threw a team-high 53 innings, and Wellman, who threw 28. From a batch of about a half-dozen other arms, they'll need to develop mound depth. "Hopefully, those handful of guys can get some innings," Smelko said. "We need to get them experience early." With their top four hitters graduated, the pitching needs to be consistent right out of the gate. Zay, Ferreri and Serences will produce for a team that remains young with three returning juniors and a sophomore. "We'll be a scrappy team at the plate," Smelko said. "We're not going to sit and wait for the big inning."

Glenbard South

Coach: Marco Eufrasio.

Last year: 13-21, 6-6, fourth in Metro Suburban Blue; lost 6-5 to Benet in Class 3A Benet sectional semifinals.

Top players: John McMahon, jr., IF-P; Mike Paprota, sr., IF-P; Nick Atkinson, sr., OF; Jack Santucci, sr., P; Drew Vozza, jr., OF; Logan Barnick, jr., P-IF; Mason Barnick, jr., P-IF; Quinn McDaniel, sr., OF; Cooper Wilson, so., C; Easton Lange, so., C; Jacob Cyrus, so., IF; Michael Nathe, so., OF-P.

Scouting report: The Raiders graduated seven starters but still managed to work in younger members of the program, including McMahon, Vozza and Wilson. Another wave of sophomores is expected to contribute. "It's going to be a large learning curve at the start of the season," Eufrasio said. "We need to keep our composure and keep grinding." Four of the top five hitters from last year are gone, but McMahon was solid while hitting .306 with a team-high 35 runs scored. He'll be in the middle of the order with Paprota, who drove in 14 runs. Vozza and Atkinson will set the table at the top. Paprota also brings back 40⅓ innings and a 2.95 ERA for a team hoping to repeat last year's postseason success. "It was great to win a regional," Eufrasio said. "We're going to try to keep it going."

Glenbard West

Coach: Andy Schultz.

Last year: 14-21, 6-12, sixth in West Suburban Silver; lost 5-0 to Conant in Class 4A Bartlett regional final.

Top players: Sam Fenske, sr., P-1B; Adrian Del Valle, sr., P-OF; Jack Campanella, sr., SS; David Dillman, jr., C; Kyle Engstrom, sr., 2B; Joey Gavac, sr., 3B; Grant Lalla, sr., 1B; Ryan Petersen, sr., OF; Tommy Bleker, jr., OF; Brock Radke, sr., P; Joey Ciero, jr., P-IF; Connor Brady, jr., P; Brett Potter, jr., P; Logan Ryan, jr., P-IF; Peter Schilling, jr., P; Matt Shellady, jr., OF-P.

Scouting report: Confidence is high after the Hilltoppers reached the final eight of the summer state tourney. They'll ride that momentum into this spring. "There's no motivating we need to do," Schultz said. "They're ready to go." It'll help that they'll have up to seven senior starters. Last season Lalla and Fenske drove in and scored a combined 27 runs. They'll be helped by Bleker and Campanella at the top. Fenske, team leader with 49⅓ innings and a 1.99 ERA, is the definite No. 1 pitcher. Del Valle also has experience while Ciero and other arms will contribute. Good infield defense and a fast outfield adds to the optimism. "This is the best defensive team I've had," Schultz said.

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Jason Ziemer.

Last year: 21-10, 12-6, third in West Suburban Silver; lost 6-5 to Yorkville in Class 4A Oswego East regional semifinals.

Top players: Kyle Wisch, jr., P-IF; Murphy Juska, sr., P; Matt Deiss, sr., P; Andrew Harris, sr., OF; Tyler Jurack, sr., 2B; Kyle Jones Shah, sr., P; Simon Lane, jr., P-3B; Ayden Head, jr., IF-P; Connor Bauer, sr., C; Joey Malcolm, sr., 1B; Peter Mercurio, sr., P-OF; Alex Perez, jr., IF; Ethan Harrast, jr., IF.

Scouting report: With Wisch on the mound, the Red Devils will be as good as anyone this season. The junior tops at 91 mph and boosts numerous college offers after last season striking out 32 and posting a 2.70 ERA in 23 innings. "He'll give us a chance against anyone," Ziemer said. "I think we'll be pretty good on the mound this year." That's because the Red Devils have a solid No. 2 with Juska and flexibility in the rotation or the bullpen with Deiss and Jones Shah in addition to Lane and Head from last year's sophomore team. Harris and Jurack, who both hit in the mid-.300s and drove in 14 runs, might sit at the top of the order. That leaves less experienced hitters in the middle, but Wisch and Mercurio should be run producers.

Hinsdale South

Coach: Paul Hoel.

Last year: 17-14, 9-9, fourth in West Suburban Gold; lost 8-0 to Plainfield North in Class 4A Hinsdale South regional semifinals.

Top players: John Colucci, sr., P-IF; Matt Uba, sr., P-SS; Ryan Kuhlman, sr., 3B; Michael McCormack, jr., P; Frankie Klemm, jr., OF-P; Bobby O'Donnell, sr., OF; Paris Lewis, sr., OF; J.R. Rickert, sr., P; Ryan Kilrea, jr., C; Connor Madden, sr., 2B; Evan Zenger, jr., OF-P; Jack Lombardo, sr., 1B; Mike Early, sr., C.

Scouting report: The Hornets always find a way to compete, and they'll do so again with Colucci and Uba back on the mound. "I really like our pitching," Hoel said. "If we get four or five runs a game, we'll win a lot of games this season." Colucci is a fourth-year varsity member who last year won four games with a 2.86 ERA. Uba had 3 wins and 3 saves with a 3.69 ERA. They also return as two of the Hornets' top hitters. Colucci hit .364 and Uba batted .333. The rest of the lineup is inexperienced, but they showed in the summer they can consistently put the ball in play. That'll be a big boost after so many strikeouts last season. "They hit the ball well in the summer," Hoel said. "But they don't have many at-bats."

IC Catholic Prep

Coach: Frank DeAngelis.

Last year: 14-20, 5-7, fifth in Metro Suburban Blue; lost 2-0 to Holy Trinity in Class 2A IC Catholic Prep sectional semifinals.

Top players: C.J. West, sr., 3B-P; Andrew Falduto, sr., OF-P; Michael Hoffman, sr., C; C.J. Slowinski, sr., IF-OF-P; Griffen Eichhorn, sr., OF-IF; Jack Enright, sr., OF-IF-P; Jake DeWitte, sr., IF-OF; Michael Liszka, sr., C-OF; Dylan Packer, sr., 1B; Ryan Malek, jr., IF-P; Jake Lytton, jr., OF-C-P.

Scouting report: After the Knights won a state football title and advanced to a sectional final in basketball, some of the same athletes aim to carry that success to baseball. "This is a competitive group," DeAngelis said. They're no more competitive than West, a third-year starter who last season hit .294 and led the team with a 1.82 ERA in 42⅓ innings. Falduto and Slowinski return a combined 23 innings, but pitching experience is thin after the Knights graduated their top two pitchers from a regional champion. "We don't have to replace those arms one for one," DeAngelis said. "We can do it by committee." The Knights struggled at the plate, something they hope improves with the return of Eichhorn, Enright and others.

Lake Park

Coach: Dan Colucci.

Last year: 14-18, 8-15, eighth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 6-5 to Willowbrook in Class 4A Hoffman Estates regional final.

Top players: Zach Aehlert, sr., C; Anthony DeConcilis, sr., SS; Jay Palmer, sr., P; Rory Marino, sr., 3B-C; Paul Beverly, sr., 1B; A.J. Dallman, sr., P-OF; Ryan Behling, sr., P; Thomas Ross, sr., 2B; James Donofrio, sr., OF; Michael Kukula, sr., OF-P; Anthony Baturin, sr., P-IF-OF; Freddie March, sr., IF; Casey Berner, sr., P-OF; Masen Riser, jr., P.

Scouting report: With 12 seniors and nine players already slated to play in college, this team is battle tested -- especially after a summer run to the state's final eight. "We've got the makings of a good team, but we need to put it together," Colucci said. "This team needs to develop its identity." Aehlert was one of the area's top hitters last season, batting .436 with 5 homers and 30 RBI. With Marino, DeConcilis and Beverly also back, it'll be a potent top half of the order. The Lancers are extremely deep on the mound. Palmer, Beverly, Dallman, Behling, Baturin and Berner combined for nearly 140 innings and 10 of last season's 14 victories. The Lancers will make things interesting in their final DVC season.

Lisle

Coach: Pete Meyer.

Last year: 12-19, 6-10, fourth in Interstate Eight North; lost 6-2 to IC Catholic Prep in Class 2A Westmont regional semifinals.

Top players: Zack Heidenry, sr., IF-OF-P; Emmett Malavia, sr., IF-P; Aaron Cail, sr., C-1B; A.J. Casmer, jr., IF-P; Michael Cracco, sr., C-1B; Connor Nigro, so., IF-P; Damian Guerrero, jr., IF-P; Sam Russo, jr., IF-P; Patrick Thornton, jr., OF; Jay McGrath, jr., OF-P.

Scouting report: The margin is awfully thin early in the season with a 10-man roster, but the Lions' core is strong. "I really think we're going to be an exciting team to watch," Meyer said. "Our core guys are all baseball guys." Malavia, Heidenry -- a four-year varsity member -- and Casmer return as the top three pitchers after last season combining for more than 100 innings and 8 wins. Just about the entire rest of the roster can fill in on the mound including McGrath, a football and basketball standout who's returning to baseball after not playing as a freshman and sophomore. "We're going to keep ourselves in games with our pitching," Meyer said. "That's the strength of the team." Nigro is a nice addition to the top of the batting order. Heidenry, who hit .333 with 13 RBI, Malavia, Casmer and Cail were four of the Lions' best hitters last season.

Metea Valley

Coach: Craig Tomczak.

Last year: 16-16, 10-14, sixth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 7-0 to Neuqua Valley in Class 4A Neuqua Valley regional semifinals.

Top players: Jake Kmiecik, jr., IF-P; Jason Kirchner, jr., IF-OF; Cade Sullivan, so., IF; Andrew Cronin, sr., OF-P; Danny Zorn, sr., 1B-P; Jack Cagigal, jr., P; Brandon Sfikas, jr., OF-P; Spencer Collins, jr., C-OF; Van Harrington, jr., 1B; Sam LaBarbera, jr., C; Carter Wardell, jr., IF.

Scouting report: Cronin and Zorn are the only seniors on a team featuring 15 juniors, a returning sophomore in Sullivan and possibly five new sophomores in the mix. Because many of the juniors were up last season, the growing pains will be minimized. "We have enough juniors to be competitive," Tomczak said. "We'll be a better team midseason and at the end of the year." Cronin, who missed significant time last season due to injury, Sullivan and Kirchner and all hit over .300, while Zorn and Kmiecik weren't far behind. Cronin's injury kept him from pitching last year, but he'll be one of the Mustangs' top arms along with Cagigal, who threw 30 innings. "We'll have our ups and downs early in the year," Tomczak said. "It'll be an adjustment period."

Montini

Coach: Rich Janor.

Last year: 19-16, 11-9, tied for first in Chicago Catholic League White; lost 11-7 to Nazareth in Class 3A Benet sectional semifinals.

Top players: Jake Karczewski, sr., SS-P; Ryan Nelson, jr., 2B; Ben Steiner, sr., P-Util.; Michael Koszewski, so., OF; Alex Weisshaar, sr., C; Matt Pestel, sr., OF; Seth Quick, sr., P; Michael Sclafani, so., P; Bobby Meifert, so., P, Luke Morrill, jr., P.

Scouting report: A trio of third-year starters -- Karczewski, Nelson and Steiner -- blend with a group featuring four sophomores and a freshman in hopes of repeating last season's conference title and deep playoff run. "We think they're ready and they'll rise up, but they're untested," Janor said of the younger players. "They need to step into their roles." Karczewski batted a team-high .379 while Nelson, last year's leadoff man, will shift deeper in the order after batting .323. That duo combined for 34 RBI and should get more run-producing chances with Koszewski at the top. Steiner and Quick combined for 70 innings on the mound. Youth extends to the staff with Sclafani and Meifert. "These guys aren't flashy," Janor said. "They just come in and take care of their business."

Naperville Central

Coach: Mike Stock.

Last year: 21-12, 15-9, second in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 1-0 to Plainfield North in Class 4A Hinsdale South regional final.

Top players: Tommy Carlson, sr., OF; Jared Suchevits, jr., 3B; Payton Thorne, jr., P-IF-OF; Sam Hojnar, jr., IF; Braden Lindmark, sr., 1B-C; Danny Hughes, jr., OF; Zac Lis, sr., P; Alec Nuckols, sr., P; Joe Murray, sr., P; Connor Graefen, sr., IF.

Scouting report: Just as he transformed the football team into a title-caliber unit, Metea Valley transfer Thorne aims to do the same in baseball. He didn't play last year, but he'll be counted on as a lead pitcher, middle-of-the-order hitter and defensive standout. "He's a Division I athlete," Stock said. "He could play any position for us." The addition is perfect timing considering how much the Redhawks graduated. Carlson, who hit .323 and drove in 18 runs, could be at the top of the order. Suchevits came up in the middle of last season and had 10 RBI. The Redhawks must rebuild on the mound after graduating their top five pitchers and more than 200 innings. Thorne, Nuckols, Suchevits and others need to emerge as leaders of the staff. "We need our juniors to step up and be ready to play varsity right away," Stock said.

Naperville North

Coach: Carl Hunckler.

Last year: 13-18, 13-11, tied for third in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 4-3 to Bolingbrook in Class 4A Oswego East regional quarterfinals.

Top players: Jack Whitley, P-2B, sr.; Mark McCabe, sr., P-1B; Jarred Dunnett, sr., P-OF; Cliff Vickers, jr., P-OF: Ryan Bottens, sr., C; Brendan Lacey, sr., SS; D.J. DiMatteo, sr., OF.

Scouting report: Hunckler and assistant coach Mark Lindo, both members of the IHSBCA Hall of Fame, are retiring at the end of the school year and the Huskies are in position to send them out on top. "It seems like every year we have to replace our whole lineup," Hunckler said. "This year we have a bunch of returning players and that's why we're confident." Most of the experience is on the mound, with Whitley, Dunnett and McCabe returning about 125 innings and 12 wins. Whitley had 5 wins and a 2.43 ERA. Vickers also saw time on the mound as a sophomore and will be a spark at the top of the order. He, Lacey and Whitley hit over .300 last year, but the Huskies still have several spots to fill. That's true on defense as well, especially in the outfield. There will be many moving pieces out there depending on who's pitching.

Neuqua Valley

Coach: Robin Renner.

Last year: 35-2, 22-1, first in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 5-1 to St. Laurence in Class 4A Standard Bank Stadium supersectional.

Top players: Noah Herdman, sr., 3B; James Kulak, sr., P; Ricky Castro, sr., P; Ryan Wheeler, sr., SS; Evan Ranneklev, sr., OF; Jack Rigoni, sr., OF; Jake Wenz, sr., C; Trevor Tesmond, sr., OF; Adam Graham, sr., OF; Andrew Churchman, sr., P; Anthony Sterchele, jr., P; Jake Karaba, jr., P; Nick Taylor, jr., 2B; Justin Blazek, jr., 1B; Noah Ernst, sr., C-1B; Ryan Wolff, sr., C-1B.

Scouting report: Renner's final team before retiring is as good as last year's, mainly because it's virtually the same team. Six position players and two top pitchers return, including Purdue-bound Kulak, who last year won nine games and struck out 80, and Castro. The Wildcats graduated 20 wins, but that means they return 15. Churchman had a great summer, and Sterchele and Karaba are ready to step up on the mound. The batting order will be as good as any in the state. Wheeler, Tesmond, Herdman and Ranneklev hit over .400. They and Rigoni drove in 156 runs. "These guys are hungry," Renner said. "They're busting it every time they're out here."

St. Francis

Coach: Nick Hall.

Last year: 10-21, 11-13, eighth in Chicago Catholic League Blue; lost 10-8 to Streamwood in Class 4A St. Charles North regional quarterfinals.

Top players: Nick Kosmetatos, jr., 3B-P; Liam Brown, sr., 2B; Matt Cooney, sr., IF; Jake Smith, sr., OF-P; Tanner Spinks, sr., OF; Connor Cummings, sr., OF; Liam Poe, sr., C; Nino Christopher, jr., P; Bennett Eltoft, jr., 1B; Ben Radel, so., P-OF; Zach Radel, jr., IF-P; Michael Cascella, jr., OF; Trevor Hicks, jr., C.

Scouting report: There's good news for the Spartans. They're dropping from Class 4A to Class 3A, and this will be their last season in the brutally competitive CCL Blue. They'll also enjoy Kosmetatos for two more years. As a sophomore he hit .460 with 3 homers and 34 RBI and pitched a team-high 50 innings. "It'll be good to be back in 3A," Hall said. "But it'll still be tough in the Blue." Especially with inexperienced pitchers beyond Kosmetatos and Smith. Christopher and Ben Radel need to be varsity ready. Cooney and Spinks, respectively, hit .324 and .293. Eltoft and Cummings will be strong additions to the lineup. "We have some unknowns with injuries and guys coming back from basketball, but it could be a good year for us," Hall said.

Timothy Christian

Coach: Jim Snoeyink.

Last year: 19-11, 9-3, tied for second in Metro Suburban White; lost 7-0 to Chicago Christian in Class 2A Benedictine University supersectional.

Top players: Jimmy Allen, sr., SS-P; Nick Huisman, sr., P-1B; Jake Loerop, sr., P-IF; Connor Gwaltney, sr., C; Brady Klooster, sr., OF; John Tazelaar, sr., OF; Ty Merrick, sr., OF; Trent Marrera, jr., IF-P; Thomas Becvar, jr., OF-P; Garrett Pullen, jr., OF-P; Matt Bootsma, jr., 1B-OF; Sebastian Bravo, jr., IF-P; Harrison Stanton, so., IF-C.

Scouting report: The Trojans have the talent to build upon the best season in program history. Western Michigan-bound Jimmy Allen leads the charge. "These guys have been looking forward to the start of the season for a long time," Snoeyink said. Last year Allen batted .459 with 35 RBI but only pitched 25 innings while striking out 50 with a 1.66 ERA. His workload will jump as the team's No. 1 starter. Huisman was the Trojans' leader with 43 innings while he and Loerop had 5 wins. Five graduated starters will hamper the batting order. Beyond Allen, no one hit higher than .280. "I feel like we have guys who can step up but we'll have to see," Snoeyink said.

Waubonsie Valley

Coach: Bryan Acevedo.

Last year: 15-18, 11-13, fifth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 9-6 to Metea Valley in Class 4A Neuqua Valley regional quarterfinals.

Top players: Zach Laws, sr., P-OF-IF; Drew Gray, sr., P; Nick Lamoso, sr., IF-OF; Jake Klaft, sr., P; Cole Gregario, jr., 1B-3B; Zach Bebar, sr., C; Ryan Gorkis, sr., P; Jack Carpenter, jr., P; Matt Bauer, sr., P; Jack Drow, jr., IF; Will Jaynes, so., IF; Ben Jaynes, sr., 1B-DH.

Scouting report: Early focus has allowed the Warriors to have a quick start the past few seasons. With a deeper pitching staff they look to keep up the winning through the end of the campaign. "Pitching is definitely going to carry us," Acevedo said. "We're hoping our starters go deep into games but hopefully we have the depth this year if they can't." Laws, last year's closer, had 4 wins and 4 saves, and he's joined by Drew Gray, Klaft and Gorkis, who return a combined 73 innings. There's more depth beyond them, but the Warriors must improve upon last year's cumulative .238 batting average. Reducing strikeouts and scrapping for runs is the goal. "We have to find a way to be more consistent at the plate," Acevedo said.

West Chicago

Coach: T.J. Nall.

Last year: 5-23, 4-16, fifth in Upstate Eight Valley; lost 11-1 to Addison Trail in Class 4A Addison Trail regional quarterfinals.

Top players: Billy Lietzow, sr., SS-P; Joey Wales, sr., OF-P; Matt Natzke, sr., 1B-P; Bobby Bartlett, jr., P-IF-OF; Cade McHenry, sr., OF; MarcAntonio Pischetola, sr., 2B-P; Jeff Zajac, sr., P-1B; Mike Sawicki, sr., C; Luke Krogh, so., P; Jordan Wilkins, jr., IF; Ryan Schmidt, fr., 3B-OF.

Scouting report: Experience on the mound should help the Wildcats improve in Nall's second season heading the program. "We feel a lot better going into this year," Nall said. "The guys we have coming back know what to expect. They've done a good job of buying in." The Wildcats' three most experienced pitchers are back in Natzke, Bartlett and Zajac, and they return a combined 105 innings. Between Pischetola, Krogh, Lietzow and Wales, the staff is prepped to vastly improve upon last season's cumulative 5.47 ERA. The offense, however, still must find a way to scratch for runs. Lietzow, who hit .323 with 10 RBI, will be near the top of the order. Schmidt, though a freshman, is ready to hit in the middle with McHenry and Sawicki.

Westmont

Coach: D.J. Cocks.

Last year: 19-17, 5-11, fifth in Interstate Eight North; lost 6-5 to IC Catholic Prep in Class 2A Westmont regional final.

Top players: Caden Anderson, jr., 1B-P; Michael Kokoszka, sr., 2B-P; Matt O'Leary, jr., SS-P; Alex Marotta, jr., OF-P; Shawn Kwasny, jr., 3B-P; Riley Basit, so., C-P; Malek Mostafa, sr., 1B-OF-P; Chad Johnson, sr., OF-P; Robbie Burns, jr., OF-P; Bobby Risden, sr., OF-P; Dan Hletko, sr., P; Christian Alexander, sr., OF.

Scouting report: The two greatest players in program history -- Charlie and Joe Donovan -- are no longer on the roster, but this still could be one of the Sentinels' best teams. "This is the first time in seven years we haven't had a Donovan," Cocks said. "It's a strange feeling, but we've still got a lot of talent." Westmont graduated only two starters, leaving vast experience everywhere. Anderson, O'Leary and Marotta are third-year varsity players, and Kokoszka is an all-conference returner who last year hit .429 with 36 RBI. Of the 14 players on the roster, 13 are pitchers. All but one player who saw time on the mound last year is back. "It's a veteran group," Cocks said. "It's one we've been trying to set up for a couple years."

Wheaton Academy

Coach: Brad Byrne.

Last year: 8-15, 2-10, tied for sixth in Metro Suburban Blue; lost 7-3 to Burlington Central in Class 3A Burlington Central regional semifinals.

Top players: Payton Sowa, sr., P-SS; Jake Koslosky, sr., P-IF; Max Martin, jr., IF-P; Mike Cortez, jr., C-P-IF; Peter Crowe, jr., P-OF; Thomas Love, jr., OF; Luke Roman, so., SS; Jack Dykema, jr., OF-P; Sam Mennella, sr., C-OF; Jimmy Paganis, jr., IF.

Scouting report: Injuries hampered the Warriors last season but better health, especially from Sowa, will make for a better 2018. "(Sowa) had a great sophomore year but struggled with injuries last year," Byrne said. "He's the key to our season. How he goes is how we'll go." Sowa will be the team's No. 1 pitcher, three hitter and shortstop when he's not on the mound. He'll be surrounded by a lot of experience, Cortez and Martin, who hit .403 last year, set the table at the top of the order. Koslosky and Crowe have shown the ability to drive in runs. Sowa, Koslosky and Crowe combined for 80 innings on the mound, where the Warriors have many more options than a year ago. "Our goal every year is to win the conference and I think we'll be in the hunt this year," Byrne said.

Wheaton North

Coach: Dan Schoessling.

Last year: 15-18, 13-11, tied for third in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 7-4 to Glenbard North in Class 4A St. Charles North regional semifinals.

Top players: Connor Olson, sr., 3B; Jackson Gray, sr., P-1B; Jon Vesevick, sr., P; Tyler Woltman, so., C-P-2B; Chris Donahue, sr., OF-P; Chase Langford, sr., P; Jackson Pastore, sr., P; Andy Nelson, so., SS-P; Rocco Gambaiani, sr., 2B; Joe Klein, jr., OF.

Scouting report: Though young in key spots, the Falcons ride a bunch of confidence stemming from their final eight run in the summer. "Any time you have success in the summer that gives you confidence heading into the spring," Schoessling said. "But we have some question marks." The questions are few on the mound, where the Falcons return their top two pitchers from last year, Gray and Vesevick. They threw 100 innings with 3.00 and 2.82 respective ERAs. Langford's coming off a great summer performance and Pastore added another 20 innings last spring. The batting order is a little more unsettled, although Olson hit .296 and Gray batted .289 with 18 RBI. Woltman, who started as a freshman, and Nelson are seasoned sophomores.

WW South

Coach: John Scherrman.

Last year: 13-21, 8-16, seventh in DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Conant 8-2 in Class 4A Bartlett regional quarterfinals.

Top players: Caleb Larson, sr., P; Brad Novak, jr., IF-P; Matt Scherrman, jr., SS-P; Joe Adamek, jr., OF; Mitch Sandleback, sr., OF; Patrick McGarry, sr., OF; Kendall Simpson, sr., OF; Chuck Trost, sr., P; Matt Brodhead, sr., IF-P; Evan Hartman, sr., P; Mike Romano, sr., P; Matt Brennan, jr., OF.

Scouting report: John Scherrman's been an assistant at Naperville Central, Benet and WW South. Now he's a varsity head coach for the first time after Tim Brylka stepped down at the end of last year. "I'm excited," he said. "This is a group I'm familiar with so it should be an easy transition." Larson, committed to Illinois, is one of the area's top pitchers after last season posting a 1.80 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 54 innings. The pitching staff, however, took a hit with an injury to junior Ryan Keeley. Matt Scherrman, one of four sophomores on varsity last year, notched a pair of wins in 30 innings. Adamek, Scherrman and Novak, who hit .333 with 22 RBI, lead the offense. "Our kids want to win," coach Scherrman said. "They're tired of struggling."

Willowbrook

Coach: Vic Wisner.

Last year: 26-9, 14-4, second in West Suburban Gold; lost 4-1 to South Elgin in Class 4A Lake Park sectional final.

Top players: Ryan Mintz, jr., P-IF; Jack Nilles, jr., P; Jack Hines, jr., SS-P; Vince Ruchala, sr., P; Mason Kamp, sr., DH-1B; Trevor Jaloszynski, jr., OF; Dan Gusel, sr., C; Marshall McDonnell, jr., C; Scott Tumilty, jr., OF; Joey Guthrie, jr., P-IF; Dax Meyer, so., P-3B; Sam Tumilty, so., OF-C; Jeremy Conforti, jr., 3B.

Scouting report: The Warriors won a regional with five sophomores deep in the mix. With that core returning and other members of a talented junior class coming up, sights are set even higher this season. "Last year we had a bunch of guys step up and we need that leadership again," Wisner said. The Warriors graduated their top five hitters from last year, but there's no reason to think this group won't hit. Four returners -- Kamp, Hines, McDonnell and Jaloszynski -- hit near or above .300. The team strength is with a pitching staff featuring only one senior in Ruchala. Mintz and Nilles combined for 90 innings and 13 wins with sub-2.00 ERAs. "We think we'll compete every year, but this could be a real good season for us," Wisner said.

York

Coach: Dave Kalal.

Last year: 23-11, 9-9, fourth in West Suburban Silver; lost 3-2 to Maine West in Class 4A Niles North regional final.

Top players: Ryan Ross, jr., SS; Andrew Deardurff, sr., OF; Michael Pastuovic, sr., 1B; Ian Steinorth, jr., 2B; Joe Chiappetta, sr., 3B-P-OF; Charles Pakenas, sr., P; John Hadawi, sr., P; Scott Tucker, sr., P; Kellan Gilmartin, jr., P; John Milling, jr., P; Elliott Achepohl, sr., C; Mike Achepohl, sr., OF; Joey Jaeger, sr., DH-1B.

Scouting report: Of the 16 players returning, four are juniors. Even with all that experience, though, the Dukes are taking nothing for granted this season. "We've had these kind of stats coming back before but you still have to work for it," Kalal said. The Dukes hit a cumulative .318 last season and much of that production returns. Jaeger and Ross each hit in the mid-.300s and combined for 35 RBI. Deardurff hit .318 with 26 RBI and 29 runs scored. While the leadoff spot is up in the air, Pastuovic, who drove in 20 runs, will be in the middle of the order. Pakenas and Hadawi pitched 85 innings and, respectively, had 2.63 and 2.95 ERAs. "With our depth we'll have flexibility with our lineup," Kalal said.

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