Baseball: Scouting the Northwest suburbs

  • Buffalo Grove's Riley Rundquist celebrates his arrival at second base with a double against Barrington during the Mid-Suburban League title game last season. Rundquist returns for the MSL champion Bison this spring.

    Buffalo Grove's Riley Rundquist celebrates his arrival at second base with a double against Barrington during the Mid-Suburban League title game last season. Rundquist returns for the MSL champion Bison this spring. Patrick Kunzer/pkunzer@dailyherald., com

  • Fremd's Connor Giusti is a top returnee for the Vikings this season.

      Fremd's Connor Giusti is a top returnee for the Vikings this season. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent

MID-SUBURBAN EAST

Buffalo GroveCoach: Tim Miller (5th year, 92-49-1)

Last year: 30-6 (15-1 MSL East champions, MSL champion, sectional champions)

Key losses: Zach Fricke (Valpo), Mac Camardo (Case Western), TJ Constertina (St. Thomas), Rio Komatani, Andy Greenberg,

Returnees: Seniors Riley Rundquist, 3B; Carter Gledhill, C; Connor Adams, P/OF; Dan Pocklington, P/OF; Sean Jacobs, CF; Mark Antonetti C/P. Juniors Matt Brunelli, SS/P; Aex Paul, LF/ P.

Newcomers: Seniors Jimmy Cisneros, B/ 3B/ C; Nate Rogers, P; Joe Fox, P; Nick Openbrier, OF. Juniors Tyler Fricke, SS/ 2B/ P; Riku Komatani, 2B/ P; Nate Cole, 1B/ P; Mike Roberts, P/ 1B. Soph: Tristen Figus, 2B/ 3B/ P.

Outlook: It was a magical season for the Bison last year with a supersectional appearance and tying the school record for wins. Buffalo Grove brings back Riley Rundquist, who hit .344 with 6 homers last year and committed to Heartland CC. Carter Gledhill, who is headed to Concordia, is back behind the dish while Sean Jacobs, Alex Paul and Matt Brunelli made significant contributions. The Bison return 90 innings on the mound which accounted for 12 of their wins with Connor Adams, Dan Pocklington (Grinnell), Brunelli and Paul leading the way. "It will be pretty tough to improve from last year's team," Buffalo Grove coach Tim Miller said. "I feel we are still capable of making it downstate. We have a very talented team and we have a culture in our program with a high expectation. We will definitely be battle-tested, as our schedule is loaded with some of the top programs in the area."

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Elk GroveCoach: Terry Beyna (20th season, 331-311-1)

Last year: 9-19-1

Key losses: Justin Post, Zach Mahoney, Danny Lugo, Tyler Selvig, Bobby Cavenaugh

Returnees: Seniors Ryne Singsank 1B, LHP (SIU), Xander Rojahn RHP (Triton), Nick Hofmann SS/RHP (Maryville), Josh Periswamy RHP/INF,

Newcomers: Mark Matos, OF/C, Bobby Balzano, P/) F; Ismail Abbasi, Inf: Shane Crimmins, P/Inf; Phil Garr, Inf; Zach Schartz, C; Sean Cherry, P/OF; Sebastian Garza, Of/DH; Matt Crimmins, 3B/OF; Eric Iterlein, C/OF; Joey Gaskill, 3B/OF; Brien Art, P/OF. Sophomores Joe Gaskill, INF/OF; Ian Ridge OF/C.

Outlook: It was a rough season for Elk Grove last season, but the Grens should be right in the mix of things with two of the top pitchers in the area. Southern Illinois commit Ryne Singsank and Triton commit Xander Rojahn will make things dangerous for Elk Grove opponents this season. Nick Hoffman, who will attend Maryville next season, and Josh Periswamy should help to provide some of the offense that pitching staff will need. "Our experience coming back should put us in a position to be competitive," Elk Grove coach Terry Beyna said. "It will be important for our team to remain healthy. We suffered many key injuries early in the season in 2018. If we can stay healthy, we expect to be more competitive in the MSL than we have been the past two seasons."

HerseyCoach: Wally Brownley (2nd year, 14-19-1

Last year: 14-19-1 (5th, MSL East)

Key losses: Cade O'Neal, Cristian Rodriguez, Brian Massaccesi, Sam Alonzo, Nick Biagini, Joe Carlson.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Returnees: Seniors Will Adamski, C; A.J. Ceffalio, OF; James Denten, SS/P; Jake Irwin, 1B/P (Augustana); Mitch Johnson, P; Ryan Kreie, P; Daniel Kubsik, OF/P; Tom Quirk, OF/P; Tim Ridge, P; Trey Schmidt, 2B/P; Kyle Smith, P/Inf; Ryan Trachsel, P/Inf. Juniors Daniel Clawson, 3B (NIU); Hunter Luke, P/OF; Luke Picchiotti, OF.

Newcomers: Juniors: Caleb Bontje, OF/P; Brendan Kave. Inf; Eli Schafernak, C; Bill Seagraves, Inf. Soph: Griffin Ginder, P/OF; Max McCall, P/1B/OF.

Outlook: The Huskies will have a huge hole to fill with the graduation of Cade O'Neal, who is playing at Oklahoma. Hersey will have a senior-dominated squad that can hit the ball quite well. "I expect our team to show a lot of maturity," Hersey coach Wally Brownley said. "With 12 seniors, we have high expectations. We have experience and ability. We just need to stay together and show the conference what we can do." Will Adamski, who hit .340 despite missing about half the year with mono, and AJ Ceffalio, who hit .426 in conference play, will lead the offense. They should get help from Daniel Clawson and James Denten. Jake Irwin and Hunter Luke will be key factors on the mound along with Denten, Mitch Johnson and Ryan Kreie. "We are very excited about the experience we gained last year," Brownley said. "We believe we can compete for a conference title this year."

ProspectCoach: Ross Giusti (22nd season 441-285)

Last year: 19-11 (2nd, MSL East)

Key losses:: Rich Baczek, Ryan Howe, Anthony Catalano, John Cyzeslawski, Nick Ergastolo, Tony Composto, Mark LaCamara, Dan Cresop, Jack Ankony, Bracken Sullivan, Mack Malczewski

Returnees: Seniors Ethan Burgh SS/P, (Illinois Wesleyan); Tyler Priessing, INF/P, (Webster University); Kevin Donohue, OF (Truman State University); Ed Brancato, INF, (Morningside College); Bryce Jensen, P, (Triton College); Dan Morgan, OF. Junior Luke Kyprianis, P.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Newcomers: Seniors Colin Alberts, P; Tom Bruno INF/OF; Tom Eggert, P; Jacob Kiel, INF/P; Jimmy Martin, P; Tony Santangelo, OF; Brandon Smith, P; Ryan Curtin, P. Juniors Matt McAleer, INF/P; William Pfieffer, C/P. Sophomore Tyler Ciulla, C; Mitch Gates, P.

Outlook: The Knights finished a bit short of the conference last season. But dean of MSL coaches Ross Giusti returns a plethora of players including Ethan Burgh, Tyler Priessing, Kevin Donohue, Ed Bracato and Bryce Jensen, who have all committed to play in college. That should give Prospect something to build off of. "So far this group has been high energy in our practices," Giusti said. "Team chemistry seems good at this point. This is a 'roll up your sleeves, and go after it type of group'. It won't come easy, and everyone will need to chip in this year." The Knights return just 6 wins on the mound and two position players, which does give Giusti some concern. "We need to gain confidence," Giusti said. "However, we saw some good things over the summer which we hope transfers into the spring."

Rolling MeadowsCoach: Matthew Rice (1st year)

Last year: 11-15-1 (2nd MSL East)

Key losses: Jack Kane, Joe Coen, Emmett Dessimoz, Matt Lothery, Ryan Lane, Nate Pardini, Brandon Janowicz

Returnees: Seniors Alex Hoffman, 2B/SS; Javonte Warrener, 1B/OF. Joe Marcucci, C (Augustana); Dylan Wagner, OF/P; Cullen Gonet, 2B/SS. Juniors Jacob Johnson-Wright, OF; Luke Joyce, P/OF

Newcomers: Jordan Wiles, P/Inf; Josiah Karls, OF; Matt Walas P/Inf; Michael Patras, OF; Chris Divito, OF; Ryan King, P/OF; Brandon Zuniga, P/3B; Jackson Brigham, P/OF; Sean Budin, P/OF; Jermaine Salcedo, P; Alex Lazes, P/Inf.

Outlook: It will be a different feel in the Rolling Meadows dugout this season with the retirement of longtime coach Jim Lindeman. The Mustangs will have to look to battle this season with Augustana-bound catcher Joe Marcucci leading the way. Alex Hoffman, Javonte Warrener and Cullen Gonet should also be key contributors. Rolling Meadows will have some questions on the mound with Luke Joyce and Dylan Wagner the only returning arms. Ryan King, Brandon Zuniga, Matt Walas, Alex Lazes, Jackson Brigham, Jermaine Salcedo and Sean Budin give the Mustangs some depth. "I expect us to compete in every game," Rolling Meadows coach Matthew Rice said. "We need to be self-aware, making game-to-game adjustments, and midgame adjustments."

WheelingCoach: Jason Wieder (7th season, 78-118)

Last year: 16-15 (4th MSL East)

Key losses: Drew Roberts, Kyle Bullock, Patrick Cooney, DJ Godlewski, Josh Boesen, Cade Kaplan, Kevin Pavia, Nate Dirkes, Robby Nehrke, Tom Bradford, Jack Fink, Jack Tinsley, Billy Leslie, and Kyle Ostrowski

Returnees: Seniors Andy Shover, 1B; Jeremy Kim, SS; Eric Konrath, LF; Michael Best, RF; Junior: Cade Zalewski, 3B. Soph: Joe Jordan, P/CF.

Newcomers: Seniors Rohin Shah, 2B; Saul Tamayo, OF; Marshawn Fortner, OF; Juniors Matthew Patterson, P/C; Spencer Nowak, P/2B; Payton Neuman, 3B/DH; Will Snarski, 3B. Sophomores Ray Petzold, OF; Kenny Yoshino, 3B/DH; Chase Rosen, C/OF.

Outlook: The Wildcats are coming off their first winning season since 1989. Graduation hit the Cats hard, with 14 players, including 4-year starter Drew Roberts and 3-year starter Kyle Bullock headed off to play in college. Wheeling does return a core that can rip the ball in Andy Shover, who hit .404 last season, along with Jeremy Kim, Eric Konrath and one of the area's top athletes in Michael Best. Cade Zalewski, who will be a 3-year starter as a junior and hit .377 a year ago, also is back. The big question for Wheeling will be pitching with three underclassmen leading the way. Joe Jordan, who is a sophomore, will be the Cats' top hurler along with juniors Matthew Patterson and Spencer Nowak, who will be on varsity for the first time. "I'm confident in our starting lineup and think we can get it done with what we have," Wheeling coach Jason Wieder said. "We are a very young and inexperienced team this year so in order to improve we will need to learn and grow through early competition. This team has the potential to be very special."

MID-SUBURBAN WEST

BarringtonCoach: Pat Wire (7th season, 150-59-2)

Last year: 23-8 (1st MSL West, regional champion)

Key losses: Michael Zavoli, Tyler Acosta, David Mitchell, Jackson Medina, Johnny Gagne, Daniel Ensign, Brad Coble, Nicholas Boegarts

Returnees: Seniors Clark Elliott, IF/OF (Michigan); Max Raynor, P/OF; John Seagrist, C; Jake Ackard, OF; Matt Boyajian, P; Patrick Hoelter, P; Andrew Peters, P; Andreas Reaume, P; Xavier Rodriguez, P; Sammy Sabatello, P; Scotty Young, 3B; Tommy Sesin, Inf. Juniors RJ Nowicki, P (NIU); Nate Holler, P; AJ Christoffer, OF/C.

Newcomers: Juniors Johnny Gardner, Inf; Nick Loutos, 1B/P; Rick Kanak, P/C; Nate Gazda, Inf; Will Koehler, 1B; Nolan Smith, 3B; Luke Kozlowski, IF/P; Tommy Fitzpatrick, OF; Johnny Pecora, OF; Hayden Kraus, OF; Richie Mack, P/3B; Colin Lehmann, 1B.

Outlook: The Broncos continue to dominate the MSL West, winning or sharing the title the past six seasons. Barrington also broke through last season and won a regional title before being eliminated in the sectional title game. "Last year is over, this year is now," Barrington coach Pat Wire said. "We know the MSL schedule will be a difficult road and we look forward to the challenge it presents." Barrington will build its hopes on Michigan commit Clark Elliott, who hit .437 with a .557 slugging percentage. They also return junior pitchers RJ Nowicki, who has verbally committed to Northern Illinois, and Nate Holler. From there, the Broncos have very little game experience and will need to grow up quickly. "We are inexperienced and will need to mature and grow fast," Wire said. "With that being said, we believe this year's Barrington team has the most depth in the last six years and cannot wait to watch the future seize their moment."

ConantCoach: Derek Fivelson (4th year 82-87-1)

Last year: 18-14-1 (3rd, MSL West)

Key losses: Mason Sykes, Matt Majer, Colin Broeker, Luke Pontikis, Joe Pavletich, Tyler Hedman, Sam Ryan, Jack Reiger, Patrick Burchfield, Quinn Fitzgerald, Matt Jensen, Cole Kilty, Arturo Osoria, Dave Sapyta

Returnees: Seniors Teague Conrad, P/DH (UIC); Jon Bustamante 1B; Keegan Brandt RF/P (Dominican); Christian Seegers, SS; Carl Zilinskas P.

Newcomers: Seniors Tim Evans, OF/P; Xander Leary, OF/P; Kevin Polaski, P/3B; Brandon Ryan, P; Ryan Schar, 2B. Juniors: Nick Anzelone C/IF; Noah Hays; C/Inf; Lukas Kim, P/IF; Daniel LaRosa P/1B; Keegan O"Connor, CF; Luke Shaw, P; Jake Tsoulos, 3B/OF; Brandon LaBarbara, C. Sophomores Joe Fort, OF; Ryan Taylor C.

Outlook: Graduation was not kind to the Cougars, who lost 14 players from last year's squad. Conant did keep UIC commit Teague Conrad, who figures to be one of the top throwers in the area this season. "Other than returning Teague Conrad, our pitching staff is completely new after being loaded with seniors last year," Conant coach Derek Fivelson said. "Our new guys are going to have to step up and throw quality innings." Shortstop Christian Seegers is the only returnee that played in the field for the Cougars. Conant will also have to overcome having every practice and game on the road this season since as its field is under construction and will not be available. "I have high expectations for this group," Fivelson said. "This is a very hard working group focused on doing the right things on and off the field. As a coach, you can't not enjoy being around their work ethic."

FremdCoach: Chris Piggott (15th season, 291-228)

Last year: 15-15 (4th, MSL West)

Key losses: Tom Wingen, Luke Seidel, Ashton Statz, Kanta Nakano

Returnees: Seniors Connor Giusti, 3B/P (Oshkosh); Victor Fujiu, P; Tom Cermak, OF (Oshkosh); Austin Higgins, SS/2B (Oakland); Nick Rattin, OF;, 1B/P; Brent Swenson, INF/OF (North Central); Brett Haman, OF; Nick DiGiorlamo, P (Rock Valley); Peter Hiller, P; Will Josten, C; Will Cai, P; Alex Bischoff, P.

Newcomers: Junior: Ryan Kiolbass, C; Matt Wingen, OF; Charlie Towns, OF/ 1B/P; TJ Davis, 1B/P/ OF; Adam Davis, P.

Outlook: After being road warriors all last season, the Vikings should have a home field to practice and play on this season. And it is just in time for Fremd to make a deep run with a veteran team. This is a senior-laden squad that has a ton of experience with eight returning starters, that still managed to play .500 ball last year. Connor Giusti, Tom Cermak, Austin Higgins and Brent Swenson have signed to play baseball in college and two others will play football. Add in a pitching staff that had four hurlers getting quality innings last year and it is no wonder head coach Chris Piggott is excited. "We have a talented, experienced group with great leadership," Piggott said. "They love the game and each other and have the drive to be successful. They gained a lot of valuable experience and playing time as juniors. We expect to be near the top of the conference."

Hoffman EstatesCoach: Andrew Wulbecker (1st year)

Last year: 8-19 (6th, MSL West)

Key losses: Dylan Bloom, Jon Keller, Josh Magers, Tom Curcio, Jimmy Burks, Sam Herbert, Kurt Foy, Richie Banas, Justin Morrissey, Dakota Slingerland, Kenny Scranton.

Returnees: Seniors Jim Kliver, P/C/OF; Kyle Krogstad, OF; Adam Burks, INF; Jordan Acosta, P/OF; Logan Willis, P/OF; AJ Bertoncini, Youness Elmasbahi, Josh Kasper, Ryan Murphy. Juniors Ernesto Alverez, Robert Fernandez, Nick Lipetri, Jeremy Weidner.

Newcomers: Juniors Ben Herbert, Inf; Patrick McGrath, Michael Racis, Hayden Carlson, Inf. Sophomore Matt Grossi, Inf,

Outlook: It will be a complete rebuild for the Hawks this season. Hoffman Estates graduated 12 seniors and its entire starting rotation from last year. There will also be a new face at the helm with Andrew Wulbecker, a graduate of Hoffman, taking over as head coach. The Hawks will be looking for senior leadership to carry them this season. Jordan Acosta, Adam Burks, Jim Kliver, Kyle Krogstad, and Logan Willis are expected to make impacts. Wulbecker also expects juniors Ben Herbert, Hayden Carlson and sophomore Matt Grossi to help settle down the middle infield. "We look to 'embrace the grind' each day," Wulbecker said. "We will be facing some tough early nonconference opponents before we head to grueling MSL West matchups."

PalatineCoach: Paul Belo (16th season, 299-269)

Last year: 21-15 (2nd, MSL West)

Key losses: Evan Daly, TJ Skelnick, Jason Rivera, Brent Penrose, Matt Helms, Thomas Soby, Nick Anforth, Jack Hopper, Max Myszka, Luke Stoffel, Mike Nielsen

Returnees: Seniors Jake Andersen, C (Oshkosh); Josh Stitt, 2B (Aurora). Juniors: Josh Rivera, P; Soph: Eric Pacson, P; Jack Bentz, SS/P; Luke Seiffert, SS.

Newcomers: Seniors Shailan Rajpurkar, P/Inf; Ethan Jankovic, P. Juniors Luka Popovic, Thomas Philbin, P/Inf; Jake Holmstrom, Inf/OF; Connor Nielsen, C. Sophomores Tyler Pecson, C/OF; Jeff Heldlund, P/OF;

Outlook: Palatine is coming off its second consecutive season where the Pirates finished second in the MSL West. Palatine had significant losses to graduation but the Pirates will still have a strong core up the middle to lean on. Jake Andersen returns behind the dish after catching nearly every pitch in 2018. The Pirates also return junior Josh Rivera, who stepped up huge a year ago fanning 41 in 43 innings pitched. The Pirates will also be strong in the infield with Josh Stitt returning at second base and Luke Seiffert at short. They will also have speed in center with junior Luka Popovic covering lots of ground. "Team defense and speed are our strongest attributes," Palatine coach Paul Belo said. "We are young and inexperienced in multiple facets of the game. Position versatility is a must, if the Pirates are going to have success on the field."

SchaumburgCoach: Cal Seely (6th season, 71-100-1)

Last year: 7-21 (5th, MSL West)

Key losses: Ruan Sakamoto, Sam Phalen, Adam Kubicek, Zac Studzinski, Fred Yuen, Justin Schoefernacker, Jacob Bishop, Jack Lancaster, Nick Calip

Returnees: Seniors Vince D'Orazio, 2B; Nick DeBenedictis, Inf; Joey Fink, P; Jake Golliher; P/Inf (Aurora); Peter Kandefer, P/1B; Tyler Robinson, P/OF (Trine University); Tyler Slome, P; Joe Unger, C (Dubuque); Juniors Jack Bahn, Inf; Albert Kiszka, C/3B; Brandon Seidner, P/1B.

Newcomers: Seniors Alvaro Esparza, 3B. Juniors: Matthew Collier, 1B; Denny Davis, OF; Lucas Holbeck, OF; Kyle Jansen, OF; Nico Kolasa, 3B; Cory Leonhardt, P; Aaron Roskin, OF; Yuki Sato, OF; Ryan Walker, OF; Nathan Yoon, 3B/P. Sophomore Armen Torosian, 3B.

Outlook: Schaumburg is looking to reverse a two -year trend of losing close games and head coach Cal Seely says that this group is on its way to doing that. "We have suffered from a lack of consistent leadership," Seely said. "We have worked tremendously hard to fix our leadership problem. We believe this change in attitude and culture will be the difference this season." Seeley will lean hard on a group of seniors including Vince D'Orazio, Nick DeBenedictis, Jake Golliher, Tyler Robinson and Joe Unger to get things moving in the right direction for the Saxons. Pitching should be a strength with Golliher, Tyler Robinson and Jack Bahn. It will get even better when junior left-hander Brandon Seidner, who is getting some serious D-I looks, returns from an offseason injury. "We have high expectations this season for our club," Seely said. "We have a great program culture going on right now and the players have truly bought in."

CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTH

Maine WestCoach: Mike Randazzo (3rd year 25-35)

Last year: 13-14 (4th, CSL North)

Key losses: Matt Johnston, Cory Scholler, Matty Mustari, Rushi Dave, Matt Fairhead, Alec Paschos, Josh Wastyn, Jay Saini, Andy Ellsworth, Max Carlisle

Returnees: Seniors Justin Scholler, 2B/CF; Anthony Salemi, SS; Jacob Cabral, OF; Andrew Willett, P; Nick Hernandez. Juniors David Roscoe, 1B/OF/P; Emmett Olson, 1B/P.

Newcomers: Seniors Alex Del Real, C; Enrique Melendez, OF/P; Dylan Budnik, P; Vince Parcelli, P/Inf; Thomas Watson, 3B; Luke Rothweiler, P; Costa Paschos, 1B; Ely Grimmer, P. Junior Michael Lindenmuth, Inf/OF

Outlook: The Warriors regrouped last year after winning a regional title in the previous season. Now, with a large group of seniors along with a couple of key sophomores, Maine West coach Mike Randazzo feels his team is poised to take aim the CSL North title. "We think if everyone produces like they should, we should have a good shot at a CSL North title," Randazzo said. "We need to improve in close games. The last couple of seasons we lost a lot of close games. I think if we can close out games when we are winning, or come back late and win those one-run games, we will be on our way." Jacob Cabral, who hit .369 last season, along with Justin Scholler, who batted .321, and junior David Roscoe (. 343) should key the offense for the Warriors. Nick Hernadez, who had an ERA of .089 in 11 games pitched and Andrew Willet, who had 5 saves, should be the leaders on the mound.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC

St. ViatorCoach: Mike Manno (13th season, 249-221)

Last year: 21-17 (6th, ESCC)

Key losses: Bryce Hellgeth, Hunter Johnson, Michael Wittich, Ryan Stejskal, Jason Fitzmaurice, Jake Sinnema, Anthony Stephens, Michael Ruth, Matt Zawilenski, Ben Rizner, Cori Korab, Bryan Smith, Danny Nix, Jack Papadia, Garrett Imhoff, Kyle Wemstrom, Casey Pulikowski, Peter Beiswenger

Returnees: Seniors Casey Kmet, C/Inf (Notre Dame); Mason Gryzlo, Inf; Conor Warner, OF; Jaden Schafer, P/OF; Dan Anderson, P/Inf; Owen Bullock, P; Liam O'Neill, P; Ethan Kelly, Inf; Brendan McCafferty, P; Michael Purk, C/OF; Dan Thompson, P/OF; Nick Surdo, OF; Frank Saverino, C; Kevin Wilhite, P/Inf; Jake Pulikowski, P/Inf. Junior Jack Mahoney, P/SS (South Carolina).

Newcomers: Juniors Mike Heraty, Inf; Tim Drake, Inf; Nick Chiappetta, P/OF; Owen Hickey P/OF; Joe Brunetti, Inf; Grant Cwick, P/OF; Eric Adams, C; Brendan Callero, P. Sophomore James Gorman, Inf/OF

Outlook: With Casey Kmet, who has signed with Notre Dame, and junior Jack Mahoney, who has verbally committed to South Carolina, St. Viator has two of the top players in the Northwest suburbs. Kevin Wilhite, the last in a baseball-talented family, also saw quite of a bit of action last season but after that the squad lacks quality experience. "We are an inexperienced team that is coachable and ready to compete," St. Viator coach Mike Manno said. "Our hope is to be ready by the postseason. We always believe that we will be battled tested to face any competition." Competing in the tough ESCC, which has revamped to North and South divisions, will give the Lions an opportunity to gauge themselves throughout the year. "This team will turn heads as the season moves along," Manno said. "I really like how all 25 players have invested themselves on getting better in the offseason and believe that investment will pay off in the long run. If our inexperience catches up with our better players, we will be a dangerous team."

NORTHEASTERN ATHLETIC

Christian Liberty AcademyCoach: Jed Bennett (9th season, 70-139)

Last year: 10-18 (6th Northeastern Athletic)

Key losses: Ben Law

Returnees: Seniors David Calkins, OF; Gabe Jimenez, 1B/OF. Juniors Titus Bennett, P/Inf; Breckin Aiello, P/Inf; Ethan Oskroba, P/C; David Law; P/Inf/Of. Sophomore JD Elleson, P/OF.

Newcomers: Sophomore Darryl Longbas, Inf/OF. Freshmen Matt Gallagher, Inf/OF; John Farish, P/Inf.

Outlook: The Chargers had a better year last season than expected, despite finishing below .500. They should continue on the upswing with a talented group of juniors led by Titus Bennet, who hit .425 last year. CLA also welcomes back David Calkins, who was out nearly all last year with an injury. "Hopefully we can start the season with a little more stability defensively and help out our pitching staff," Christian Liberty coach Jed Bennett said. "We also saw a lot of averages go up towards the end of the year and hopefully that will continue as we start the new season."

WEST SUBURBAN GOLD

LeydenCoach: Rob Hamann (8th season 94-125-3)

Last year: 12-19-1 (4th, WSC Gold)

Key losses: Matt Ozanic, Johnny Augie, Nick Herrera

Returnees: Seniors Christian Tokarz, Inf; Alex Duarte, OF; Uli Hernandez, OF. Junior Jose Solis, P/Inf. Sophomore Danny Flores, P/OF.

Newcomers: Spencer Messina INF/P; Josh Aleman, INF/OF; Logan Fafinski, INF/OF; David Nunez, INF/OF; INF/OF; Maximus Gonzalez, INF/OF; Jacob Vega, INF/OF; Marco Guzman, INF/OF; Joey Borges, INF/OF; Juan Yanez, INF/OF; Charlie Martini, INF/OF; Matt Hagerstrom, INF/OF; Matt Mar, INF/OF; Daniel O'Brien, INF/OF; Jale Galanis, INF/OF; Guillermo Oliveros, INF/OF. Sophomores Cole Wilson, C/OF; Danny Determan, INF.

Outlook: The Eagles are looking for a bounce back season after slumping a year after winning their conference title. Leyden has a solid group back including Christian Tokarz, Alex Duarte, Jose Solis and Uli Hernadez, all of whom hit just under .300 last season. Sophomore Danny Flores, who struck out 45 in 45 innings pitched, should be even more dominant this season. "I am really excited to see how this team comes together," Leyden coach Rob Hamman said. "We will be starting many underclassmen, so I am looking to see them develop. When we add them to a strong upper class core, we will be very competitive. We really struggled defensively last year. So we need to make the routine plays to keep us in ballgames."

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