Scouting Fox baseball
High school baseball in the Fox Valley area should be compelling as ever once it gets going.
St. Charles North has reloaded. The 2019 Class 4A runner-up returns shortstop/closer Nick DeMarco (Notre Dame). He was named all-state as a sophomore after hitting .361 with 36 RBI.
DeMarco is joined by senior multisport athlete Ryan Thiesse (Fordham). Back to lead the rotation is senior Johnny Lambert (6-0).
Rival St. Charles East will likewise be a force in the DuKane Conference, led by UIC-bound twins Cole Conn (.375, 13 doubles 4 home runs) and Clay Conn (.330 and scored 33 runs) both three-year starters. The Saints boast the area's top power hitter in junior Kyle Hayes. He smoked 9 home runs and drove in 24 runs last season despite teams pitching around him.
Geneva was the Phil Lawler Classic state runner-up last summer. Ace Jonah Hays was virtually untouchable. He leads a strike-throwing staff handled by returning junior catcher Joey Maynard.
Batavia retools after graduating seven senior starters. Pitcher Drew Iutzwig, a healthy Quinn Urwiler and talented outfielder Alex Skupa lead a team counting on several promising newcomers.
The always deep Fox Valley Conference should be a wide-open race.
Hampshire returns shortstop Gavin Kriegel from a Class 4A Final Four team. He batted .384 with 4 homers and 31 RBI as a junior. Infielder/outfielder John Brady Young contributed as a sophomore. The Whip-Purs will otherwise rely on young arms, including juniors Benjamin Benoit and Dylan Petrey.
Jacobs advanced to the final eight in the Phil Lawler Classic last summer. Coach Jamie Murray said this is a deep team. The Golden Eagles return 19 players with varsity experience, led by Bryan Belo (.368) and Andrew Balkcom (2.93 ERA).
Cary-Grove returns some talent from the 2019 sectional final team: seniors Ryan Weaver (.330), Bobby Jannusch (.321) and lightning-quick Dymitri Kanellakis (.316). Ace Jack Wenninger went 6-3 with a 1.62 ERA in 52 innings.
Reconfigured Huntley graduated 13 seniors from a team that lost to first round MLB draft pick Quinn Priester in a sectional semifinal. Hall of Fame coach Andy Jakubowski and a revamped lineup led by senior infielder Evan Tocmo will try to manufacture runs for a rotation headed by Jimmy Fairley (1.81 ERA, 31 IP).
Burlington Central seniors Cody Carlson (Whitewater) and Brenden Rindhage (Concordia) are among four returning position players. The Rockets will need some inexperienced arms to step up in Fox Valley Conference play behind Andrew Knowlton (3-3, 2.81).
Coach Patrick Conlin takes over at Dundee-Crown. He was previously a varsity assistant at Stevenson and a sophomore assistant at Lake Zurich. Conlin can pencil in the name Nick Gregory at the top of the rotation and the middle of the batting order. Shortstop David Guzman also returns.
Seniors Jacob Bimbi and Dom Guzman are back to lead a Crystal Lake South pitching staff that should allow the Gators to contend yet again. CL South won 24 games last season.
Upstate Eight champion South Elgin undergoes a full reboot. Sixteen varsity and JV players graduated from a 25-6 team. Center fielder Grayson Downing is the lone experienced position player back.
New Bartlett coach Christopher Baum said the Hawks will try to win with pitching and defense. Juniors Nathan Gargano, Nick Kantzavelos and Nathan Euliano lead a deep, young pitching staff.
New Streamwood coach Dan Jennings was the pitching coach at Huntley for eight seasons under Andy Jakubowski. Jennings inherits four proven hitters and top arm Tyler Jones from a 19-win team.
Tyshon Erdman is the only senior starter returning for Larkin. Coach Niko Morado said this will be an instructional year for his extremely young team.
West Aurora should contend in the Southwest Prairie West, thanks to strong pitching and a veteran middle infield. The Blackhawks return senior starting pitchers Logan Mont, Justin Zimmerman and Jake Smith. They went 14-5 combined.
Marmion has a ton of young talent in the pipeline. Coach Frank Chapman might start three freshmen and four sophomores, including returning infielder and pitcher Jack Zebig. Senior Tony Mele and junior Cole Green are the only Cadets with varsity experience.
Aurora Central Catholic returns seven starters and multiple starting pitchers from a team that went 23-12 last season. Seniors Chris Cartwright (.465) and Tom Musuras (.312) wield active bats.
Fox Valley baseball at a glance
Top players: Alijah Acevedo, sr., Kaneland; Max Alanis, sr., Streamwood; Adam Bendoraitis, sr. Batavia; Benjamin Benoit, jr., Hampshire; Brandon Besch, sr., Huntley; Jacob Bimbi, sr., Crystal Lake South; Sam Bonick, sr., Harvest Christian; Kyler Brown, sr., St. Charles North; Cody Carlson, sr., Burlington Central; Dylan Caruso, sr., Streamwood; Chris Cartwright, sr., Aurora Central Catholic; Javier Cervantes, so., Larkin; Clay Conn, sr., St. Charles East; Cole Conn, sr., St. Charles East; Nick DeMarco, jr., St. Charles North; Grayson Downing, sr., South Elgin; Gil Duran, sr., Harvest Christian; Matt Ellett, jr., Harvest Christian; Mike Elliott, sr., Aurora Central Catholic; Tyshon Erdman, sr, Larkin; Ethan Estes, sr., Cary-Grove; Nathan Euliano, jr., Bartlett; Jimmy Fairley, sr., Huntley; Nathan Gargano, jr., Bartlett; Tommy Giese, jr., Huntley; Dom Guzman, sr., Crystal Lake South; David Guzman, sr., Dundee-Crown; Nick Gregory, sr., Dundee-Crown; Cole Green, jr., Marmion; Darrin Hartkopp, sr., West Aurora; Kyle Hayes, jr., St. Charles East; Nathan Hayes, so., St. Charles East; Jonah Hays, sr., Geneva; Drew Iutzwig, sr., Batavia; Bobby Jannusch, jr., Cary-Grove; Andrew Jimenez, sr., St. Charles North; Tyler Jones, sr., Streamwood; Dymitri Kanellakis, sr., Cary-Grove; Nick Kantzavelos, jr., Bartlett; Zach Kempe, jr., St. Charles North; Mike Klazura, sr., Geneva; Mason Kottmeyer, sr., Kaneland; Gavin Kriegel, sr., Hampshire; Jake Kuntzendorf, sr., Aurora Christian; Dan Kuttner, sr., Aurora Central Catholic; Andrew Knowlton, sr., Burlington Central; John Lambert, sr., St. Charles North; Matt Lewandowski, sr., Bartlett; Jake Lyon, sr., Huntley; Jeff Mamrot, sr., St. Edward; Joey Maynard, jr., Geneva; Jack McMahon, jr., Harvest Christian; Grant Meador, sr., St. Charles East; Tony Mele, sr., Marmion; Logan Mont, sr., West Aurora; Tom Musuras, sr., Aurora Central Catholic; Blake Oliver, sr., Bartlett; Sebastian Oquendo, sr., St. Edward; Jon Palmer, sr., Elgin; Joey Pantano, sr., Geneva; Dylan Petrey, jr., Hampshire; Graham Rackow, sr., West Aurora; Brenden Rindhage, sr., Burlington Central; Christian Rodriguez, sr., Elgin Academy; Ethan Rodriguez, sr., Burlington Central; Mikey Rogers, sr., Kaneland; Joe Sacco, jr., St. Edward; Tristan Samuelian, jr., Burlington Central; Nick Schumann, sr., St. Charles East; Kyler Scroggins, sr., West Aurora; Tommy Shaw, sr., Kaneland; Dakylo Sikora, sr., Elgin; Alex Skupa, sr., Batavia; Jake Smith, sr., West Aurora; Bryce Stair, sr., Kaneland; Drew Stengren, sr., Cary-Grove; Ryan Stempowski, sr., Geneva; Ryan Thiesse, sr., St. Charles North; Jack Thompson, sr., Cary-Grove; Drew Tilche, sr., St. Edward; Evan Tocmo, sr., Huntley; Marco Torres, jr., St. Charles North; Quinn Urwiler, sr., Batavia; Ryan Weaver, sr., Cary-Grove; Jack Wenninger, sr., Cary-Grove; Kevin White, jr., St. Charles North; John Brady Young, jr., Hampshire; Jack Zebig, so. Marmion; Justin Zimmerman, sr., West Aurora.
Season skinny: Class 2A and Class 1A baseball shines in the Fox Valley area There might not be a better pitcher in Illinois than Aurora Christian senior Jake Kuntzendorf (8-2, 1.82 ERA, 107 K, 15 BB, 57.2 IP). Committed to Purdue since his sophomore year, the powerful right-hander has led the Eagles to state trophies the last two seasons. However, the Eagles graduated most of the top hitters from the team that placed third in 2A last June ... Harvest Christian Academy returns seven starters from a team that finished fourth in Class 1A. The Lions bump up to Class 2A this season due to the IHSA success factor. They are led by senior Gil Duran (.425) and senior Sam Bonick (6-1, 1.92 ERA) ... St. Edward returns all-area pitcher Drew Tilche (1.55 ERA, 61 K, 49⅔ IP) and senior Jeff Mamrot (.321) from a squad that finished 16-17. Coach Mike Rolando said the goal is 20 wins and the first regional title in 10 seasons ... Elgin Academy has won four straight regional titles. The Hilltoppers begin the drive for five behind all-state pitcher/infielder Christian Rodriguez and four first-team all-Independent School League picks ... Sadly, Westminster Christian will not have a baseball team this spring. The Warriors only had six players interested in playing. The IHSA denied the Elgin school's request to form a Co-op team with nearby Harvest Christian Academy. Westminster Christian won the Class 1A state title in 2010.