Prep Baseball Report

3A IHSA State Finals Preview

By: Diego Solares
Area Scout, Illinois & Missouri

The field is set for the 3A IHSA state playoffs, held this Friday and Saturday at Duly Health & Care Field in Joliet, Illinois. 

This year’s ‘Final Four’ will feature Effingham, Grayslake Central, Nazareth Academy, and Sycamore, with those four clubs making the trip with a state championship on their minds. 

It all starts on Friday at 10:00 AM, with Grayslake Central squaring off against Effingham, followed by Nazareth Academy and Sycamore at around 12:00 PM. Saturday’s third-place game will take place at 9:00 AM, with the championship set to follow. 

We’ll have extensive coverage of these games, as well as the 4A playoffs happening simultaneously, this weekend on our Twitter, @PBRIllinois.

Below, you’ll learn more about this field of teams that’ll be battling it out for this year’s state championship. 


The Flaming Hearts are in the state playoffs for the first time since 1942, doing so largely in part to a talented group of upperclassmen that have propelled them to this spot. To get here, Effingham took down Charleston and Marion in their regional, then navigated their way through a tough sectional, besting both Triad and Mt. Vernon. They blanked Champaign Central in the Super-Sectional and, as a whole, didn’t allow a team to score more than three runs on them in any of their playoff games.

Senior Jack Harper (2023; SWIC) has been the leader of this offense, pacing the Flaming Hearts in both hits (45) and batting average (.417). He’s doubled nine times on the year and homered too, doing all of this while playing up the middle and also pitching on occasion. Behind Harper is Quest Hull (2023; Jefferson JC), who’s a physical left-handed stick that’s driven in a team-high 27 runs this spring with 13 extra-base hits, including five home runs, and a .330 batting average. Camden Raddatz (2024), Myles Maxedon (2023), Kaiden Nichols (2024), and Kaden Koeberlein (2025) are four more regular contributors to know on this squad.

Effingham’s strength lies on the mound, however, where the Flaming Hearts have one of the premier pitchers in the state, regardless of classification. Josh McDevitt (2023; Mizzou) has been nothing short of an ace for Effingham, punching out 126 batters over 72 innings with a 0.68 ERA to pair. They’ll have an advantage on the mound each time he toes the rubber, and there’s talented depth behind him, too. The aforementioned Nichols can really pitch, boasting a 3.02 ERA in 58 innings on the hill with 68 punchouts. Koeberlein has logged a reliable 32 innings on his own, and Harper, though used sparingly, can be a weapon in relief, too.


Grayslake Central has been fairly familiar with success throughout head coach Troy Whalen’s 20-year tenure at the helm. They’ve been to these state playoffs three times in that span, and haven’t lost more than eight games in each of the last five seasons. For three years in a row, Grayslake Central has eclipsed the 30-win mark, and the Rams now find themselves in Joliet for the first time since 2014.

This Rams’ squad is upperclass heavy and a large chunk of their production at the plate stems from their senior group. Jack Gerbasi (2023) leads the team in hits (36) and batting average (.409) to go along with 10 extra-base hits, including three home runs. Chris Rogers (2023; Lindenwood) and Garrett Guenther (2023; Central College) each drove in 31 runs and they’re both batting over .340, too. Adam Fitzgerald (2023) brings a .344 batting average and 28 RBIs of his own to the table, and all three of Sam Cooper (2023), Luke Mudd (2023), and Riley Policht (2023) are batting over .300 with regular at-bats.

On the mound, the Rams have three arms that have each thrown more than 35 innings this spring and enjoyed plenty of success doing so. Will Schufreider (2023; College of Lake County) leads the way with 51 innings, pitching to a 1.92 ERA with 63 strikeouts and an 8-2 record to pair. Rogers has fanned 59 in 42 frames for Grayslake Central, posting a 1.33 ERA with just 26 hits allowed. Then there’s Colin Kornit (2023), who’s appeared in 17 games and logged a 2.08 ERA in 37 innings on the hill, punching out 57 with a 6-1 record. Nolan Mussay (2023), Zack Antonucci (2023), and Fikret Durmus (2023) all add more depth to this pitching staff.


The reigning 3A state champions are back in Joliet after yet another successful season, brought back by a core group of players that propelled them to last year’s title. It’s the Roadrunners’ sixth trip to the state tournament under head coach Lee Milano since 2011, returning in emphatic fashion, outscoring their opposition 53-3 thus far in these playoffs.

Nazareth’s offense is relentless and a majority of their at-bats are compiled from players that were on last year’s title team. Sophomore Jaden Fauske (2025; Louisville) leads the way in multiple offensive categories, including hits (55), batting average (.487), RBIs (38), and tying the team lead in extra-base hits (21). Nick Drtina (2024; Louisville) and Lucas Smith (2023; Illinois-Chicago) each batted over .400 in 90+ at-bats, and they both doubled 10+ times, with Smith totaling 21 extra-base hits. David Cox (2024; Northwestern) and Luca Fiore (2024) each batted .396, driving in 28+ runs apiece, while Cox homered three times with 14 total extra-base hits. While he did miss some time, Cooper Malamazian (2024; Indiana) has scorched the baseball all spring, hitting .569 in 65 at-bats with nine doubles, three triples, and five home runs. Cole Reifsteck (2024), Collin Roche (2025), and Landon Thome (2026) all batted above .330, too.

The talent on this Roadrunners’ squad translates to the mound, where Nazareth has a litany of arms at their disposal to trot out in any given game. Finn O’Meara (2023; DePauw) leads the staff with 39 total innings, pitching to a 1.62 ERA with 76 strikeouts. John Hughes (2024; North Carolina) has been nails, allowing just two earned runs (0.48 ERA) in 29 innings on the bump, striking out 39 while walking just nine. Aside from his offensive dominant, Fauske has been excellent on the mound too, hurling 31 innings with a 0.45 ERA and 47 strikeouts. Cox is another dynamic arm on this team, fanning 43 across 26 frames, posting a 1.08 ERA. Fiore and Malamazian are two more talented arms that coach Milano can trot out to the mound as well.


Sycamore’s success started last spring when the Spartans finished with a 28-6 record and just shy of the state playoffs. They made it over the hump this year, appearing in the state playoffs for the first time in program history and bringing a 32-5 record to Joliet on Friday. They’ve scored 37 runs in their five playoff games to get here, tossing two shutouts and allowing just eight runs in total.

Tommy Townsend (2023; Butler), Jimmy Amptmann (2023; Heartland CC), and Kyle Hartmann (2024) make up the core of a Spartans’ lineup that has plenty of thump to it. The left-handed hitting Townsend has swatted eight home runs this spring, doubling 12 times as well, and he’s batting .360 with a team-high 43 RBIs. Amptmann and Hartmann each have seven home runs and nine doubles. The former is batting .402 with 31 RBIs, while the latter adds a .382 batting average and 36 RBIs to this offense. Kiefer Tarnoki (2023; Lake Land JC) has a .422 batting average in 116 at-bats, and his 47 runs scored are tied for the team-high with Collin Severson (2024), who’s batting .425 in 87 at-bats. Hunter Britz (2023; Oakland City), Owen Piazza (2023; Aurora), Joey Puleo (2023), and Matthew Rosado (2024) deepen this lineup even more so with all of them having strong seasons at the plate.

The Spartans have plenty of depth on the mound, too. Amptmann is the anchor of this staff, pitching to a 1.46 ERA over 48 innings of work while striking out 78 with a 9-0 record. Rosado has allowed just two earned runs (0.44 ERA) and 10 hits in his 32 innings on the hill, punching out 41, and Piazza recently helped pitch them to a Super-Sectional win, entering the state playoffs with a 7-0 record and 2.26 ERA in 34 innings. Townsend, Teague Hallahan (2024), Conner Williar (2023; Rock Valley JC), and Lucas Winburn (2023; Kaskaskia JC) all threw well in 20+ innings of work this spring.