Class 4A State Final Four Preview
June 7, 2018
Tomorrow, Friday, June 8, the class 3A and 4A State semifinals will begin. The 4A semifinals’ first game will take place at 3 p.m. between Lake Park and Huntley at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet. The second 4A semifinal will take place once game one is finalized, at approximately 5 p.m., between Plainfield North and Sandburg.
The third-place game is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday and the title game will follow it, beginning roughly at 5 p.m.
You can visit IHSA’s official tournament page for more information.
CLASS 4A STATE SEMIFINAL ONE – FRIDAY, 3 P.M.
Lake Park (24-14) vs. Huntley (32-6)
Lake Park Lancers: At the end of April, Lake Park was scuffling, struggling to find its identity. They entered the month of May on a five-game losing streak and have lost just four time since.
Whatever the Lancers discovered and adjusted, it’s worked wonders. Lake Park didn’t just go on a great run, they’ve been convincing ever since the calendar turned to May. They beat Neuqua Valley, ranked No. 1 at the time on our Power 25, in back-to-back days. They also defeated a ranked Plainfield East team, too. Once the playoffs began, their pitching settled in, and they were able to sneak past their Sectional’s No. 1-ranked squad, St. Charles North, in the Regional finals. They made it through all the way to State ranked No. 8 in the Bartlett Sectional, an extraordinary achievement for head coach Dan Collucci, who’s patrolled the Roselle-area high school’s dugout for two decades now.
Ryan Behling (North Central College commit) and Jay Palmer (Elmhurst College) have been the staff’s anchors. Lake Park’s offense has yet to score more than six runs in a playoff game but, conversely, their rotation has yet to allow more than four runs, and even then that came in the opening round against Geneva. Marmion scored two, Willowbrook was shut out, and Buffalo Grove scored just one on Monday. So the likes of Behling, Palmer, and Monday’s Super-Sectional starter A.J. Dallman, have been the difference-makers for the Lancers this spring. Behling has the lower ERA (1.74) while Palmer leads them team in strikeouts (82). Dallman has only pitched 34.1 innings this year, but he’s made them count, maintaining a 1.22 ERA, a team-low. His herculean complete game effort against Buffalo Grove is why they’re here in the first place.
On offense, Zach Aehlert (Belmont Abbey College) has been the Lancers’ catalyst. He has a .445 batting average and has slugged 11 home runs this spring, both team-highs. Paul Beverly and Anthony DeConcilis (Illinois-Springfield) are handy reinforcements for this offense to have, but still, they’ve gotten this far because of their run-suffocating staff.
Given their ability to knock out some serious heavyweights, there’s plenty of reason to think that Lake Park just lets this fairytale ride to State championship.
Huntley Red Raiders: For the second straight year, a member of the Fox Valley Conference is headed to State. Last year’s rep, Crystal Lake South, won the whole thing and Huntley is looking for its first-ever State title, too. They were one of the two McHenry Sectional No. 1 seeds, so their path to this point was a little more predictable than their Friday afternoon opponents.
Their schedule is a little lighter than the rest of the competition in the 4A State scene, but Huntley has still made the most of it with their 32-6 record – their best mark under head coach Andy Jakubowski, who’s been at the helm of this team for the last 13 years.
Apart from an extra-inning close call against McHenry in the Sectional semis, the Red Raiders have mostly throttled their opposition in the postseason. They beat a couple quality squads handily in the last two rounds, Barrington and Loyola Academy, to get here.
Like Lake Park, Huntleys strength lies in its rotation. Seniors Kyle Morgan (McHenry County JC) and Nick Laxner (Miami, OH) provide an enviable one-two punch at the top of this staff. They’ll likely be the ones getting the work on Friday. The lefty Morgan has a sub-1.00 ERA this spring and has struck out 77 batters in 64 innings in 2018, mostly with his finesse approach, yielding lots of weak contact. Laxner has 52 Ks in 52 innings and attacks batters with a unique low ¾ arm slot and it’s made him an effective arm for Jakubowski to lean on.
On offense, the Red Raiders are solid one through nine in the order. There are no weak spots. In these playoffs, Matt Rodriguez has been one of the most clutch bats in the lineup, as evidenced by his cycle in Monday’s Super-Sectional. Otherwise Kamrin Hoffman (Benedictine), Jordan Goldstein (Dubuque), and Michael Talesky are all capable of pushing each other around the bases to score just enough runs for this pitching staff to settle in with a lead intact.
Their surgical 8-4 win over a talented Loyola team on Monday was a perfect example of how Huntley’s been able to make it this far. They out-hit the Ramblers 11-4 and didn’t even have to use Morgan or Laxner to achieve the win. Now that those two arms are fresh and rested, Huntley might have the edge in tomorrow’s contest.
CLASS 4A STATE SEMIFINAL TWO – FRIDAY, 5 P.M.
Plainfield North (27-7-1) vs. Sandburg (28-6)
Plainfield North Tigers: The Tigers have been one of the top programs in the state over the last handful of years and this year’s squad may be the most talented of all. Plainfield North is back at state once again after finishing fourth place in 2016. This year’s club has been a mainstay in the top 10 of the Power 25 throughout the season. The Tigers also got hot at the right time going 20-3-1 over their final 24 games.
After a couple of close games in the Plainfield North Regional the Tigers throttled the competition in the Hinsdale South Sectional. The Tigers knocked off No. 14 Plainfield East 14-4 and then took down No. 2 Neuqua 11-3. In the Super-Sectional the Tigers jumped out to an early lead over Brother Rice and held on to a 7-3 win, punching their ticket to state.
When looking at the roster, coach John Darlington has a well-balanced club that does a lot of things well. The pitching staff is as deep as any in the state and is headlined by senior Brady Miller, a Western Michigan commit. Miller is 9-1 with a 1.47 ERA. In 57 innings he has allowed 40 hits, 12 earned runs, walked 18 and struck out 62. Behind Miller, there are a number of quality choices with seniors Keegan Bates, Nicolas Cerrato, juniors Cameron Kissel, Nate Curtis, Harrison Pfeifer, Dylan Szajkovics and sophomore Eben Heine. The highest ERA of any pitcher who has logged more than 20 innings for the Tigers is 3.04.
Offensively, the Tigers have six guys with more than 80 at-bats on the season who are hitting over .320. Kissel, a junior outfielder, leads the way in batting average at .414. Kissel also has 11 doubles, six home runs, 29 RBI and 28 runs scored. Behind Kissel is Western Michigan recruit and SS Gavin Doyle. Doyle is hitting .394 with 10 doubles, five triples, seven home runs, 39 RBI and 27 runs scored. Miller also can more than handle the bat. The physical right-handed hitter is hitting .324 with nine doubles, three home runs, 30 RBI and 29 runs scored. Greg Budig (.380), Calvin Cangilla (.378), Garret Cook (.357), Sean Tillmon (.345) and others round out a potent offense.
Their matchup with Sandburg in the Semi-finals, which will be the nightcap on Friday, is one of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend.
Sandburg Eagles: Coach Jim Morsovillo’s club has been one of the most consistent 4A teams throughout the season and is currently ranked No. 4 in the Power 25. The Eagles have only lost three times since April 10th and play one of the toughest schedules in the state. Sandburg went a combined 6-0 playing some of the best competition in the Midwest at the “PBR Midwest Select” and the “Bajenski Tournament” this spring.
The Eagles are led offensively and defensively by SS Branden Comia (Illinois commit) and C Ryan Hampe (Illinois-Chicago commit). Comia is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the state and hit .417 on the spring with eight doubles, a triple and six home runs. Comia also knocked in 29 and scored 39 runs. Hampe hits in the three hole and has put up gaudy offensive stats so far. Hampe is currently hitting .425 with 19 doubles, six home runs and 35 RBI. Junior Tommy Windt leads off and is hitting .311 with nine doubles, a triple and a home run. Lewis commit, Andrew Tenison adds some more danger in the middle of the order. The physical left-handed hitter is hitting .315 with seven doubles, a triple and three home runs. Seth Masters plays first base when he is not on the mound. Masters, a left-handed pitcher started and got the win on the mound in the 3-0 Super-Sectional win over No. 1 O’Fallon. Masters is 3-0 on the year with a 1.86 ERA.
Like Plainfield North, the Eagles have a number of arms they can lean on. Seven arms have thrown over 15 innings on the mound this spring. Erik Herold is 5-0 with a 0.85 ERA. Windt is 6-0 with a 1.26 ERA. Tenison and Comia are two of the Eagles top relievers. Tenison is 4-0 with a 0.33 ERA. In 21 innings he has struck out 24 and only walked four. Comia is 1-0 with a 0.88 ERA. In his 16 inning of work Comia has struck out 26. Evan Tenuta, a Notre Dame commit, is 5-3 and in 42.2 innings he has struck out 47.