Prep Baseball Report

College Crosscheck: Fall Ball Week 1

David Seifert
Director of College Scouting

Fall baseball is in full swing around the country. With most Division I programs taking advantage of the additional two games the NCAA allows this time of year against outside competition, here's a few prospect notes from a couple games thus far.

Illinois vs Butler

  • After pitching a total of 8 innings during his freshman and sophomore seasons and walking 13 in the process, Illinois junior lefty Jimmy Burnette looked significantly improved with his control. He kept a 89-92 mph sinking fastball down in the zone and spun a consistent, tight, short 79-80 mph breaking ball for strikes.

  • Nathan Lavender, another Illini lefty, overpowered the Butler hitters with a riding 91-93 mph fastball during his one inning appearance. Lavender, a sophomore, should be a key bullpen piece in front of returning All-Conference senior closer Garrett Acton. Acton was his typical 90-93 mph with his downhill fastball to the bottom of the zone, complemented by a 79 mph slider.

  • Offensively, true freshman Brody Harding stole the show for Illinois. With five hits, a walk and a sac fly in seven plate appearances, he was very comfortable in the batter's box during his Orange & Blue debut showing a knack for finding the barrel with a line drive swing.

  • Another freshman bat making a strong first impression for the Illini was strong bodied corner infielder Justin Janas. In his three plate appearances Janas recorded two hits and a walk. One of the hits was a booming double to right field which scored a pair.

  • Getting the start on the bump for the Butler Bulldogs was senior right-hander Jack Pilcher. From a low 3/4 slot, his velocity was down a hair, more in the 89-91 range on this night, but his slider was lights out. With hard, sweeping bite and good depth, it was an out pitch for him, and one that will certainly play at the next level.

  • Following Pilcher to the hill were junior righties Jack Myers and Connor Schultz. During Myers two innings of work he featured an average mid-70s curveball and an upper 80s fastball. Schutlz relied on a plus sinking changeup at 80 mph, a near average 79 mph slider and a 87-88 mph sinker during his one inning appearance.

  • Leading the way in the batter's box for the Bulldogs were senior leadoff man Zach Jarosz who collected two hits in three at-bats and freshman five-hole hitter Lukas Galdoni who reached base four times with a loud two-run double to left center field, in addition to an infield single and a walk in his five plate appearances.

Western Illinois vs Illinois State

  • Newly named Western Illinois Head Coach Andy Pascoe had just one day to prepare the Leathernecks for their first fall scrimmage, and he has a few promising pieces on the mound to work with. Getting the start was senior Javin Drake. The loose-armed righty was around the zone with his 88-91 mph fastball and showed good feel to spin a tight 85 mph slider which flashed plus at times and was a consistent average to above average pitch. His poise and mound presence also stood out as he battled subpar defense at times on a wet field.

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  • Next to the hill for Western Illinois were juniors Justin Foy and Jace Warkentien, A 6-foot-3, 185 pound quick armed right-hander, Foy battled the Illinois State lineup with a 88-91 mph fastball, 76 mph curve and an 80 mph change which showed cutter-like action. The lefty Warkentien (video below) featured a power 79-80 mph curveball and upper 80s fastball while showing good arm speed out of his 6-foot, 200 pound frame.

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  • After losing three weekend starters from last season, Illinois State gave senior lefty Colton Johnson the ball to begin the 12-inning scrimmage. He was in control throughout with an easy 88-90 mph fastball which he commanded to both sides of the plate with some angle from his high three-quarter slot and cross-body landing. He also changed shapes and speeds on a 75-80 mph breaking pitch, keeping the Leathernecks off balance during his three-inning start.

  • The Redbirds top hitting prospect for the 2020 draft is infielder Joe Butler. He went under the radar last season when he led all MVC hitters in conference batting average (.438 in 23 games). Defensively, he looks to be sliding over to shortstop from the hot corner that he occupied last season. His plus arm and athletic feet (plus runner in the 60-yard) should help with this transition.

  • An impressive trio of freshmen took the field for the Redbirds. Outfielder Tanner Peterson bears a strong resemblance to 2019 5th rounder John Rave with his wiry strong frame, plus speed and good present strength in the batter's box. Lefty Trey Krause repeated a deceptive, swing/miss low-70s curveball with a 85-88 mph fastball. Krause has the talent and present pitchability to make an immediate impact on the mound. A 6-foot-1, 205 pound third baseman, Ryan Cermak also has the look of immediate impact. Strong and comfortable in the batter's box, Cermak just missed a home run in his first at-bat, hooking a long fly ball just foul down the left field line. He would later add a pair of hits on the day, while running a 4.24 on a 5-3 groundout.


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