Prep Baseball Report

IHSA 4A State Playoffs: Preview Story

By: Maddox Durst

The IHSA Class 4A semifinals begin on Friday at Duly Health & Care Field in Joliet, Ill. The semifinals will begin at 3:00 p.m. with a matchup between Brother Rice and Edwardsville. The second matchup starts at approximately 5:00 p.m., and features Mundelein and McHenry. 

On Saturday, the third place game is scheduled for 3:00 p.m., and the championship matchup will begin at approximately 5:30 p.m. 

Below you’ll find a quick preview of the four teams battling for the 4A state championship. 


Brother Rice arguably brings in one of the best high school baseball teams in the Midwest to Joliet, Ill this weekend. We saw the Crusaders play at the PBR National HS Select games in March, where they took down some of the top teams in the nation, including IMG Academy and Montverde Academy. They eventually kept that momentum for the rest of the regular season, and into the playoffs. 

In his third year at Brother Rice, head coach Sean McBride is making his first state appearance in his career. The Crusaders are making their program’s first appearance at state since the 2007 season. In 2021 the Crusaders were one win away from the big dance, ultimately losing to eventual 4A State Champions, Plainfield East, in the Super-Sectional.

On the mound, two future B1G Ten pitchers will be making appearances this weekend. RHP Cole Van Assen (2023; Purdue commit) and LHP Dylan Warda (2022; Indiana) have been the aces on the Crusader pitching staff. They’ve combined to go 23-1, having thrown 134 innings, and striking out 153 batters. RHP Casey Giemzik (2024) has also thrown quality innings for the Crusaders. In 40 innings, he had a 3.50 ERA and a 4-1 record. Despite a small sample size, RHP Jake Fenton (2022) is 3-0 on the season and has a 1.65 ERA in 17 innings of work. The pitching staff has quieted multiple lineups in the playoffs, including one shutout. 

At the plate, the Crusaders bring in multiple hitters who have had successful seasons. C Zion Rose (2023; Louisville), who we saw play in early May, leads the Crusaders in a majority of the offensive categories, including an impressive .489 batting average. SS Christian Holmes (2022) led the team in RBIs with 42. He also tied Rose with 12 doubles on the season. OF Jack Lausch (2022; Northwestern) had the most long balls on the team with five, and he hit .388 this season as well. Do not be surprised if you see Lausch jump on the mound at some point this weekend as well. We saw him come out of the bullpen late in the year, sitting at 87 mph with his fastball while mixing in an above-average breaking ball.

Other key cogs in the lineup include 1B Amir Gray (2023; Purdue), 3B Will Flanigan (2022), and C/OF Bryce Nevils (2023). Each has hit over .320 on the season, and rounds out a very strong Brother Rice lineup that has outscored their playoff opponents 35-6 in five games.

The Crusaders will use their big name pitchers and hot bats to try and win their first state title since 1976. 


The Tigers and long-time head coach Tim Funkhouser are no strangers to the IHSA Class 4A State Tournament. This year will mark the 17th time the Tigers’ program has made a state appearance, and the fourth time under Funkhouser. 

The 2019 champions once again had another successful season, as they enter the state tournament with a 32-4 record, following a 31-3 record they had last season.

A large part of the success has come from two-way player 3B/RHP Spencer Stearns (2022). At the plate, he leads the team in hits, RBIs, extra base hits, and batting average. He hit .465 this Spring, and hit a team leading eight home runs during the season. On the mound, Stearns has dominated as well, as he comes into the state tournament with an 11-0 record and 0.79 ERA. He has only allowed seven earned runs this season, and looks to continue to do the same this weekend. 

1B Riley Iffrig (2023; Indiana State), OF Caeleb Copeland (2023), and OF Grant Huebner (2022; St. Charles CC) have all hit over .400 this season for the Tigers. Iffrig is the number one ranked first basemen in the class of 2023, and both him and Huebner were former PBR Future Games participants. These three will be hitters to look out for in the Tigers’ lineup this weekend. 

As for the pitching staff, along with Stearns, RHP Gannon Burns (2022; Saint Xavier) has been a key starting pitcher for Edwardsville. He threw 52 innings this season, and had an impressive 8-1 record. In the back end of the bullpen, RHP Alec Marchetto (2024), LHP Logan Geggus (2023), and RHP Joseph Chiarodo (2025) have all thrown important relief innings for the Tigers. Each picher is young, so this group will still be intact for a few more years to come. This pitching staff hasn’t allowed over four runs in the playoffs so far. 

The Tigers will bring some experience and youth to the state tournament this weekend, making them a dangerous team with a bright future. 

MCHENRY (30-8) 

McHenry got off to an uneven start in regular season play at the beginning of April, where they went 2-4 in their first six games. They were able to raise the level of their play for the rest of the season though, as they went 23-4 the rest of the way. Despite past success, this will be the first time that head coach Brian Rockweiler and the Warriors’ program will be making a state tournament appearance. 

The offensive attack for the Warriors is led by C Connor Rodgers (2022; Carroll University) and SS/RHP Kyle Kaempf (2022; Missouri Southern), who come into the state tournament with batting averages of .412 and .361 respectively. Rodgers leads the team in hits and Kaempf has the most runs scored on the team with 40, nine more than the next highest player. 

Additionally, OF Eddie Synek (2022; Carroll University), 2B Cooper Cohn (2023), and OF Logan Wirtz (2022) round out a strong lineup for the Warriors. Synek led the team with 40 RBIs and will be a middle of the order bat to watch out for in Joliet this weekend. Cohn and Wirtz have been consistent bats in the McHenry lineup, as Cohn is one of two players with five home runs, and Wirtz has played in all 38 games. 

The Warriors have three pitchers who have thrown over 40 innings for them in the season, and were able to keep their ERA’s under two. Kaempf, who we saw pitch at a sectional matchup against Hononegah a week ago, finished the season with a 1.37 ERA and a 5-0 record, and leads the team with 69 strikeouts. RHP Gavin Micklinghoff (2022; Carroll University) added a 1.33 ERA in 42 innings of work, while striking out 64 and only walking 16. Thirdly, LHP Lleyton Grubich (2023) has thrown the most innings for McHenry this season, and had a successful showing at a PBR Illinois event in February. Grubich twirled a complete game with 10 strikeouts in the Sectional Final to get past a highly-talented Huntley squad. 

The combination of a strong pitching staff and powerful lineup will be key to McHenry making a run in their first ever IHSA Class 4A State Tournament. 


Despite losing two games at the end of their regular season, the Mustangs returned to normal form in the playoffs. Mundelein has had just enough offense to get them through the five games, where they’ve only outscored teams 16-7. 

This IHSA Class 4A State Tournament run is the first under head coach Randy Lerner, and the first for the Mundelein program since 2016. The Mustangs will try to win their first championship, as they’ve come up short in their previous three attempts. 

Mundelein’s pitching staff only allowed two runs in the three games leading into the State Finals. A large part of the low scoring is because of the performances of RHP Ryan Geraghty (2023; Wichita State), who we saw face McHenry in early April. Geraghty threw 59 innings this season, struck out 110, had a 1.19 ERA, and only walked 15 batters. Additionally, RHP Bennett Musser (2023) has been a quality starting pitcher for the Mustangs. He enters the state tournament with a 1.57 ERA in 49 innings of work. Both pitchers are still only in their junior season, making them a threat for the 2023 season as well. 

The pitching staff will also bring in RHP Caden Morton (2022), RHP Chris Callas (2022), and RHP Zach Johnson (2023). Each pitcher will be important in the back end of the Mustang bullpen, as they have taken on a majority of the innings after Geraghty and Musser. 

The Mustang offense also features a couple of big names. One of those names is 1B Daniel Pacella (2022; Illinois State), who is ranked as the No. 12 2022 in the state. Pacella, who features some of the best raw power in the class, hit .354 on the season, and had a total of 23 extra base hits, eight of which were home runs. One of those home runs came against McHenry earlier in the season. 3B Tommy Stricklin (2022; Iowa Western CC) also had a quality season at the plate, where he hit .340 and had 30 hits. Similarly, OF Drew Wellington (2022; Eastern Illinois) led the team in hits with 36, and had the highest batting average amongst the starters at .371. These three offensive leaders will be key to the success of Mundelein this weekend. 

The Mustangs already defeated McHenry this season 4-0, at the beginning of April. Mundelein will try to use the combination of Geraghty and Pacella again to take down McHenry for a second time on Friday.