Prep Baseball Report

Illinois State Games: Quick Hits, Day 1

By Illinois Staff

Welcome to Quick Hits, a compilation of daily highlights captured at our inaugural PBR Illinois State Games tournament, hosted at the brand-new Rantoul Family Sports Complex in Rantoul, Ill. Following each gameday, we’ll publish the top performances that we witnessed the day prior, so continue on below to learn more about the best of yesterday’s games.

You can follow along with our coverage live by following us at @PBRIllinois on Twitter.


+ Rhino Baseball 15U defeated Champaign Dream 17U Immke, 5-1. RHP David Zaragoza (Lockport Township, 2022; uncommitted) pitched 4.1 innings and struck out six, featuring a low-80s fastball, up to an 84 mph high, as well as a sharp slider in the low-70s. The offense was powered by a grand slam by C/OF Andrew Coats (Normal West, 2022; uncommitted), as well as an RBI single by OF Jake Collins (Lockport Township, 2022; uncommitted). RHP Jack Buckalew pitched six innings for Champaign Dream, also featuring a fastball with a bit of run in a range of 82-84 mph. He also mixed in both sliders and curveballs in the low-70s, and flashed solid command of all three pitches. INF Taylor Voorhees (St. Joseph-Ogden, 2023) gave Champaign Dream their only run of the game with a solo shot.

+ Illinois Braves’ 16U squad defeated Yard Goats, 6-1, behind INF/RHP Gavin Parkerson (Armstrong, 2023; uncommitted), who led the Braves by throwing four strong innings and he struck out nine while allowing only one run. Parkerson is a compact athlete who reaches above-average velocity with a clear ease, and he showed the feel to dial the fastball’s velo up and down when necessary – up to 88 mph in the first, coasting in the mid-80s otherwise, as it was all he need to earn swings and misses at the top of the zone. He also utilizes a breaking ball that flashed sharp 11/5 action that he landed for strikes frequently. Offensively, Parkerson’s a right-handed hitter with a smooth, fluid swing, and he showed off the ability to use the entire field by smashing a triple off the right field fence, and launching a homer to his pull-side later in the game. Mattoon ‘23 1B Cayden Knierim (uncommitted) was among the Yard Goats’ leaders in their first game of the tourney, as he went 2-for-3 with an RBI, as a physical left-handed hitter with middle-of-the-order potential.

+ Also at the 16U level, the Champaign Xpress won two games on Thursday, both via a walk-off. The Xpress actually relinquished their leads in both games in the top of the final inning, only to rally right back in the bottom half to win it. 1B Kendall Crawford (Champaign Central, 2023; uncommitted) fits the mold of a follow left-handed hitter, inside his thin/lanky 6-foot-1 frame; he hit third for the Xpress in both games and went 2-for-3 in their game one win. C Matthew DeLorenzo (St. Thomas More, 2023; uncommitted) bats clean-up and also recorded a pair of hits in the team’s first win on the day. In that first game, which wound up as a late loss, Illinois Steel’s Tate Roley (Morton, 2023) slugged a two-run homer for his team. Roley’s a left/left 6-foot-3 frame to follow through the weekend. Eureka’s Slater Wilcox (2023; uncommitted) is the team’s run-producer set in the middle of the lineup, listed at 6-foot-2 160 pounds; he was 3-for-4 in the game one loss.

+ Northwest Revolution defeated Yard Goats Baseball, 4-2, with the help of INF/RHP Nicholas Tinajero (Fenton, 2023), who guided Revolution with his three shutout innings. Tinajero reached an 82 mph high, though mostly sat in the upper-70s. Zach Shashoua (Lane Tech, 2023) went 2-for-2 in the win.

+ Among the day’s biggest winners was RHP Sean Episcope (The Latin School, 2022). His 86-87 mph fastball was living at the top of the zone, where its late life played especially well, generating plenty of swings and misses, compounded by a high-spin curveball measured at 2,500-plus rpm, 72-74.

+ The 15U Bourbonnais Braves won a tight contest with a talented Cangelosi Sparks North - Gray squad, 5-4, aided by C Caleb McBurnie’s (Bradley-Bourbonnais, 2024) walk-off single that scored OF Andrew Schweigert (Bradley-Bourbonnais, 2024). The Braves were also boosted by the performance they received in relief from LHP Franco Munoz (Bradley-Bourbonnais, 2024). The 6-foot-1, 185-pound lefty struck out eight in 4.1 innings of relief, and he allowed just one run on two hits, no walks. SS Maxwell Mallindine (Bradley-Bourbonnais, 2024) was 2-for-2 from the middle of the order, looking like a name to monitor throughout the weekend.

+ Chicago Elite’s (Billo) 16U squad is rostering some of the top talent in the state at this tournament, and high-follow prospect RHP Matt Sauser (Normal University, 2023; Iowa commit) was among the day’s highlights. Sauser’s a long-levered 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, and he reaches upper-80s velo with ease, touching 89 mph on Thursday. He also showed off what’s become known as trademark high spin, snapping off some biting sliders measured in the 2,300-plus rpm range. The combination of his size and stuff makes him one of the top players in the state’s ‘23 class, and it’s a group that’s becoming an historic one.

Elsewhere for Chicago Elite (Billo), OF Sam Gurgone (Marist, 2023) was all over the barrel in both of Thursday’s wins. He’s a sturdy/strong left-handed hitter, built at 6-foot, 170 pounds, and he swings a loose, fluid bat that allows him to sync up contact efficiently.

+ The meeting between 15U BNBA Gold Hawk/Pax and Yard Goats ended in a 4-4, which happened to be the score of the game after the first inning. From Normal Community, INF Jake Branch (2024) led BNBA Gold with three hits. RHP Owen Cavanaugh (Normal Community, 2024) emerged as a follow prospect despite allowing a few runs in the first. The lean and long-levered righty was up to 82 mph, sitting 76-80.

+ From Bishop McNamara, House of Sportz’s SS Nolan Czako (2022; uncommitted) showed a physical right-handed swing worth following this weekend, and it makes use of his broad/strong 6-foot-2, 190-pound stature. He’s light on his feet, too, especially for his size, which allowed him to operate comfortably up the middle on this day.

+ Wasco Warriors edged the Springfield Mets 4-2 behind a strong out from LHP Griffin Hallahan (Sycamore, 2022) and some clutch late inning hits. Hallahan struck out 10 over five innings pitched while also leading off the top of the sixth with a double, and he came around to score the go-ahead run which propelled them to the victory. Hallahan’s a 6-foot-2, 170-pound incoming senior, and he sat around 82-83 mph with a couple quality secondary offerings, a changeup and curve, demonstrating some control over his mix that helped his stuff play up.

+ LHP Haiden Stocks (Decatur Lutheran, 2024) K’d seven in five innings and allowed only one run in a quality start that earned Illinois Black Sox-Select the win on Thursday, 4-3. Stocks was a solid pitchability type, up to 75 mph, with funk that made him tough to square up.

+ Prairie Gravel won both of their ballgames last night, by a combined score of 24-4. RHP Charlie Smith (Daniel Boone, TN, 2022; East Tennessee State commit) threw a complete game in their first win against the Illinois Braves. Smith made quick work of Braves hitters getting soft contact outs, as his downhill fastball from on over-the-top slot enters the zone at a tough angle to barrel, sitting in the low-80s. OF Jace Fowler (Franklin, IN, 2022; Indiana State) was a standout, athletically. The left-handed hitter takes aggressive hacks in the box and impacts the baseball with some physicality despite his lean/wiry 5-foot-10 build. SS Easton Richter (Rosemount, MN, 2022; Saint Louis) is a physical/strong 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, though he ranges around shortstop with mobility and a soft touch. He’s a left-handed hitter with a simple swing, demonstrating barrel feel to spray line-drives around the diamond, and his visible strength suggests some raw power potential.

+ The 17U Chicago Elite squad provided some late-night fireworks from the mound on Thursday, headlined by RHP Jake Swartz (Normal University, 2022; Illinois), who pitched five strong against a quality lineup, featuring some of the day’s most electric stuff. Swartz lived in the 88-89 mph range, reaching 90-91 at times, with premium arm speed he also applied to his breaking ball, 77-79 mph, a slider-like offering with short, late action that earned some ugly swings and misses under the zone – though he also landed a handful in the zone to catch batters looking as well. 

The highly physical RHP Jack Bach (Normal University, 2022; uncommitted) relieved Swartz, too. Bach’s listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and he showcased a fastball that sat 88-89 mph, touching 90, that exploded through the zone. Playing up two age levels, incoming sophomore INF Charlie Vecruysse (Normal University, 2024; uncommitted) found barrels all game with a sharply hit single early on, and he helped pour it on late by slugging a homer in the final frame of the ballgame.