Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25: Bubble Teams

By Drew Locascio and Andy Sroka
Illinois Scouting Staff

The 2018 IHSA season is officially underway. Over the last few weeks we rolled out the Preseason Power 25 Countdown. Also, to open up the 2018 season, 35 teams from Illinois participated in the Metro East Kickoff Classic, which was scouted by Prep Baseball Report.

When breaking down the top teams in the state, a number of quality programs get left off. Below we broke down a number of teams who made strong cases to be included in the Preseason Power 25 and will certainly be ones to watch this spring.


Barrington - Barrington went 28-8 last season and won its conference but is only returning two of its starters this year. Senior OF Tyler Acosta (State College of Florida) is going to be the driving force of the team with his high athleticism in the outfield and livewire speed on the bases. Junior SS Clark Elliott (Michigan) is one of the top athletes in the class and swings an impressive left-handed bat. Elliott and Acosta atop of the lineup is going to make for a run-churning machine for the Broncos. Be on the lookout for Barrington soon, however, because their sophomore class is coming and it’s among head coach Pat Wire’s most talented and deepest ever.

Buffalo Grove - The Bison finished their 2017 campaign with a record of 29-5-1 and return five position players and six arms. Senior RHP Zach Fricke (Valparaiso) and junior 3B Riley Rundquist will once again lead the way for Buffalo Grove. Last spring Fricke went 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA. In 40.2 IP he struck out 50, gave up 32 hits and only walked 17.  Rundquist led the way offensively hitting .469 with 6 HR, 12 2B, 2 3B and knocked in 48. He also scored 40 runs and walked as many times as he struck out. With the Bison’s depth and experience they should be one of the top teams in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago.

Cary-Grove - The Trojans may be a bubble team but they’re one of the few teams on this list that has an authentic ace they can rely on. Junior RHP Quinn Priester, who verbally committed to Texas Christian last spring, is the top-ranked player in his Illinois class by our measure. As only a sophomore last year, he topped out at 93 mph with his fastball and has an overwhelming changeup and curveball combo, too. Senior Ryan Ignoffo (Eastern Illinois) is another talented arm but is also the team’s primary shortstop. This rotation is a two-headed monster and with someone like Priester at the top, Cary-Grove can beat any team on their best day.

Champaign Central - The Maroons lost 14 seniors from last year’s 30-11-1 squad that finished fourth in class 3A. They do return some key pieces however and have an influx of young talent coming through the ranks. Champaign Central will be led by two senior John A. Logan JC commit, RHP/OF Cameron Robinson and Zak Hartleb. Junior Jake Cochrane is another returning starter from last year’s squad.  

Dunlap - May have the most talented pitching staff south of I-80, led by 2019 RHP Taylor Catton (Bradley). Behind Catton, the Eagles have three more arms 2019s Andrew Pogue, John Day and senior Jason Bollman (Danville Area CC) that can more than hold their own. Senior catcher Jared Holt (Illinois Central JC) will handle the staff and 1B Charlie Mangieri (Northwestern, (football)) will provide the punch offensively. Dunlap has the arms to make some noise in the Class 3A playoffs.

Elk Grove - The Grenadiers have a powerful one-two punch on their staff with juniors RHP Xander Rojahn (Arkansas) and LHP Ryne Singsank. Both are two of the top-ranked juniors within their own class and are each capable of stifling any lineup in the Mid-Suburban League. Rojahn, specifically, is ranked No. 9 overall in his class. Elk Grove finished under .500 last season, but with those two juniors at the helm they’ll be aiming much higher this spring. This pitching staff will likely be tossing to sophomore catcher Zach Schwartz, too, who’s only just beginning to make a name for himself, already ranked No. 4 at his position on our 2020 board.   

Grayslake Central - Grayslake Central made it all the way to the sectional final a season ago where they fell to St. Viator, 8-2. Ending any season on a loss hurts, but the Rams are returning a healthy amount of their starters from last season, including speedy senior OF Max Snowden, C Benton Troehler and juniors RHP Coby Moe, OF Nic Presutti, and OF Tony Crews. Moe is going to serve as the team’s go-to starter, as he mostly has since he was a freshman. He won three games in last year’s postseason run for the Rams, too, and is the No. 17-ranked RHP in his class. Presutti was the team’s leadoff hitter all year long as a sophomore in 2017 and hit a team-high .343. He will return to that role this spring. This team has the right concoction of experience and talent to make an even deeper postseason run than it did last year.

Hinsdale Central - The Red Devils will boast a treasure trove of pitching depth in 2018, led by its ace, junior RHP Kyle Wisch. Wisch can touch 91 mph and has the secondaries to take him to the next level, and can carry Hinsdale Central to a deep postseason run. But he won’t have to be exclusively relied upon. There is more than just Wisch to choose from. Senior RHPs Matt Deiss and Michael Juska are going to eat valuable innings for this team as well, and there are a couple of juniors in the ranks who will make their varsity debuts that can contribute to this staff this year. Once the Red Devils find the right position players to fill its lineup, it could be a team that threatens to challenge for more than just the West Suburban Conference crown.

Homewood-Flossmoor - The Vikings are extremely talented but they will have to prove that it will show up in W’s on the field. The 2017 squad disappointedly got knocked out early in the playoffs and should have plenty of motivation heading into 2018. Division I talent is at head coach Todd Sippel’s disposal in LHP Kyle Salley (Duke), OF Zaid Walker (Michigan State), RHP Tylon Ross (Purdue) and RHP Tyler Schlaffer (UIC) to along with possible DI talents in 2019 C Jacob Schroeder and 2020 INF Tre Hondras. We will see if this is the year that the Vikings can put it all together and make a deep run in the postseason.

Huntley - The Red Raiders went 31-7 last season before losing in the Sectional Final to eventual 4A Champion Crystal Lake South. In 2018 Huntley returns 2 of their top 3 arms but only two starting position players. Senior LHP Kyle Morgan (McHenry County JC) and RHP Nick Laxner (Miami, OH) will lead the way on the mound. Offensively, they will rely heavily on senior returners Matt Rodriguez (1B/3B) and Kamrin Hoffmann (C/2B/3B).  

Lake Zurich - Lake Zurich may still be a year away from competing for a state title but they have a talented sophomore class to keep an eye on. The Bears could potentially have four talented sophomore bats in the lineup led by Iowa commits, INF Anthony Mangano and C/OF Tyler Snep. Two-way prospect Noah DeLuga, is a top-10 prospect in the 2020 class and pitches in the mid 80s. Lake Zurich will also need big things out of senior LHP Ben Cornelius (Heartland CC). The Bears have a bright future.

Lemont - The Indians are one of the top 3A programs in the state, winning state championships in 2014 and 2016 but it may be a challenge for them to continue the “even” numbered championship theme in 2018. The 30-6 2017 club lost two Texas Tech commits in 3B KC Simonich and RHP Ryan Sublette to graduation as well as stud LHP Nate Madej (Florida Southwestern State). Lemont will need 1B Jack Small (Heartland CC) to carry the load offensively and a number of arms to step up. With all of that said, never count out a Storako coached club.

Lincoln-Way Central - Lincoln-Way Central made it to the a sectional final last season, won 23 games, and are virtually bringing back the same group to try and do it again, except with even higher expectations this time around. The Knights will return seven starters to their lineup and two of its most experienced pitchers. Their No. 1 starter a season ago, senior RHP Andrew Hancock (Evansville), returns back to the top of the rotation in 2018. Joining him will be senior flamethrower RHP Ryan Vice (Western Michigan), who can touch 93 mph, and senior LHP Nate Davis (Triton JC). This group of arms is going to be pitching to 2019 catcher Dylan Post (Houston), the No. 3-ranked catcher of his class. Post is a physical left-handed hitter and is improving behind the plate. Senior SS/RHP Brandon Bennitt, a two-way prospect, also returns. He hit a team-high .429 last year and held a 1.40 ERA on the mound, too. With such a robust list of returnees, Lincoln-Way Central is looking for a shot at sectional redemption.

Loyola - Coach Bridic brings back five returning position players and seven pitchers from a 2017 club that went 22-13 last season, eventually losing in the regional final. Almost all the innings thrown last year on the mound return and they have quality athletes across the board who will be able to run and put pressure on the defense. Trey Torain (George Washington), Jason Vrbancic (University of Chicago) and Will Jackson should anchor the offense and provide some punch. Team captain Henry Haracz will be counted on as their No. 1 arm and be a threat in the offensive lineup as well. Keep an eye on Sophomore big-bodied RHP Michael Ellingsen, who pitches in the low-80’s and should see some time on varsity this spring.

Marian Catholic - After finishing as a runner-up for the state’s 3A title in a championship loss to St. Viator last season, the Spartans will move up a class to 4A this spring. Three of the pitchers who helped them reach the state championship game are returning, headlined by junior two-way prospect Michael Bohlen (Northern Kentucky), and junior LHPs Jordan Smevoll and Chandler Kerr. This is a young team, much different than the one that found its way tied 8-8 in the seventh inning of the state title game a season ago. The 2019s and even some of the 2020s could be doing the heavy lifting here. That also includes their star OF Pierce Jones, ranked No. 11 at his position in this class because of his all-around athleticism. Another junior who played a role last season is catcher Angelo Cantelo, who has a knack for barreling baseballs in game. Sophomore Aidan Stewart is a two-way talent that could impact the varsity club in a big way this spring. It is unsure if ultra-talented freshman RHP Tyler Fullman and OF Eddie King (Louisville) will crack the varsity squad at some point this season, but if so, it will be exciting to watch. It’ll take a lot of growth and development for this team to find its way back in a state title game, but Marian Catholic has the talent to make deep postseason runs for the next few seasons.

McHenry - The Warriors finished the 2017 season 26-11 losing in the Sectional. McHenry’s top two arms from 2017, Bobby Miller (Louisville) and Michael Lasiewicz (Northern Illinois) graduated. They will need senior RHP’s Dylan Honkala (McHenry County JC), Ian Grubich (St. Thomas), Nicholas Morris, 2019 RHP Joe Kaminski and others to step up on the mound. Owen Patzin will once again man the shortstop position and could help on the mound as well. Strong-armed catcher Chase Grasso (Lakeland College) will handle the pitching staff.

Morton - The Potters have been trending up and there is no reason that should stop in 2018. The 2017 club went 25-12 and made it to a Class 3A Supersectional. They return the core of their team despite the graduation of SS Ryan Altenberger who is now at Xavier. Their pitching should be a strength as they have plenty of quality pitching depth and experience in senior RHPs Logan Peterson (Illinois Central JC), Vinnie Massaglia (Illinois Central JC), Isaiah Davis (Eureka) and twins Connor and Haegan Kelly (Heartland CC). Peterson was Player of the Year in the Mid-Illini Conference last year and Massaglia is 9-1 in his career. If the Potters can score some runs, don't be surprised if they are still standing in Joliet this June.

Nazareth - The Roadrunners return every inning pitched from last years ball club, led by Junior LHP Michael Prosecky (Louisville) and senior RHP Ryan Turgeon (Dayton). They also have an X-factor on the mound in 2019 RHP Derek Salata (Illinois State). Salata is recovering from injury but there is a chance he could play some sort of role by the end of the season. If he can, Nazareth has three legitimate arms that could match up against anyone in Class 3A. Expect C Andrew McKenna, UTIL Bobby Grimes, MIF Dominic Milano and 3B Joey Trelenberg to carry the load offensively.  

Niles Notre Dame - SS Jackson Kaplowitz (Xavier) and LHP Paul Bergstrom (Creighton) are the key returners for new head coach Dean Cademartori. They should have plenty of help behind Bergstrom on the mound in senior LHP Charlie Andersen (Florida Southern College) and junior RHP Matthew Ambrose. Junior INF Frank Giamarusti and senior 1B Kevin Garcia (Concordia-Chicago) should provide protection for Kaplowitz in the lineup.

Olympia - Olympia will likely have one of the top pitching staffs in all of Class 2A. The Spartans will be led by two senior RHP’s committed to Heartland CC, Spencer Smith and Mason Marquis, as well as senior RHP Rece Finck, an Illinois-Springfield commit. Smith has been up to 91 mph this winter with a couple of other reports having him as high as 93. Don’t be surprised if you see Olympia in Peoria this June.

Oswego East - Head coach Matt Engelhardt’s squad went 26-10 last spring and despite only returning two starting pitchers to the club, they may surprise some people in 2018. The Wolves return two experienced pitchers in Senior Shane Schatz and Junior Collin Witzke along with a wealth of young underclass talent that will be waiting in the wings. Underclass arms Connor Gill (2020), Tyler Heidkamp (2020) and freshman Adam Dowler have the talent to impact this club for a deep playoff run. Senior catcher Dominic Zupo will be tasked to handle the talented staff and lead the way at the plate.

Plainfield Central - The Wildcats return plenty of pieces from a club that went 23-10 last season, highlighted by Senior 3B David Ascencio (Parkland JC) and Junior RHP Justin Divelbiss. Ascencio, a starter on varsity since his sophomore season, will once again be leaned on to carry the load offensively. Divelbiss has the stuff to be the ace of the staff. At the recent Preseason All-State, the quick-armed right-hander pounded the zone with an aggressive three-pitch mix, highlighted by a fastball that sat 86-87 mph, touching 88. The Wildcats will once again be a tough out come playoff time.

Plainfield East - One of the deepest senior pitching classes in the state belongs to Plainfield East. The Bengals are returning seven pitchers from last year’s squad that made it to a regional championship and won 23 games. The top three pitchers in their rotation are seniors RHP Andrew Hoffmann (Oakland), RHP Luke Lamm (North Central College), and LHP Ryan Louck (Maryville). Hoffmann will take the mantle as the team’s opening day starter, presumably, because of his upper 80s fastball and sweeping slider combo that makes him so effective. Lamm and Louck are more than worthy arms to round out a rotation, and they’re going to make Plainfield East formidable all season long. The Bengals might find themselves looking for runs occasionally, but they have the pitching to keep up in a competitive Southwest Prairie Conference.

Pleasant Plains - The always tough Pleasant Plains squad will be back at it once again this spring. The Cardinals return seven starting position players and five pitchers from a club that went 29-8 last season. The staff will be led by two left-handers, Giuseppe Mattera (Lincoln Land CC) and TJ Painter. Mattera can run his fastball into the upper-80’s and should also play a role offensively. At the plate, the Cardinals will rely on sophomore Corgan Greer who hit over .370 as a freshman last year as well as Joel Niermann and Joey Lee. The Cardinals are always dangerous come playoff time.

Rochester - The Springfield-area Class 3A high school suffered a disappointing regional championship loss last season but are returning a bevy of talent to its rotation and lineup in 2018. Seniors INF/RHP Nic Baker, C/RHP Ben Chapman (Lincoln Land CC), and SS Jayden Reed are all set to contribute to this team’s high aspirations this spring, but it’s really junior LHP Cameron Edmonson and sophomore OF/RHP Drew Henrikson that could boost the Rockets to a deep postseason push. Edmonson is the No. 3-ranked LHP in the state because of his 84-85 mph fastball, touching 86, last spring -- it’ll be interesting to see how he developed over the winter, too. Henrikson is a two-way prospect right now who can play the outfield well and hit, as well as touch 83 mph on the mound. The experience garnered in last season’s regional loss only makes this team, comprised of many of the same players, that much more compelling.

Sacred Heart-Griffin - Perennial power Sacred Heart-Griffin has some question marks in 2018 despite going 29-8 last spring. They return five pitchers from last year but only three position players. Of the players returning, RHP/INF Will Elvers, OF Jared Viele, OF Dominic DiLello and RHP Evan Warrington will do a lot of the heavy lifting. Warrington is a battle-tested senior who pitches in the mid-80’s. Viele and DiLello should hit somewhere in the middle of the order, while Elvers will need to help out at the plate and on the mound. The Cyclones always seem to play well at the right time and I don't know why this year would be any different.

South Elgin - Expectations should be high for South Elgin entering the 2018 campaign. The Storm went 25-5 last spring, eventually losing a heartbreaker in the Super-Sectional to New Trier by the score of 4-3. The Storm have a bonafide ace in senior Nate Gomez (Wabash Valley JC) who has plenty of experience under his belt and an upper-80’s to low-90’s fastball to boot. They also return juniors OF Austin Doty and SS Patrick Keaty. Keep an eye on the Storm as they look to build off a strong 2017.

St. Joseph-Ogden - The Spartans, coached by Josh Haley, have had an impressive run and are one of the top 2A programs in the state. In consecutive years they finished runner-up in state and seem to produce high-level talent every year. Looking at this year’s club, pitching depth will be a strength. Adam Rose, Jake Schlueter, Cody Kern and Austin Cain all return and combined to go 11-2 with four saves last season. Cain made eight appearances and did not let up an earned run. Cain, who may turn into the No. 1 starter this spring is also one of the top returning position players, as he hit 11 doubles last year. The Spartans seem to have enough talent and depth to give themselves a chance to make it to Peoria for the third straight year.

Teutopolis - In 2017, the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes won their third 2A State title in the last eight years. Head coach Justin Fleener’s club finished the 2017 season on a 20 game winning streak and an overall record of 31-6. The Wooden Shoes hoisted the trophy once again thanks to an impressive offensive output in the two games at state. Teutopolis knocked off Orion in the semi-final by a score of 11-0 and then took down St. Joseph-Ogden in the title game, 10-2. They return some key pieces, leading one to believe that a repeat in 2018 is not out of the question. They have ace Eric Kremer (Kaskaskia JC) and his upper-80’s fastball back along with Lee Hardiek. Hardiek went 4-3 last season with a 2.50 era in 33.1 innings pitched. Offensively, they return catcher Cody Jansen. Entering the state tournament last season Jansen was hitting .396 with 10 doubles and 6 home runs. Keep an eye on the Wooden Shoes once again come playoff time.

Warren - Last year, the Blue Devils won 29 games and made it to the sectional championship behind a great class of seniors. In 2018, few teams will look as drastically different than they did a season ago. None of the names in this spring’s lineup were starters in 2017 and only three of Warren’s pitchers threw at the level last year. Seniors RHP/1B Evan Hill (Illinois Wesleyan), RHP/2B Riley Kocen (Triton JC), and RHP Pasquale DeFilippis will be in charge of handling this inexperienced squad. The three of them will primarily make up the starting rotation. 2020 RHP Reece Lawler (St. Louis) may be given a chance to prove his mettle at the varsity level, he has a projectable frame and harnesses a fastball that touched 87 mph at a recent event. Apart from Lawler, this is a relatively unknown group. Warren is perennially competitive but this might be head coach Clint Smothers’ biggest challenge yet.

Willowbrook - Willowbrook went 26-9 in 2017 and eventually lost to South Elgin by a score of 3-1 in the Sectional Final. They return six position players from the 2017 season, including their top two starters on the mound and their top reliever who made 18 appearances last spring. Junior’s Jack Nilles and Ryan Mintz are back after combining for 14 wins on the mound last spring. Both catchers, Dan Gusel and Marshall McDonnell return, as well as Scott Tumilty in center field. Tumilty, an All-State football player this fall, can do a little bit of everything on the baseball field. 2019 SS Jack Hines is back after hitting .355 with 24 RBI and look out for senior Mason Kamp. Kamp is a 6-foot-3, 235-pound, first baseman who hit .364 last season with limited at-bats. Keep an eye on the Warriors in 2018.

York - 2019 SS Ryan Ross, a Mississippi State commit, is going to help lead the Elmhurst high school to a highly competitive spring because of the number of returnees the Dukes have. York has seven starters returning, including Ross, junior 2B Ian Steinorth, senior OF Andrew Deardurff (Wisconsin-Oshkosh), senior 1B Mike Pastuovic, senior INF/OF Joey Chiappetta, and senior DH Joey Jaeger. Ross and Steinorth make up an impressive up-the-middle tandem that should keep York in the hunt for the West Suburban title all spring and keeps their prospects of a deep postseason run alive this year and next. With this number of skillful juniors and experienced seniors, the Dukes could easily surprise as the summer nears and sectional berths are on the line.

Yorkville - Yorkville went 30-5 last spring and won the Northern Illinois Big 12 conference title. They then knocked out Hinsdale Central and Oswego East to win the Regional title before losing to Plainfield North 3-0 in the Sectional Semi’s. They return a solid group of proven winners, including six position players and their top two pitchers; Stephen Sewruk (Benedictine) and Ty Liaromatis (Benedictine). Both were all conference picks last season and will be three-year varsity players. Zach Haddox (Benedictine) is back after winning the 2017 Conference MVP award. They also bring back 1B/C Jon Jungr (Eastern Illinois), CF Mark Sommers and welcome in junior transfer Elias Flowers. The Foxes should be a dangerous club in 2018.

+ CLICK HERE for a look at the Preseason Power 25