Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 2 Nazareth Academy

By Peter Hamot and Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Staff

The Illinois high school baseball season kicks off on March 13, opening day for regular season action under IHSA regulations. Over the next two weeks, leading up to opening day, we’ll be publishing our team previews ahead of the 2023 spring season, touching on programs spanning all state classifications, counting down through the official PBR Illinois Preseason Power 25 Rankings.

Perennially, we’ve submitted a Preseason Questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our team-by-team preseason analysis.

Our 2023 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Nazareth Academy
Preseason Rank: No. 2
2022 Record: 34-7
Conference: East Suburban Catholic
IHSA Class: 3A
Head Coach: Lee Milano


Finn O'Meara RHP Nazareth Academy 2023 -
Lucas Smith OF Nazareth Academy 2023 Illinois-Chicago
David Cox INF/RHP Nazareth Academy
2024 Northwestern
Nick Drtina RHP/UTIL Nazareth Academy
2024 Louisville
Luca Fiore LHP/1B/OF Nazareth Academy
2024 -
John Hughes LHP/1B
Nazareth Academy
2024 North Carolina
Cooper Malamazian SS/RHP Nazareth Academy
2024 Indiana
Cole Reifsteck OF Nazareth Academy
2024 -
Jaden Fauske C/INF
Nazareth Academy 2025 Louisville
Andrew Kouris INF/RHP Nazareth Academy 2025 -
Collin Roche C Nazareth Academy 2025 -
Landon Thome INF Nazareth Academy 2026 -
Jeremy Thompson OF/RHP Nazareth Academy 2026 -


INF Luke Brabham (Morton JC)
+ RHP Sebastian Gutierrez (Parkland JC)
+ C Sam Wampler (Saint Ambrose)


Two youngsters to keep an eye out for this spring are INF Landon Thome (2026) and INF Jeremy Thompson (2026). Thome, currently the No. 4 player in the state, has a well above-average skillset to pair with MLB bloodlines. The left-handed hitter has shown an extremely mature approach at the plate in previous looks with impressive bat to ball skills, and his present ability looks to be able to make a varsity impact immediately. 

Landon Thome (6.12.22)

Thompson also boasts a varsity-level skillset despite his young age. The right-handed hitter showed extremely well in front of our scouting staff over the summer, pairing projection with already present strength. Thompson is yet another talented young bat the Roadrunners will have at their disposal this coming spring.

Jeremy Thompson (6.12.22)


(17): The Roadrunners finished the 2022 season on a 17 game win streak, with their last loss coming on May 3rd  to Marian Catholic. We had been high on Nazareth coming into the 2022 season, but they saw some struggles early on and had to battle through some injuries to key players. They found their stride in early May though, rattling off the aforementioned 17 wins in a row to capture the 3A State Title. The Roadrunners are primed for another strong year, returning virtually everyone from their State Title team, except now a year older and with more experience. You could argue that Nazareth’s success came a year early, with most of their production coming from underclassmen. In turn, it will be exciting to see how Nazareth attacks this spring with a good chunk of their roster in their prime varsity years, as well as even more high-level underclassmen coming through the pipes.


One player that the Roadrunners are excited to have back is LHP John Hughes (2024; North Carolina). Hughes has seen time on varsity since he was a freshman, but missed a good chunk of last year due to injury. This time around, he is primed and ready to impact the top of the staff. Listed at a durable 6-foot, 200-pounds, Hughes can work his fastball into the mid-to-upper 80s but it is his high-level of pitchability and the way that he controls the game and misses barrels that really stands out. With Hughes back and healthy, he adds some high-level depth to the defending 3A State Champions and will likely be relied on heavily to lead the staff - and if he can produce the way he has shown he is capable of, the Roadrunners will have a true workhorse to rely on down the stretch. 

John Hughes (5.13.22)


The Nazareth 2022 season was a special, potentially unexpected year, depending on who you ask. The roster was full of talent but they were still extremely young. A number of sophomores were heavily relied on throughout the year and freshman Jaden Fauske earned a spot in the everyday lineup by the end of the year. We had an idea they would be a team to watch, putting them at No. 6 in our Preseason Power 25 but a state championship seemed like it still may be a year or two away. The Road Runners proved us wrong however, going 7-0 in the playoffs, winning 17 games in a row to finish their season, ultimately knocking off Glenwood 5-1 in the 3A Championship, finishing with a final record of 34-7.

Looking at the 2023 roster, not much left in regards to seniors who graduated. RHP Sebastian Gutierrez and INF Luke Brabham will most likely be the biggest names they will have to replace and they already have two highly-touted freshman, mentioned above in the “Newcomers” that have the talent to impact the club at some point this season, if need be. 

Everyone else on the roster is seemingly a year older now with invaluable playoff and state final experience under their belt. Positionally, they look as strong as last year with senior CF Lucas Smith headlining the group. Smith is a table setter in their lineup, plays with an edge, likes the big moment and is a well above-average defensive center fielder. Smith stood out all of 2022 for the Roadrunners and earned Third-Team All-State Honors. In 126 at-bats, Smith recorded a .444 batting average with three home runs, three triples, 17 doubles, 26 RBIs, 44 runs scored, 13 stolen bases and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Smith, the catalyst for the squad, also set the school record for doubles and was named to the ESCC All-Conference Team. 

Alongside Smith in the outfield you should see junior Cole Reifsteck competing for an everyday spot in the outfield. Also, depending on who is on the mound, expect to see some sort of combination of the following names in one of the other outfield spots; Nick Drtina, Luca Fiore, John Hughes and Jeremy Thompson.

A bunch of experience returns on the infield as well, with a number of them who will also play a prominent role on the mound. Due to the fact that so many pitch, coach Milano will have the luxury of moving players around and very rarely throwing out the same defensive alignment and batting order for that matter, if he chooses. You should see David Cox and Cooper Malamazian on the left-side of the infield a lot, along with Fauske, mentioned above. Freshman, Thome, mentioned as a newcomer to watch, also has a chance to see some time at second base. Drtina, Hughes and Fiore can all play first base if they are not needed on the mound or in the outfield. Yet another name to keep an eye on is recent transfer INF/RHP Andrew Kouris who has above-average tools for a sophomore and has a strong arm on the mound as well. 

Fauske and sophomore Collin Roche should also do the majority of the catching throughout the year. Fauske, one of the top prospects in the 2025 class, ended up hitting .393 in 61 at-bats with 13 walks and only five strikeouts as a freshman. He also added four doubles and 19 RBIs as well. The amount of talented position player depth across the field is once again evident and should be leaned on as a strength of the club.  

Jaden Fauske (10.16.22)

The Roadrunners are also plenty deep on the mound with all kinds of high-end talent as well. The first name to mention is RHP/1B Nick Drtina (2024). The Louisville commit earned Second-Team All-State Honors after racking up 12 wins and breaking a 25-year school record at Nazareth in the process. He toed the rubber in the state championship game and earned a win, tallying 61.1 innings in total this spring. Over that span Drtina allowed only 11 earned runs, good for a 1.24 ERA, with 72 strikeouts and 1.13 WHIP. He also swings an impactful left-handed bat (.380 BA, .484 OBP and 34 RBIs in 2022) that showed well this winter at our Preseason All-State: Upperclass. 

Cox should impact the lineup everyday, while also being one of the top arms. Cox hit .358 with an OBP of .492 and 13 doubles in 2022. On the mound he has a heavy, sinking fastball that sits in the upper-80s with a tight slider. Cox went 2-0 in 2022 with a final line of 31 IP, 19 H, 7 ER, 17 BB, 38 K, and a 1.58 ERA. 

Malamazian should lock down shortstop when not on the mound. He hit .379 last season with a .479 OBP, 10 doubles, four home runs, 34 RBIs and 38 runs. He also stole 15 bases which was a team high. He also runs his fastball into the upper-80s and he struck out 26 in 18.2 innings pitched.

Hughes, mentioned above as the X-Factor, will provide Nazareth with one of the top 2024 left-handed arms in the state with all kinds of varsity experience under his belt. In his small sample size in 2022 Huges struck out 21 and walked two in 13.2 innings pitched. 

Another left-hander on staff who was bitten by the injury bug last year is junior Luca Fiore. Fiore has a loose, lively arm with the ability to spin the baseball at an above-average clip. Fiore, who hit .357 (.506 OB) in 56 at-bats, struck out 28 in his 15.2 limited innings of work with a 1.34 ERA.

One of the lone seniors on the roster, RHP Finn O’Meara, is yet another reliable arm returning. O’Meara came out of the bullpen in the state championship game last spring and did not allow a hit while striking out three in 1.2 innings pitched. O’Meara, still uncommitted, has ran his fastball up to 87 mph in front of us and he registered a 1.58 ERA in 35.1 innings pitched in 2022. O’Meara went 5-0 with a save while striking out 48 and scattering only 15 hits which speaks to the type of stuff he possesses.

Finn O'Meara (8.9.22)

Yet another arm that could earn time is Kouris, mentioned above. Kouris has a 6-foot-2, 195-pound, physical frame and strong arm that we have seen sit 84-86 mph in the past. 


Looking at this Roadrunner squad on paper there are not many weaknesses or holes to fill. You could nitpick their youth, however they proved that was a non issue last year and almost their entire roster returns with varsity experience under their belt. 

Regardless, its a new year and Nazareth will have to go out and do it on the field once again. The lineup and pitching staff are as talented and as deep as anyone else in the state. They have the arms to get through a tough one-and-done playoff scenario. Outside of their new additions to the playing roster, coach Milano, has added Jim Thome and Michael Bowden (47th overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft out of Waubonsie HS) to the staff which brings MLB hall of fame wisdom and knowledge to the dugout. 

The Roadrunners enter 2023 as the favorite to take home the 3A title once again.

Make sure to follow @PBRIllinois on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the 2023 season.

Find more information on the 2023 Roadrunners below:

Team Website
Team Schedule
Team Twitter