Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 5 Nazareth Academy

By: Diego Solares
Associate Scout, Staff Writer

The Illinois high school baseball season kicks off on March 14, 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 2022 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 2022 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Nazareth Academy
Preseason Rank: No. 6
2021 Record: 27-11
Conference: East Suburban Catholic
IHSA Class: 3A
Head Coach: Lee Milano


Sebastian Gutierrez RHP
2022 Parkland JC
Redmond Murphy RHP
2022 Central College
Joey Bennett RHP
2022 Aurora
Colin Lukas UTL
2022 -
Jake Castaneda OF
2022 -
Sam Wampler C 2022 -
Luke Brabham INF/RHP
2022 -
Lucas Smith OF
2023 Illinois-Chicago
John Hughes LHP 2024 North Carolina
Nick Drtina RHP/INF 2024 Louisville
Cooper Malamazian SS/RHP
2024 Indiana
Luca Fiore LHP
2024 -
David Cox INF/RHP
2024 -
Bobby Kutt INF 2024 -
Jaden Fauske C/UTL
2025 Louisville


+ SS/RHP Ryan Smith (2021; Illinois-Chicago)



C Jaden Fauske (2025; Louisville): We’ve known Fauske to be one of the state’s top prospects in the 2025 class dating back to his middle school days as a member of Team Illinois at the PBR Junior Future Games. A 6-foot, 155-pound athlete, Fauske will be thrust right into the fire and compete for everyday playing time as a freshman while also hitting in a key spot for head coach Lee Milano. How he adjusts to varsity pitching and the quality arms he’ll see in East Suburban Catholic League play, while also learning to manage a fresh set of arms in the Roadrunners’ rotation, will prove pivotal to this team’s success.



OF Lucas Smith (2023; Illinois-Chicago): Smith played a lot for Nazareth in his first season at the varsity level last spring, pacing the Roadrunners’ in plate appearances (149). He slashed an impressive .374/.500/.565 with 16 extra-base hits as an underclassmen, walking more times (21) than he struck out (16) and swiping 17 bags to boot. Back this year with one full year of experience under his belt, Smith is expected to serve as one of Nazareth’s most productive offensive forces. Not only will he bring a stable presence to the top of this lineup, but the Illinois-Chicago commit should patrol center field for the Roadrunners’, too. He’s obviously an important piece to the championship puzzle Nazareth is trying to solve. 


Nazareth Academy’s reputation as one of the top programs in the state has only grown over the years and the group they’ll field on a game-to-game basis this spring has talent from top to bottom. They’re certainly young, yet a majority of these youngsters all received regular playing time last season on a team that won 27 games and took home a regional championship. Now,  one year older, the Roadrunners’ are eager to make their mark on the 3A landscape.

We’ll start on the mound, where Nazareth is led by RHP Sebastian Gutierrez (2022; Parkland JC), one of the lone seniors on this squad. Gutierrez anchored this staff last year with the expectation being he’ll do so again in his senior season. The Parkland JC commit posted a 2.50 ERA and struck out 55 batters in 36 ⅓ innings pitched, pumping his fastball into the high-80s with an above-average breaking ball to pair. Gutierrez will see time at the plate as well, a role he succeeded in last season and slashed .362/.476/.507 in 84 plate appearances.

Sebastian Gutierrez (4/29/21)

The rest of this rotation is, as you’d expect, extremely talented. MIF/RHP Luke Brabham (2022) is arguably this team’s most productive hitter, but he put together a quality season on the mound last spring. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound uncommitted senior tossed 29 frames and made four starts, pitching to a 2.65 ERA in that span. Perhaps the most talented arm in this pitching staff, however, is LHP John Hughes (2024; North Carolina). Hughes was a workhorse last season for Nazareth, tossing the team’s second most innings (37 ⅔) as a freshman. The 6-foot, 190-pound Tar Heel commit flat-out dominated, pitching to a 1.67 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 66 strikeouts in that span. He’ll typically pitch anywhere in the low-80s from a velocity standpoint with two secondaries, a curveball and changeup, that he can throw for strikes. He’s a high pitchability southpaw that can consistently be counted on to get outs game in and game out, bringing a truly reliable presence to the mound each time he toes the rubber.

John Hughes (7/22/21)

Their talents extend beyond this trio, however, as the Roadrunners’ have plenty of dependable arms they can call upon for innings, most of which are sophomores. RHP/1B Nick Drtina (2024; Louisville), and LHP Luca Fiore (2024) each amassed 20+ innings pitched as freshman last year and will both look to build off that number this season. Though he’s expected to be this team’s starting shortstop, INF/RHP Cooper Malamazian (2024; Indiana) will be called upon to work in relief for the Roadrunners’ this year. INF/RHP David Cox (2024) missed all of last season with an injury, but the 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore is fully back this year and is eager to contribute on both sides of the ball. He, like Malamazian, will also play the infield and work on the mound in relief. Two seniors, INF/RHP Redmond Murphy (2022; Central College) and RHP Joey Bennett (2022; Aurora University), round out a deep bullpen.

Luca Fiore (9/25/21)

Several of the aforementioned names above are viewed as key pieces offensively, too. We touched on Fauske in the ‘Newcomer To Watch’ section as the Louisville commit is slated to play a big role in his first year at the highschool level. Smith is another major contributor we highlighted earlier on, while Brabham, Gutierrez, and Drtina will all hit towards the middle of this order, too. Brabham, in particular, was arguably the most impactful player to this offense last year, slashing .441/.532/.569 with 24 RBIs and three times as many walks (18) as strikeouts (6). Malamazian will man the shortstop position and look to build off a season where he put up a .298/.371/.394 and swiped 12 bags. INF Bobby Kutt (2024), C Sam Wampler (2022), UTL Colin Lukas (2022), OF Jake Castaneda (2022), and OF Cole Reifsteck (2024) are all names that will contribute, too.


While this is a young bunch from an age standpoint, a large chunk of the Roadrunners’ core all played and had success last season in their first taste of varsity action. Add Fauske into the mix and a handful of seniors that can contribute in multiple areas and suddenly you have a dangerous team capable of accomplishing many things now and in the future.

Make sure to follow @PBRIllinois on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the 2022 season.

Find more information on the 2022 Roadrunners below:

+ Team Website
+ Team Schedule
+ Team Twitter