Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 13 St. Laurence

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

The Illinois high school season kicks off on March 12th, the first day for regular season games.

Leading up to the opening week of games we will be rolling out team previews of high school teams all across the state and across all classifications, eventually launching our Preseason Power 25.

We will bring you a snapshot of what to expect along with top players and keys to success for that particular team.

Team: St. Laurence
Preseason Rank: 13
2017 Record: 36-6
Conference: Chicago Catholic League (Blue)
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Pete Lotus
Playoff Run: Class 4A third place 
2017 Final Rank: 3
Returning Starters: 4
Returning Pitchers: 4


Marius Balandis, RHP (Iowa Western CC)
Jimmy Burnette, LHP (Illinois)
Tommy Farrell, OF (Illinois-Chicago)
Jake Lotz, LHP (Lewis)
Brian Lyle, SS (University of Chicago)
Angel Sandoval, RHP (Saint Francis, IL)
Joe Vascik, RHP (Maryville University)


Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Zach Verta
IL St. Laurence 2018 OF/1B/RHP Calumet-St. Joseph’s
Justin Rios
IL St. Laurence
2018 OF/LHP North Central College
Gage Olszak
IL St. Laurence
2018 1B/RHP Saint Xavier
Nick Heiden
IL St. Laurence 2018 RHP Webster
Joe Hincks IL St. Laurence
2018 OF/LHP  
Nick Kolasa IL  St. Laurence
2018  RHP
Matt McCormick
IL  St. Laurence
2019  C West Virginia
Matt Dornbos IL St. Laurence 2019 INF  
Ryan McGrath
IL St. Laurence
2019 RHP  
Jake Vera IL St. Laurence
2019 OF  
Chris Seropian
IL St. Laurence
2020 LHP/OF  
Luke Hincks IL St. Laurence
2020 INF  
Alex Gasbarro IL St. Laurence 2020 INF/RHP  
Matt Zahora IL St. Laurence 2020 C/RHP  
Cole Anderson IL St. Laurence 2020 LHP/OF  
Vytas Valincius IL St. Laurence 2021 INF/RHP  


Freshman Vytas Valincius is one of the best and brightest members in his 2021 class. He’s firmly expected to see playing time in his first high school spring, too. St. Laurence is on the hunt for arms to assemble a starting rotation since so many of its pitchers from a season ago graduated. With an abundance of spots up for grabs on the varsity team, Valincius and his explosive fastball, that most recently topped 87 mph, could easily swoop into the Vikings’ pitching staff this season.

But he’s not only expected to help on the mound, Valincius could crack the lineup as well. He’s big and strong and his power already plays in games. He’s nimble and sure-handed enough to contribute in a corner infield spot when he’s not on the mound.

Vytas Valincius (2.18.18)


This team doesn’t have one, two, or three X-Factors, it has an entire class of 2020 players who are expected to see plenty of time on the field, thus making their collective production consequential.

It was well documented the kind of relationship the 2017 class had together. Angel Sandoval, Joe Vascik, Tommy Farrell, and Jimmy Burnette formed a special bond and camaraderie that made their 2017 run to state that much more special. Coach Lotus is attempting to breed a similar culture within this 2020 class by calling upon so many sophomores to spend their time playing varsity ball this spring.

Sophomores LHP/OF Chris Seropian, INF Luke Hincks, INF/RHP Alex Gasbarro, C/RHP Matt Zahora, and LHP/OF Cole Anderson are all expected to see considerable playing time in various roles on the varsity team with the hope that, once it’s their turn to serve as senior leaders, they’ll be able to recreate the same kind of magical run the Vikings had a season ago. In the meantime, this group will have to carve out roles for themselves this campaign with the hopes of helping facilitate another trip to state.


In 2017, the Vikings vanquished New Trier at state in the third-place game to match their best ever season in their program’s history. Coming home with hardware held a little extra sentimentality to a St. Laurence team comprised of a tight-knit group of since-graduated seniors, including one of their top arms and one of the state’s best lefties, Burnette, who’s gone on to play Division-I ball in Champaign.

Coach Pete Lotus is aware of the challenge he has in store for the 2018 campaign. The Vikings will appoint a starting rotation of new faces this spring. Seniors Zach Verta, Justin Rios, Gage Olszak, Nick Heiden, Nate Kolasa, and junior Ryan McGrath will all be tasked with filling out this pitching staff in some form, in addition to a compelling set of sophomores that should eat plenty of innings, too. Though, the likes of Verta, Rios, and Olszak are more well-known for their bats than arms on the mound. Specifically, Verta and Rios, who were named to the All-Chicago Catholic League team as outfielders for their contributions to last season’s 36-win team.

Two-time all-state catcher Matt McCormick, still just a junior, is going to be the one who captains this staff from behind the plate. The West Virginia commit has hit in the three-hole since his freshman year and has been a PBR All-State selection the past two years. The highly-advanced left-handed hitter is arguably the top hitter in the 2019 Illinois class. He has good awareness of the strike zone, hits for a high average and for power as well. He continues to improve behind the plate as well and once again will be asked to handle this rotation.

So, a lineup headlined by McCormick, Verta, Rios, and Olszak is potent enough to carry an offense on its own. It’s a tough conference, though, and with so many new faces in new places, including a substantial group of underclassmen expected to get playing time, you wonder just how feasible it is to expect another postseason run like the Vikings put together a season ago.


St. Laurence is fortunate enough to have a great number of candidates to fill the rotation its class of 2017 vacated. It remains to be seen who will be most heavily relied upon as the team’s makeshift ace -- who knows, it may even be the freshman Valincius -- but for now, the quality of its pitching staff will determine whether or not this team strolls to another 30-win season or if it struggles to meet expectations.

Regardless, St. Laurence has the luxury of knowing where its runs are coming from. Not every team has a Matt McCormick, and even the Vikings star catcher gets to be cushioned in between fellow experienced bats Verta, Rios, and Olszak.

It may take the first chunk of the season to learn which starters Coach Lotus can etch in to his rotation, but he has a plethora of arms to run through and choose from. Once he finds his group, the Vikings could be just as dangerous as they were in 2017.

Find more information on the 2018 Vikings below:

+ Full Schedule
Team Website
+ Gamechanger

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