Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 6 Brother Rice

By: Gavin Smith & Diego Solares
PBR Illinois 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: Brother Rice
Preseason Rank: No. 6
2022 Record: 36-6
Conference: Chicago Catholic League (Blue)
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Sean McBride


Cole Van Assen RHP Brother Rice 2023 Purdue
Bryce Nevils OF/C Brother Rice 2023 Western Kentucky
Amir Gray
Brother Rice
2023 Purdue
Aidan O'Hara
RHP Brother Rice 2023 Loras College
Trent Guzek RHP Brother Rice 2023 Elmhurst
Josh Sutker
Brother Rice 2023 MSOE
Brendan Arnold
Brother Rice 2023 Loras College
Sean Sullivan
Brother Rice 2023 -
Randall Nauden
Brother Rice 2024 -
Casey Giemzik
Brother Rice 2024 -
Chris Daugherty
Brother Rice 2024 -
Rudy Perez
Brother Rice 2024 -
Ryan Hartz
RHP/OF Brother Rice 2024 -
Jackson Natanek
Brother Rice 2025 -
Derrick Holmes
Brother Rice 2025 -
Lance Moon
Brother Rice 2025 -
Aidan Nohava
Brother Rice 2025 -
Gavin Triezenberg INF
Brother Rice 2025


+ INF Christian Holmes (Kansas State)
+ RHP Dylan Warda (Indiana)
+ OF Jack Lausch (Northwestern)
+ OF Nick Daughtery (Maryville)
+ OF Andrew Ivy (Arizona Western JC)
+ OF Will Flanigan (Iowa Western CC)
+ MIF Beau Polickey (Heartland CC)
+ C Zion Rose (2023; transferred to IMG Academy, FL; Louisville commit)


+ RHP/INF Jackson Natanek (2025) is one of the top middle infielders in the class of 2025 (No. 11 overall). A member of Team Illinois at the PBR Future Games as an underclassman, Natanek’s value for the Crusaders will ultimately lie on both sides of the ball. He can really defend up the middle, and he’s also a quality athletic arm that, although relatively inexperienced, can bolster this group as a whole. We recently saw him at the Preseason All-State: Underclass event and here is what our staff had to say about him: 

“...continues to separate himself as one of the top middle infield defenders still on the market in the class. He’s an ultra smooth and athletic mover, boasting soft hands while playing low through the ball and gaining ground easily with a shuffle into his throws. His arm has made some jumps since our last look at him, now reaching up to 91 mph across the diamond. The right-handed bat has always been compact with a line-drive approach, whole field approach and it gained some bat strength over the winter, now registering a T90.4 mph exit velocity, up from 83.6 mph in 2022. He has continued to improve his 60-time and his arm is an asset on the mound too. He topped at 86 mph with a hard-biting mid-70s curveball that plays with an average of 2482 rpm.”

Jackson Natanek


+ Two players with the potential to have breakout seasons are juniors C Randall Nauden (2024) and OF Chris Daugherty (2024). Nauden will look to take over behind the plate with Rose transferring to IMG Academy in Florida. Nauden is one of the top catchers in the class of 2024 and was a member of Team Illinois at the PBR Future Games in 2021. Daugherty can really run and is capable of setting the table for a few of the Crusaders’ big bats while deepening this lineup as a whole offensively. Strong years from these two will complement the rest of this roster well and only increase the chances of Brother Rice playing deep into the 4A playoffs. 


The Crusaders lost a lot of their offensive production from the 3rd place finishing team in last year’s class 4A state playoffs. They will look to replace a group that combined for a .371 avg, 15 HRs, and 234 RBIs. With a lot of returning players with little varsity experience and a lot of underclass talent, this Brother Rice team is still looking to make it back to the state finals this season, with the hopes of winning another CCL championship.

RHP Cole Van Assen (2023; Purdue) enters his final prep season as the ace of this Brother Rice staff. He’s a legitimate frontline arm that’ll give Brother Rice a chance to win each start he makes, something that the PBR First Team All-State honoree proved capable of doing last year. Over 77 ⅓ innings of work, Van Assen struck out 92 batters and pitched to a 1.54 ERA to go along with his perfect 13-0 record. He’s always performed when called upon and the Crusaders absolutely feel comfortable backing him in each contest. 

Cole Van Assen

Pairing up with Van Assen at the front of this staff is RHP Casey Giemzik (2024), who’s slated for a more expansive role than before. Across 42 innings of work in 2022, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior punched out 47 batters and finished with a 5-1 record. Building off those numbers and solidifying himself as a top-of-the-rotation type of arm would unquestionably improve the overall performance of Brother Rice this year.

Three more senior arms to note are RHP Aiden O’Hara (2023; Loras), RHP Trent Guzek (2023; Elmhurst), and LHP Josh Sutker (2023; Milwaukee School of Engineering). This trio are all potential arms that can be deployed out of the ‘pen and have the chance to provide quality innings for Brother Rice.

The top offensive production for this year’s team will come from returning starters 1B Amir Gray (2023; Purdue) and OF/C Bryce Nevils (2023; Western Kentucky). Both players are among the best in the class at their positions and they look to lead the way for this year’s young squad. Gray slots nicely into the middle of this order, swinging a fast left-handed bat that produced with regularity throughout his junior campaign. He hit .417 and drove 31 runs in, swatting 11 extra-base hits total and adding some help on the bases, swiping nine bags. 3 HR, 31 RBI, and had 9 stolen bases and 11 extra base hits in 147 plate appearances. Nevils is a dynamic all-around athlete that’s done nothing but trend upward over the last 12 months, providing value in all aspects of the game. He batted .342 last year, totaled 17 extra-base hits, swiped 15 bags, and drove home 25 runs. Nevils was one of the stars of our inaugural Illinois State Games, earning high praise from our staff prior to his Western Kentucky commitment: 

“...was another major winner from this event, committing to Western Kentucky a few days afterwards. At a strong, athletic 6-foot-1, 188-pounds, Nevils ran a 6.89 60-yard dash, reached a peak exit velocity of 97.8 mph, and topped at 87 mph from the outfield during Tuesday’s workout. That strength and athleticism translated seamlessly in-game for Nevils, who launched a no-doubt home run and short hopped the left field fence on day two. He also flew around the basepaths, taking extra-bases at will and serving as an offensive manufacturer for his squad throughout the event. Over the course of the two days, no one stood out on the bases more than Nevils. He is ultra-aggressive, runs better than his frame would indicate, showed tremendous feel gaining ground on his leadoffs, especially at second base and utilized a delayed steal numerous times without much recourse. Nevils all-around baseball abilities, to go along with his in-game at-bats, set him apart from most of his peers.”

Bryce Nevils

Brother Rice has a plethora of underclassmen with little to no varsity experience to their names. Nanatek, mentioned above as the ‘Newcomer to Watch’, UTIL Aidan Nohava (2025), INF Gavin Triezenberg (2025), INF Derrick Holmes (2025), and OF Lance Moon (2025) are all names to know this spring for the Crusaders. With these players yet to see any varsity time, they will all be tasked with providing an offensive spark for a team looking to fill some depth that was lost last season. They have each shown well at events as of late: 

+ Nohava’s nugget from our Preseason All-State: Underclass event on February 25th:

“...continues to make a name for himself and will be a right-handed bat to follow in the class moving forward. The 6-foot, 191-pound, solidly- built, athletic sophomore has a fluid, upside swing with natural strength that works on-plane with natural lift and gap-to-gap approach. It's an easy, impactful, balanced swing that resulted in a 88.8 mph average exit velocity, three mph off his 91.8 mph max with a max batted ball of 323’. It is a polished swing and approach that should only continue to ascend as he moves forward.”

+ Triezenberg was at the Illinois State Games in August and provided a quality look with three hits, one being a double, a stolen base, and two runs driven in on the second day of the event.

+ Holmes was another participant at the Illinois State Games last August that caught our attention:

“...was one of the top 2025s in attendance with upside to all parts of his game. The athletic middle infielder roams with pace and tempo on the dirt while his hands play soft and he is comfortable ranging to all sides. His hands and feet will allow Holmes to stick up the middle long term, especially as his foot speed continues to tick up in the coming years. Holmes finished the week 2-for-7 with a walk, taking a number of competitive at-bats while showing quick, athletic hands at the plate with much more thump off the barrel to tap into down the road. Holmes ran a 4.46 on an infield groundout on Day two. 2025 uncommitted high-follow infielder.”

+ Moon’s showing at the White Sox ACE Scout Day last September, earning a spot within our 2025 rankings as a result: 

“...was one of the top athletes in attendance and showcased unique quick-twitch ability which allows him to get more out of tools than his 5-foot-8, 155-pound frame suggests. Moon ran a 6.87 60, was 90 mph from the outfield and his hardest batted ball came off the bat at 90.7 mph. The right-handed hitter has quick wrists that produced above average bat speed, stayed level through the zone, generated line-drive contact to all parts of the field and the ball jumped off the bat. He plays fast and light on his feet in the outfield with a quick, strong arm that jumps out of the hand. Moon is a confident, aggressive defender, gaining ground through release. Toolsy 2025 with all kinds of upside to his game.”


The Crusaders have proven themselves as winners over the past few years, with a track record of success that speaks for itself. Several strong performers from last season’s third place team are gone, but an infusion of young talent and experience at key positions have the Crusaders primed for another strong campaign in 2023. 

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

Find more information on the 2023 Crusaders below:

+ Team Website
+ Team Schedule
+ Team Twitter