Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 20 Joliet West
March 8, 2023
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: Joliet West
Preseason Rank: No. 20
2022 Record: 24-14
Conference: Suburban Prairie
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: John Karczewski
|Conner Hogan||LHP||Joliet West||2023||Aurora|
|Joe Lukancic||OF/1B||Joliet West
|Angelo Spoto||OF||Joliet West
||2023||Rock Valley JC|
|Zackry Tarrant||1B||Joliet West
|Ayden Lasson||UTL||Joliet West
|Brandon Alzamora||LHP||Joliet West||2023||John Wood CC|
|Deon McNair||OF||Joliet West
|James Love||3B||Joliet West||2024||Eastern Illinois|
|Jimmy Anderson||SS/RHP||Joliet West||2024||-|
|Cael Karczewski||MIF||Joliet West||2024||-|
|Sean Dube||RHP||Joliet West||2024||-|
|Owen Young||C||Joliet West||2024||-|
|Juan Rico||RHP||Joliet West
|Casey Tyrell||LHP||Joliet West
|Parker Schwarting||C/1B||Joliet West
|Christian Chignoli||OF||Joliet West
|Matt Marchiniak||1B/OF||Joliet West
KEY PLAYERS LOST
+ UTL Ryan Holloway (Joliet JC)
+ LHP Nathan Schram
+ INF James Love (2024; Eastern Illinois commit) has been a name-to-know for some time now. After a successful winter circuit, Love, standing at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, is poised for another productive spring season after earning a spot on the Suburban Prairie All-Conference team in 2022, as only sophomore. Last season, Love hit .404 and tallied 25 RBIs, and he also struck out 41 batters in 30 innings as an underclassman. This past February, he showed no signs of slowing down as he put together one of the top performances of the Preseason ID circuit at the Aurora Preseason ID. Read on below for what we had to say about Love from the event:
"[Love] carried over his momentum from an impressive Illinois State Games last August into this event. Love seemed on a mission in the batters box showing off more bat speed and explosiveness off the barrel than we have seen in the past. Love took the loudest, most consistent round of BP on the day, spraying hard contact to both gaps. Love led the event with a T99.9 exit velocity, average of 94.9 mph, while launching the furthest batted ball of the day at ‘392 which was 23 feet further than the next best. He also showed his usual smooth actions on the infield with improved arm strength, topping at 88 mph across the diamond. An ascending junior that is poised for a big spring season for the Tigers."
James Love (2/4/23)
24: Last year’s win total (24) and head coach John Karczewski’s highest win total during his time at Joliet West. And yet, the Tigers will look to build off this record total with a large portion of its 2022 production heading back inside the dugout this spring.
NEWCOMER TO WATCH
+ RHP Ryan Sobun (2025): It remains unclear how much time, if any, that Sobun will get on varsity this spring but the talent level stood out this past winter at the Joliet Preseason ID. The physical sophomore, who also is a follow as a position player, impressed on the mound, working in the mid-80s. Here's our report from his performance that day:
"[Sobun] was another right-hander that showed off a big arm on the day. Listed at an athletic 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, Sobun displayed what appeared to be a tough look for would-be hitters, hiding the ball well on the back side before firing into a low 3/4 release. He sat right in the 83-85 mph range with life to the arm-side (14.9” avg. HM; 17.7” max HM). His curveball showed some upside, occasionally getting under it but flashing depth off an 11/5 plane, 67-69 mph. His changeup also looked to have potential to be an above-average pitch for him, playing with sink and fade to the arm-side (16.2” avg. HM; 17.8” max HM), 76-78 mph."
The Tigers look to build on their 2022 season where they saw a second place finish in conference and a regional championship. With almost their entire roster from last year’s team coming back, they will look to win a conference title and make a potential run in the class 4A state playoffs.
Joliet West brings back a productive, deep group of junior and senior position players that impacted a varsity club that won 24 games in 2024. Love was mentioned above as the team’s ‘X-Factor,' but three other juniors SS/RHP Jimmy Anderson, C Owen Young, MIF Cael Karczewski helped round out one of the top infields in the state. Anderson, another all-conference selection in 2022, started at shortstop and hit in the middle of the order, finishing with a .355 batting average and nine extra-base hits.
Jimmy Anderson (2/4/23)
Young hit .389 with 29 RBIs and was the cleanup hitter as a sophomore. He's has shown well on defense, specifically, with a pop time range of 1.89-2.04 while swinging a strong, compact bat at the plate. Karczewski hit .341 with 22 RBIs and 28 runs, and he recently ran a 6.92 time in the 60-yard dash at the recent Preseason All-State showcase, where he also recorded a max exit velocity of 92.6 mph, with throws across the infield that reached as high as 88 mph to first base.
This year’s team is also full of seniors returning to the lineup with experience, led by OF/1B Joe Lukancic (2023; Aurora), OF Angelo Spoto (2023; Rock Valley JC), and 1B Zach Tarrant (2023; Joliet JC) – Lukancic hit .394 and is yet another position player returning to have been named all-conference in 2022.
Leading the way on the mound for the Tigers will be senior LHP Conner Hogan (Aurora) and the two-way junior Anderson, who we touched on earlier as one of the returning bats in the lineup. Hogan, a 6-foot-8 lefty, will look to continue his success with 13 varsity wins to his name, and counting. Last year, Anderson went 5-2 with 52 strikeouts in 52 innings. Some other names to look for to draw potential starts throughout the spring are juniors RHP Juan Rico and LHP Casey Tyrell. On top of that, some other names that should help round out the staff are RHP/UTL Sean Dube (2023), Love (mentioned above as the 'X-Factor'), LHP Brandon Alzamora (2023) and Karczewski.
Joliet West, with all its returning talent, has a legitimate chance to win conference and make a run in the state playoffs. With a junior-heavy roster that produced at the varsity level last year as sophomores, and multiple seniors with proven experience, the Tigers have the makings of being a tough out come playoff time, hoping they'll be welcome to make the short stroll to the state tournament in June.
Make sure to follow @PBRIllinois on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the 2023 season.