Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 10 Providence Catholic

By Andy Sroka
Illinois & Wisconsin Assistant Director

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: Providence Catholic
Preseason Rank: No. 10
2021 Record: 26-14
Conference: Chicago Catholic League - Blue
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Mark Smith


Alex Alberico
RHP 2022 Kent State
Brayden Garrigan OF/RHP
2022 -
Ethan Litynski C 2022 -
Ryan Mrozek INF 2022 -
Shaw Stukel OF 2022 Saint Ambrose
Jack Wajda RHP
2022 Chipola JC
Tyler Young INF/RHP 2022 -
Jude Allen CIF
2023 -
Jacob Garcia OF 2023 -
Gavin Gomez 1B/LHP
2023 -
Ryan Hussey RHP
2023 Notre Dame
Albert Moreno INF 2023 -
Alexander Vinci LHP/OF 2023 -
Will Withers C 2023 -
Drew Zemaitis RHP 2023 Xavier
Jackson Smith MIF 2024 -


+ C Cain Headrick (2021; Lewis)
+ RHP Kyle Hussey (2021; Lewis)
+ INF Justin Janowski (2021; South Suburban JC)
+ INF Ryan O’Neil (2021)
+ C/INF Jake Rybka (2021)


+ MIF Jackson Smith (2024): At our Preseason All-State: Underclass showcase last month, Smith made a splash in his PBR event debut. There, he raced out to a 6.84 time in the 60-yard dash inside a projectable 6-foot, 160-pound stature, and his high motor translates well on defense. Smith’s quick footwork and sure-handed actions defensively will help him cover either side of the second base bag for the Celtics. And as just a sophomore, he won’t be asked to do too much offensively this spring, but for the long-term, he looks like the type who will spark the lineup behind him in a lead-off spot, with a left-handed swing that sprays the ball to all fields from a barrel control approach. The holes around the diamond left open by the Class of 2021 should create opportunities for Smith to force his way into regular at-bats.



+ LHP/1B Gavin Gomez (2023): While utilizing a short arm action that unleashes low-80s fastballs that project to sneak up on hitters, Gomez generates carry and run on the mix that should help him carve out even more time on the mound as a junior, topping the 21 innings he pitched last year. He K’d 21, too, and finished his sophomore spring with an ERA of 2.67, though it’s his offense that looks like it’ll be most valuable to Providence this year. Gomez can really lift the ball from the left-handed batter’s box, especially for a player listed at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds. He slugged three homers last year and projects to earn daily opportunities inside the lineup while defending first base. Because the Celtics graduated its go-to run-producers from a season ago, Gomez’s development offensively can assist Providence immensely as it seeks run support for its excellent pitching staff – and for that reason, they won’t need much of it.


Providence Catholic is one of the most decorated programs in the state, coached by Mark Smith, who’s chartered the program to four state tournament appearances – which includes the incredible three consecutive championships won in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons – and their 2022 roster contains elements that remind us of that stretch of dominance. They weren’t really the preseason Chicago Catholic League favorites in those years, even as reigning state champs, yet they consistently played their best baseball just prior to the postseason and especially within it.

The 2022 Celtics stir those kinds of feelings. Last year, they were 26-14 and yet, as a No. 6 seed inside their Regional, they defeated the Nos. 3, 2, and 4 seeds en route to earning a Super-Sectional berth. They graduated a handful of critical contributors, especially the few that made the most offensive impact in 2021, but this year’s Provy roster also features one of the state’s most talented pitching staffs, complemented by a reliable defense that Coach Smith consistently gets the most out of.

We touched on No. 17 Mount Carmel’s loaded rotation when we published their preseason piece, and their conference rivals in New Lenox are among the few programs in the state with a staff in the same tier. Seniors RHP Alex Alberico (2022; Kent State commit) and RHP Jack Wajda (2022; Chipola JC) return the most innings on staff each, at 42.1 and 32.2, respectively, and the talented junior arms returning made impacts as underclassmen, too, which will prove valuable this spring. Alberico started the team’s Regional semis and Sectional championship victories, and his advanced spin featured on both his fastball and curve generated plenty of swings and misses, leading the staff with 64 total in 2021. He was effectively wild in his junior season, though he made it work well enough to lead his team in innings, obviously, and any improvement there over the offseason should only enhance the upside this pitching staff offers.

Alex Alberico (1/29/22)

As for Wajda, he was a key arm used mostly in relief as a junior, and he coincidentally piggybacked off Alberico’s four innings in the Sectional title win against Homewood-Flossmoor. He relieved Alberico in the fifth, inheriting a jam, and he navigated through it, limiting the Vikings to just one run, and a strikeout and double play in the bottom of the seventh stranded the tying and game-winning runners to secure another Celtics Sectional title. Wajda walked only eight in those 30-plus innings, and his physicality and mid-80s stuff perfectly mixes with the confidence he exudes on the mound, giving us the optimism that his transition into a more regular starter will be a smooth one.

Jack Wajda (5/5/21)

Providence Catholic is also rostering two of the state’s top junior pitchers, and both pitched 30 innings as sophomores in 2021: RHP Ryan Hussey (2023; Notre Dame) and RHP Drew Zemaitis (2023; Xavier). Hussey is a top-20-ranked prospect in the state’s junior class, and he was very good as a sophomore last year, ending the season with a 2.80 ERA and 31 Ks in those 30 frames, featuring regularly in CCL action.

We just got our latest look at Zemaitis, too, at Preseason All-State where he demonstrated a leap made in the offseason, sitting 90-91 mph with a hard curveball, sinking change, fit inside a starter’s 6-foot-2, 195-pound build. He wasn’t quite as efficient as Hussey last spring, but he still managed to pitch 30 varsity innings as a sophomore and that experience will be invaluable, especially now that his stuff has made substantial gains in between.

Two-way players like ‘X-Factor’ Gomez and seniors INF/RHP Tyler Young (2022) and OF/RHP Brayden Garrigan (2022)  competently fill out the innings left over, most from the bullpen. Young and Garrigan will more importantly be tasked with jumpstarting the offense. Young is an athletic player who hit .283 in 53 junior at-bats last year, and that athleticism also gives Coach Smith the flexibility to deploy him across the infield defensively. Garrigan should be the team’s everyday center fielder in 2022, and he played in most of the team’s games as a junior, returning a .277, as well as four homers and 28 runs scored that stemmed from his patience at the plate, reaching base at a useful rate (.413 OBP). Fellow senior OF Shaw Stukel (2022; Saint Ambrose) should also see an increase in opportunity this season, helping replace the graduated talent.

Juniors Jude Allen (2023) and Albert Moreno (2023) have above-average right-handed bat strength as corner infielders, and any kind of offense they can generate will push them into more regular playing time. OF Jacob Garcia (2023) is another name to monitor in his first taste of varsity ball; LHP/OF Alexander Vinci (2023) can be a useful southpaw in the 'pen and may earn some time in a corner outfield spot, too. Elsewhere on the diamond, and with Cain Headrick (2021; Lewis) graduated, the Celtics have a sizable hole at catcher, and it’s an especially big position to fill considering the kind of velocity and spin that position will be receiving throughout the season. This high-powered staff can pitch more confidently if a dependable target emerges behind the plate at some point this season.


Armed with a rotation that is both experienced and talented, but with questions inside its lineup, the Celtics might not hit their stride until the midseason, as per usual, but expect them to become one of the last teams you’d want to oppose in an elimination game. The pitching staff has a healthy mix of firepower and strike-throwers, as its talented junior trio offers the squad as a whole next-level upside come playoff time. Having graduated a handful of its everyday bats, the daily lineup will be mixing and matching until it finds the right setting to create enough runs to support its stellar staff, promoting the belief that Provy has what it takes to venture down its latest trip toward Joliet.

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

Find more information on the 2022 Celtics below:

+ Team Website
+ Team Schedule
+ Team Twitter