Preseason Team Countdown: No. 26 Lincoln-Way West

Team: Lincoln-Way West
Preseason Rank: 26
2014 Record: 30-7
Conference: Southwest Suburban - Red
IHSA Class: 3A 
Head Coach: Jake Zajc
Playoff Run:
Lost in Regional Championship to eventual State Champion Lemont
2014 Final Rank:
Returning Starters:
Returning Pitchers:

Name, Position, Class (College Commitment)
Steven Skolarz, RHP, 2015

Trevor Dallio, LHP, 2015 (Rose-Hulman)
Ryan Hastings, 3B, 2016
Andrew Clavenna, RHP, 2015
Adam Knerr, SS, 2016
John Saffrahn, RHP, 2015 (Concordia, IL)
Bailey Magruder, C, 2015 (Webster)

Uncommitted RHP Steven Skolarz had an uncharacteristic year in 2014, but still went 3-2 with 35 K’s in 28.1 IP, good for a 2.96 ERA. He’s won several big games throughout his high school career (notably beating Joliet Catholic as a freshman in the playoffs), and looked good this fall as his velocity picked back up into the upper 80’s. Skolarz touched 90 mph in his first start of the spring last season, is a power arm, and gives the Warriors a true ace on the mound.

Several newcomers made an impact this summer for Lincoln-Way West. Head Coach Jake Zajc noted 1B/C/OF Ben Zordani has a physical frame at 6-foot-1, 190-pounds with Divison-I potential. Left-handed hitting DH/1B Matt Monahan hit third all summer for the Warriors and was their top hitter. RHP Tyler Dallio has shown low-80’s velocity on the mound. Zajc also noted that several sophomores are talented and will get the opportunity to compete for playing time. AJ Ashley is a skilled outfielder, Noah Hibler is a versatile utility player that can play anywhere on the field, LHP Connor Lowman has potential on the mound and was the Warriors starting quarterback in the fall, RHP’s Kyler Kopacz and  could see time on the mound as well.

RHP/SS Luke Morgan South Alabama will be irreplaceable. A four year starter, all Morgan did in 2014 while being named PBR 2nd Team All-State was go 7-0 on the mound with four saves, a 0.50 ERA, 0.43 WHIP and 54 Ks in 42 innings. Also a top-level defensive shortstop, Morgan tallied seven doubles, three triples, four homers, 26 RBI and 26 runs while batting .376. Morgan left Lincoln-Way West as the program’s all-time leader in runs scored, RBI and batting average at the plate, as well as the school’s career leader in strikeouts on the mound.

Junior 3B Ryan Hastings returns to provide a middle of the lineup bat after hitting .362 with nine doubles, 2 home runs, and 26 RBI in 2014.

The Warriors have a solid blend of returning experienced starters and young talent. Expect pitching to be strength with Skolarz, RHP Andrew Clavenna (3-1, 3.18 ERA in 2014), RHP John Saffrahn (8-0 as a sophomore in 2013) and LHP Trevor Dallio (low 80’s fastball from multiple angles) to lead the pitching staff. Dallio may start or close, Clavenna was up to 87 mph this winter, and Saffrahn impressed this fall with a 13 strikeout game the Perfect Game Kernels Classic. The infield remains intact with Hastings returning at third base, junior Adam Knerr at shortstop (providing speed at the top of the lineup), and second baseman Jake Rossborough.

The Warriors upset Joliet Catholic last spring in the JCA regional with Luke Morgan on the mound, but fell to eventual state champion Lemont in the Regional Championship. They’ll face the gauntlet of the Southwest Suburban - Red, which includes the likes of Lincoln-Way North, Andrew, and Bradley-Bourbonnais. Once they finish conference it will be an even tougher road, likely placed in the toughest 3A regional yet again with JCA and Lemont. Joliet Catholic will be the heavy favorite to advance to Joliet from that regional, but as we saw last season, anything can happen in playoff baseball when two aces square off on the mound.

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