Preseason Team Countdown: No. 5 O'Fallon



By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the Top 50 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage:

Team: O’Fallon
Preseason Rank: 5
2014 Record: 32-4
Conference: Southwestern
IHSA Class:  4A
Head Coach:  Jason Portz

Playoff Run: Lost to Belleville West in first round, 2-1

2014 Final Rank: 15

Returning Starters: 6
Returning Pitchers: 3

TOP PLAYERS

Name, Position, Class (College Commitment)
Chris Holba, RHP, 2015 (East Carolina)
Bradley Harrison, OF/LHP, 2016 (Southern Illinois)
Camden Bauer, SS, 2016 (Alabama)
Kyle VanBevern, 3B, 2015
Bradley Snyder, 1B, 2016
Dillon Weiss, OF, 2016
Jacob Holl, C, 2015
Grant Robison, RHP, 2015
Chris Dye, RHP, 2015


X-FACTOR
Chris Holba. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound East Carolina recruit gives the Panthers a true No. 1 pitcher who can square off against anyone in the state. Holba works across his body from a 3/4 slot and gets lots of movement on his 88-91 mph fastball; he also features a potentially plus slider. As a junior, Holba went 6-0 with a 1.28 ERA. In 49.1 innings, he struck out 43 and had a 0.93 WHIP. When he is not pitching, Holba will play second base.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

Grant Robison. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound senior right-hander is coming off a good summer and will compete for the No. 3 spot in the rotation, said coach Jason Portz.

KEY PLAYERS LOST

OF/RHP Jeff Hahs (John A. Logan JC)
RHP Blake Deatherage (McKendree)

STAT RAT

Junior OF/LHP Bradley Harrison is one of the top two-way prospects in Illinois’ 2016 class. As a sophomore, Harrison batted .408 with six doubles, four homers, 32 RBI and only struck out six times in 120 at-bats. On the mound, the Southern Illinois recruit posted a 4-0 record with a 1.79 ERA. In 27.1 innings, he struck out 34 and walked 11. … 3B/SS Kyle VanBevern is one of the top unsigned seniors in the state. As a junior, the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder did not commit an error in 66 chances.

OUTLOOK
The Panthers are coming off an incredible season in which they went 32-4 en route to rolling to the Southwestern Conference championship with an impressive 13-1 record. Their remarkable season, however, came to an abrupt halt when the Panthers got ousted in the first round of the playoffs, a 2-1 setback to Belleville West. O’Fallon should be equally tough this season, as coach Jason Portz welcomes back six starters. Positionally, the Panthers are rock-solid across the diamond and should score plenty of runs. Junior SS Camden Bauer, an Alabama recruit, and 3B VanBevern make a top-level left-side of the infield. Junior 1B Bradley Snyder had a breakout sophomore campaign last spring, batting .424 with 21 RBI. Junior OF Dillon Weiss possesses excellent speed in centerfield, and Harrison is a premium left-handed bat at the top of the lineup. On the mound, Portz said he has not had two quality arms of Holba and Harrison at the top of the rotation in his 13 years at the helm. That’s a big statement considering Portz has already racked up 340 wins in his tenure. No doubt Holba and Harrison give the Panthers two frontline guys, but after that is a question mark. Look for senior RHPs Chris Dye and Grant Robison to log significant innings after graduating Blake Deatherage, who posted an 11-1 record last spring.

BOTTOM LINE
O’Fallon is once again the team to beat in a tough Southwestern Conference. But it won’t be easy, as the conference features two other top 20 teams in Edwardsville and Alton. But with Holba and Harrison at the top of the rotation, and one of the best defensive infields in the state, the Panthers are poised to make a run to Joliet in June.

Preseason Countdown

+ Top 50 Preseason Countdown Rankings

+ 2015 Schedules Released

+ Updated Illinois 2016 Rankings

+ Updated Illinois 2015 Rankings

+ June Event Schedule

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