Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Top 25 Team Countdown: No. 10 Joliet Catholic

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the Top 25 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage:

Drake Fellows
          RHP Drake Fellows

Team: Joliet Catholic
Preseason Rank:
2015 Record:
East Suburban Catholic
IHSA Class:
Head Coach:
Jared Voss
Playoff Run: Lost first game of the playoffs to Lemont
2015 Final Rank:
Returning Starters:
Returning Pitchers:

Name, Position, Class (College Commitment)
Drake Fellows, RHP, 2016 (Vanderbilt)
KC Simonich, 3B, 2017 (Texas Tech)
George Manikas, RHP, 2016 (Lewis)
Jared Jones, RHP, 2016 (St. Xavier)
Jack Howard, 1B, 2016 (Carthage)
Dan Devine, C, 2016 (Dominican)
Jack Surin, UTIL/RHP, 2017
Alec Hartsell, LHP, 2017
Antonio Saldana, LHP, 2017
Michael O’Brien, 2B, 2017


Drake Fellows. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Vanderbilt recruit gives the Hilltoppers arguably the state’s most proven dominant pitcher. Fellows has been in the limelight since his freshman year, and the right-hander has risen to nearly every occasion. Fellows pitches in the low-90s and also features and 81-84 mph slider that can be a wipeout swing-and-miss offering. Not just a hard-thrower, Fellows commands the strike zone, evidenced by his 98 strikeouts to only 11 walks in 73 innings last spring. As a junior, Fellows earned PBR second-team All-State honors after posting a 9-1 record with one save and a 0.58 ERA.

Antonio Saldana. The hulking 6-foot-6, 235-pound junior left-hander has the potential to be an impact performer and one of the top prospects in Illinois’ 2017 class. For his size, Saldana’s arm is clean and loose. At the PBR Preseason All-State Showcase in February, Saldana’s fastball topped at 87 mph.

C/RHP Nick Dalesandro (Purdue)
SS Mitchell Boe (Iowa)

In two varsity seasons, Fellows has posted a 15-2 record with 175 strikeouts to only 18 walks and a 0.64 ERA.

Once again the Hilltoppers have the talent to make a run at the Class 3A championship, but coach Jared Voss, who has amassed two state titles and two runner-up trophies, doesn’t have his most experienced club in his decorated 18-year career. JCA was hit hard by graduation, most notably, four-year standout Nick Dalesandro and SS Mitch Boe. In fact, the Hilltoppers only return three starters and three pitchers with experience from a team that started last season as the preseason No. 1 team only to lose in the first round of the playoffs to Lemont. But don’t let that fool you; JCA always has talent coming up through the ranks. JCA’s ultimate success hinges on the big arm of RHP Drake Fellows, a Vanderbilt recruit who has been nothing short of dominant the last two seasons. Behind Fellows, Senior RHPs George Manikas (Lewis recruit) and Jared Jones (St. Xavier) should provide quality innings. The Hilltoppers also have an assortment juniors and sophomores in the mix. Look for junior LHPs Antonio Saldana and Alec Hartsell to contribute as well. Offensively, the Hilltoppers are led by junior left-handed hitting 3B KC Simonich, a Texas Tech recruit who is one of the top prospects in Illinois’ 2017 class. Senior 1B Jack Howard features power from the left side, and senior catcher Dan Devine also returns. Junior 2B Michael O’Brien should also contribute.

When Fellows is on the mound, the Hilltoppers have been nearly unbeatable. The big question surrounding JCA is can its inexperienced offense consistently produce enough for its solid pitching? With that said, the Hilltoppers should still be the favorite to repeat in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and make another postseason push.

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


Preseason Top 25 Team Countdown Previews 

Updated Illinois 2016 Rankings

Complete Illinois High School Schedules