Preseason Top 25 Team Countdown: No. 24 Champaign Central

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:

Alec Barger
        OF/RHP Alec Barger

Team: Champaign Central
Preseason Rank:
2015 Record:
Big 12
IHSA Class:
Head Coach:
John Staab
Playoff Run: Lost in the Regional Championship
2015 Final Rank: 23

Returning Starters: 5
Returning Pitchers:

Name, Position, Class (College Commitment)
Joe Aeilts, CIF/RHP, 2016 (Illinois State)
Alec Barger, OF/RHP, 2016 (Northern Illinois)
Matt Brown, IF/C, 2016
Tanner Gordon, RHP/OF, 2016 (John A Logan JC)
Phillip Swartz, RHP, 2016
Joe Bagger, OF/P, 2017
Patrick Beckemeyer, INF, 2017
Jake Beesley, OF, 2017
Dom Erlinger RHP, 2017
Anthony Schreiber RHP, 2017
Cade Sestak INF/RHP, 2017
Marshall Thompson INF/RHP, 2017

Alec Barger. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Northern Illinois recruit is a premium athlete with plus speed (6.64 60) and a strong arm (89 from the outfield). Over the summer, though, Barger emerged as a highly interesting pitching prospect, one that flashed upper-80s velocity with a sharp breaking ball. If Barger continues to improve on the mound, he has the athleticism and upside to be a frontline guy.

Cameron Robinson. The 6-foot-4 sophomore OF/RHP is a long and lean high-ceiling two-way player who could make an impact on the varsity squad this spring.

2B Jacob Snider (moved to Kentucky; Louisville recruit)
C Luke Beesley (Parkland JC)
SS Nick Brunson (Kaskaskia JC)
OF Connor Mapes

Joe Aeilts has a career .489 batting average in two varsity seasons. Last season the Illinois State recruit earned PBR second-team All-State honors after he hit .458 with nine doubles, five triples, one home run, and 29 RBI. The athletic third baseman swiped 32-for-33 in stolen bases. He also went 2-0 with two saves and a 1.33 ERA on the mound, striking out 27 in 21 innings pitched, allowing only four earned runs and 14 hits on the season. As a sophomore, he hit .512 with 12 doubles and 10 triples.

Last year, the Maroons enjoyed tremendous success, as they won 32 games and were ranked in the top 10 for a large part of the season. As one of the heavy favorites to win the Class 3A state championship, the Maroons’ ride came to a screeching halt when they got bounced in the regional finals to crosstown rival Centennial. Five starters and four pitchers return from last year’s club, but coach John Staab will be without 2B Jacob Snider, a Louisville recruit who moved to Kentucky for his senior year. While Snider’s left-handed bat and leadership will be missed, the Maroons have plenty of returning talent. 3B/RHP Joe Aeilts (Illinois State) and OF/RHP Alec Barger (Northern Illinois) are both two-way standouts back for their third year in the middle of the lineup. The Maroons should have solid depth on the mound. Along with Aeilts and Barger, uncommitted senior RHP Phillip Swartz is a proven winner, evidenced by his 20-2 record over the last two seasons. RHP Tanner Gordon, a John A. Logan JC recruit, emerged late last spring as a potential frontline guy, striking out 58 in 53 innings. INF/C Matt Brown and OF/RHP Joe Bagger also return. Overall team depth is the big question for the Maroons this season.

The Maroons have mastered the regular season, racking up lots of wins, only to fall flat in the postseason. Can this talented senior class get them over the hump this season?