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Underclass Games: Quick Hits


By PBR Illinois & Wisconsin staffs

Annually, the PBR Illinois and Wisconsin staffs take a trip to downtown Chicago to host Underclass Games, an invite-only event for the two states’ top incoming sophomores. Beautiful Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium, on the University of Illinois-Chicago’s campus, hosted our team and the 60-plus prospects who accepted our invitation.

Today, we’re going to begin our post-event coverage by outlining the day’s highlights from the loaded Class of 2022 showcase. Stay tuned tomorrow when we break down the event from a more statistical perspective.

For now, continue on below for notes on some of the day’s standout performances.

QUICK HITS

LEFT-HANDED BATS

+ INF/RHP Brady Small (Lemont, IL) has a strong 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame and a left-handed bat to follow closely moving forward. Small was all over pitches in the zone during game play, lining out sharply twice, flashing bat speed and strong hands. The two-way talent also got on the mound and was up to 84 mph, coupled with a swing-and-miss forkball.

+ Louisville commit C Will Vierling (Homestead, WI) arguably was the best pure hitter in attendance. Vierling, a 6-foot, 170-pound backstop, is calm and confident in the box and creates extremely easy bat speed. Vierling stays short to the ball, has quick hands, controls the barrel, and maintains balance through contact. Looks to be one of the top left-handed bats in the Midwest.

+ INF Tristan Ellis (Greendale, WI), a Purdue commit, impressed during the morning showcase and only enhanced his stock during game play. Ellis has top-of-the-order profile written all over his game. The 5-foot-7, 140-pound, left-handed hitter uses the entire field, has advanced hand-eye skills, and controls the barrel. Ellis was 4.33 on an infield single and 4.26 on a bunt that ended up just foul and he pulled up early on. Defensively, he is a slick defender with quick feet and throws naturally from multiple slots. Ellis was a key part of a couple of smooth double plays in-game, and also made a diving snag to his glove side.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

+ 6-foot-1, 152-pound, Kolton Schaller (Mount Horeb, WI) is a long, loose-limbed, left-handed hitting infielder with a high ceiling offensively. Schaller has loose, athletic hands at the plate, creates bat speed and his bat stays through the hitting zone a long time. 

+ INF/RHP Rory Fox (Catholic Memorial, WI) is a left-handed hitting shortstop who is equally as interesting on the mound. Fox has natural infield actions, smooth confident hands and his arm has easy carry across the diamond at 84 mph. On the mound, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound, right-hander works with ease and a composed presence. Fox ran his fastball up to 85 mph and flashed two offspeed offerings with above-average action.  

+ INF Ryan Bibb (Mascoutah, IL) is a physical 6-foot-1, 183-pound, right-handed-hitting infielder with advanced tools. Bibb ran a 4.32 home-to-first, was 87 mph across the infield and 85 mph off a tee. Bibb, who may grow into a third base profile, takes an aggressive swing at the plate and looks to lift the baseball.

+ Christian Holmes (De La Salle, IL) was one of the more complete, uncommitted, middle infielders in attendance. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound, right-handed hitter, repeats his swing, stays short to the ball, has a quick bat and consistently found the barrel. He also took a number of competitive in game at-bats. Defensively, he is a natural infield defender, with smooth actions, maintains body control on the move and his arm (82 mph) is plenty strong enough to play the left-side of the diamond.

+ INF/RHP Luka Radicevich (Joliet Catholic, IL) was one of the top performers during game action. The wiry, 5-foot-11, 145-pound, right-handed hitter, was all over a fastball on the inner-half and drove a double that one-hopped the left-field fence. He also got on the mound and showed lively stuff with a fastball up to 86 mph and a sharp curveball thrown aggressively, up to 77 mph. 

+ INF/RHP Ethan Clark (Lakes Community, IL) is a 6-foot-2, 150-pound, high-ceiling, two-way prospect. Clark, a right-handed hitter, has long levers, flat path and line-drive approach. Defensively, he is a gangly defender with a loose arm that plays with carry across the diamond. On the mound, he is a prime candidate for a velo jump in the future as his arm works loose, clean and easy. Clark will be one to keep an eye on as he adds strength to his frame.

ARMS

+ The biggest arm of the day on the mound goes to RHP Brenden Strenke (Turtle Lake, WI). We first saw Strenke back in March where he flashed an 89 mph fastball. In this outing the 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-hander sat 86-88 mph with a 70-74 mph curveball. He showed similar arm strength in the outfield where he was up to 90 mph. 

+ RHP Ryan Karst (Brookfield East, WI) pitched a pair of clean innings with intriguing upside. Standing 6-foot-2, 195-pounds he has an athletic frame that works from a ¾ slot and creates arm-side run on a 79-81 mph fastball that reached 82-83 mph. His curveball played slurve-type at times but flashed sharp action at the higher end of a 64-69 mph range.  

+ Thomas Harper (Wauwatosa East, WI) has a ton of upside at 6-foot-3, 165-pounds working from the right side. He’s long, lean and still raw in his abilities, but gets natural extension down the mound and sinks his fastball at 80-82 mph. 

+ LHP/1B Luke Ross (Waunakee, WI) is a two-way talent with a ton of feel on the mound. He showed an easy downhill fastball at 78-80 mph, that he pairs with a 12/6 curveball to repeatedly change eye levels and induce weak contact. Working from an over-the-top slot, he pitches with little effort and looks extremely comfortable and in control on the mound. 

+ LHP Michael Mulhollon (Westosha Central, WI) may be one of the more polished pitchability arms in attendance. Mulhollon has a high ceiling and loose, athletic arm action. His fastball showed arm-side run at 80-81 mph with relative ease and above-average control. He mixed in feel for a 1/7 curveball at 68-70 mph and showed a knack for pitching to weak contact. 

+ One of the cleanest and projectable arm actions at the event belonged to LHP Shane Curtin (Mount Carmel, IL). Curtin worked the bottom of the zone and both sides of the plate with a fastball that sat 79-82 mph, touching 83 mph. The smooth southpaw also showed feel for a three-pitch mix and struck out four in two innings of work.

+ RHP Jake Swartz (Normal University, IL) showed off a live arm that generated an 82-84 mph fastball that touched 85 mph. His 12/6 curveball (71-74 mph) has a chance to be a real separator for him and showed advanced feel for it at his age.

OUTFIELDERS

+ OF/RHP Cuyler Zukowski (Madison LaFollette, WI) displayed some of the best raw bat speed and twitch on the day. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound, wiry-strong, right-handed hitter was 94 mph off a tee, topped 86 mph from the outfield, and touched 83 mph on the mound. 

+ Ramon Jimerson Jr. (Sacred Heart-Griffin, IL) has long been one of the more intriguing right-handed hitters in Illinois and he only solidified that on Tuesday. Jimerson starts from a wide, crouched setup and stays simple and compact throughout. Jimerson has athletic, quick hands and elevated baseballs with authority to both gaps. 

+ D.J. Kojis (Whitefish Bay, WI) possesses a ton of intrigue in his frame and bat. Kojis has long lanky levers at 6-foot-1, 155-pounds that create bat speed and flashed gap-to-gap pop in BP. He’s a rangy defender in the outfield who also showed the ability to cover ground with long strides. 

MORE BATS

+ Two physical right-handed hitters who stood out during game play were Jaicee Foster (Southwest, WI) and Kyle Smith (Warren, IL). Foster has a strong, 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame and features raw bat strength. Foster made some of the loudest contact of the day with a line-drive single over the third baseman's head. Smith has a 5-foot-11, 200-pound, strong compact frame and stays inside the baseball at the plate. Smith lined two balls sharply to right field during game play.

THE COMMITTED

+ Keegan Knutson (Milton, WI; South Carolina commit), Michael Lippe (Whitefish Bay, WI; Louisville) and Hayden Christiansen (Richmond Burton, IL; Xavier) have all already made their college commitments, and the trio stood out as some of the top prospects in attendance. (Also, we already mentioned the other Louisville-bound prospect, Vierling, at the top.)

+ Lippe is a strong physical right-handed hitting outfielder who has a ton of barrel awareness and produces some of the hardest contact on the diamond. He has a natural line drive approach that tends to favor the right center gap, but as he matures will likely translate that to above average power numbers at the next level. 

+ Knutson plays the game at a different pace then his peers, he’s an ultra competitive fast twitch athlete who plays uptempo and changes the pace of play when he’s on the field. 

+ Finally, Hayden Christiansen is a big armed catcher who posted the top pop times of the day at 2.00. His bat plays just as strong as he backspun a line drive to left center in game actions, repeating much of what he did in BP. 

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