Weekly Diamond Notes

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

Alek Thomas and Scott Youngbrandt are our latest Player of the Week recipients for their standout performances over the past two weeks. Thomas slugged his way to the award with a 10-for-22 week and Youngbrandt did it with both his bat and arm, helping Andrew win a Regional championship. 

Each week, we’ll acknowledge some of the best performers who fell just short of being named the Player of the Week. Let’s take a look at the latest edition of Diamond Notes in the section below. This week's final edition of Diamond Notes covers the final two weeks of the regular season as well as portions of the IHSA playoffs.

WEEKS 9 & 10

Tyler Stuart, RHP/1B, Herscher, 2018
Hercher’s 6-foot-8 ace pitched a complete game, 15-strikeout shutout over Timothy Christian in last week’s 2A Super-Sectional, 1-0 win. He was also 2-for-2 at the plate that day. The Southern Mississippi commit has been one of the state’s most dominant pitchers this spring, made evident by his 114 strikeouts in 63 innings, all with an ERA of 0.55. He’s also slugged six homers and is hitting .491 for the Tigers.

Kyle Dehn-Franklin, RHP, Woodstock, 2018
The Lightning’s senior righty has been electric in his last two starts. Dehn-Franklin, in 12.1 innings, allowed just one earned run on five hits, five walks, and he’s struck out 15 over that span – this includes the team’s Regional game against a quality Lakes Community team, too. He also smashed a pair of home runs last week, too.

Taylor Catton, RHP/INF, Dunlap, 2019
Unfortunately for Catton, his Dunlap Eagles were eliminated from the 3A bracket yesterday with a loss to Washington. Regardless, Catton’s had a phenomenal season and only reiterated that point last week. He went 5-for-7 in two games and drove in six runs. He was the primary reason his team won its first playoff game against Geneseo. In the Regional championship game, the Bradley commit drove in the game-winning run at the plate and also started, and threw six innings, striking out 12 of the 26 batters he faced. He allowed three runs, only one was earned, however. He’s mostly known for his abilities on the mound, and his season stats reveal why. He’s maintained an ERA of 0.75 this spring and has struck 72 batters in 42.2 innings. Still as of last week, at the plate he’s hitting .417 with 17 doubles and three homers.

Ryan Culley, LHP, Belleville East, 2018 and Ben Cruikshank, LHP, Belleville East, 2018
Belleville East earned a Regional title last week before falling to the state’s top-ranked team, O’Fallon, in the Sectional semifinals. Still, East attained a Regional trophy this spring and they couldn’t have done it without their lefty duo Ryan Culley (Parkland JC commit) and Ben Cruikshank (Missouri State). The two seniors each threw complete games for their team in the postseason. Culley’s came against Belleville West in the Regional semis, where he had to protect his team’s narrow, pressure-packed 1-0 lead. In his complete game shutout, he allowed just two hits, two walks, and he struck out eight. Cruikshank got the start against Collinsville in the title game and he shut them out, too. He allowed only one hit, three walks, and struck out nine in his seven innings of work.

Diego Koval, St. Rita, RHP, 2019
Diego Koval made two appearances last week and came away with two wins. He entered the Mustangs’ Regional semifinals game with De La Salle in relief and held them scoreless while St. Rita went on to win, 3-2. In his two innings, he allowed one hit and a walk and struck out a pair, coming up clutch. He got the start a couple days later against a talented Lyons Township team, and he allowed just one run, scattered seven hits, walked one, and struck out  four. He opposed Lyons’ ace Grant Leader and outdueled him in his complete game effort, helping Rita lift a Regional title, 3-1. On the spring, Koval finished the year 8-2 with a 1.64 ERA.

Frank Napleton, St. Rita, 1B, 2018
While Diego Koval helped suppress the opposing offenses, Frank Napleton helped jumpstart St. Rita’s. He was an enormous part of the reason why the Mustangs came away with a Regional title this spring, too. He entered this spring with some hype after he was named St. Rita’s summer ball tournament MVP. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth against De La Salle, Napleton smacked a two-run single off ace Ben Hernandez. Against Lyons, Napleton got a piece of another team’s ace, Grant Leader, and rocketed a two-run double in the third inning that helped them get to a lead Koval made sure not to give back. Napleton’s hitting .336 this spring and has driven in 33 runs, a great number of them clutch.

Adam Jayko, Johnsburg, 3B, 2018
Johnsburg’s third baseman, Adam Jayko, helped end the Skyhawks’ season on a high note. In their three games against Woodstock North, Jayko played a key role in all three contests. In game one, he went 3-for-4 with a triple while he fielded his position soundly, a game in which Johnsburg won, 4-2. In game two, he started and pitched six innings, allowing one unearned run while he struck out seven and walked only two, helping the team to a series win. Over that weekend against McHenry, Jayko went 3-for-4 again with two doubles and was once again reliable at the hot corner. In four games, Jayko went 8-for-17 with three extra-base hits, tight defense, and a great performance on the mound, earning him an honor here as one of the best performers in May.

Anthony, DeConcilis, SS, Lake Park, 2018
The Illinois-Springfield commit has played a huge role in Lake Park’s big season, that’s gotten them all the way to a Sectional title berth tomorrow. But, prior to the postseason, DeConcilis was churning out a strong finish to the regular season. In the Lancers’ final week, he went 10-for-18 with three doubles, three RBIs, and seven runs scored, over a five-game stretch in which Lake Park won four games.

Zach Aehlert, C, Lake Park, 2018
And you can’t mention the Anthony DeConcilis without fellow senior Zach Aehlert. The Lancers’ catcher has been vital for Lake Park’s season, helping the team upset Neuqua Valley twice, one of the state’s best teams. In Lake Park’s final week of the regular season, Aehlert went off, homering three times and driving in 12 runs in five games. He’s also preparing for tomorrow’s game with Willowbrook for the Sectional championship, after downing Marmion Academy in yesterday’s Sectional semifinals.

Dawson Johnson, RHP, Galesburg, 2018
Before Galesburg fell to Dunlap in last week’s Regional title game, Dawson Johnson had pitched a four-hit shutout against Century in the first round of Regional play. Galesburg went on to defeate

Braeden Wells, INF/RHP, Roxana, 2021
The freshman finished his strong debut season on varsity two excellent games. He went 8-for-8 and drove in three runs in his final eight at-bats. On May 12, he went 4-for-4 against New Athens and drove in two runs that game. Against Trenton Wesclin on May 14, Wells went 4-for-4 again and drove in another run. On the spring, Wells hit a robust .370/.485/.426.

Eric Steensma, RHP, Lyons Township, 2019
In the second game of the Steven Bajenski Memorial Tournament, Eric Steensma pitched a complete game shutout over Brother Rice. On 94 pitches, he junior righty allowed just three hits, one walk, and struck out six. Steensma, uncommitted, finished the regular season 6-0 with 45 strikeouts and walked just six in 39.1 innings, all while upkeeping an ERA of 1.06.

Kyle Petermeyer, INF, Mater Dei, 2018
In Mater Dei’s final stretch of the season, Kyle Petermeyer went 12-for-24 and that includes two doubles and a home run. He allowed just one run on two hits in five innings in his last start of the spring, too.

Jake Nance, RHP, Athens, 2018
Jake Nance avenged Athens’ early-season loss to Maroa-Forsyth by throwing a complete game shutout against the rivals in a Regional semifinals upset. Because of his performance, he helped the Warriors set a program record with their 19th win of the spring. Nance allowed just four singles, two walks, and struck out five to lift Athens to the victory. His own two-run single helped break the game open, too, en route to a 10-0 playoff win.

Jeremy Kinsley, RHP, Romeoville, 2018
Jeremy Kinsley tossed a complete game shutout against Joliet Central on Wednesday, helping his team cling to a 1-0 lead and win. He went the distance, throwing seven innings, allowing just four hits, no walks, and he struck out a couple – needing just 77 pitches to notch the win.

Ryan Hampe, C, Sandburg, 2018
The Sandburg Eagles played six games to cap off their regular season, and that includes their performance in the Do It Stevie’s Way tournament. In those six games, their senior catcher went 12-for-22, doubled twice, scored five runs, and did not strike out once. Sandburg went 5-1 in their heavy week that featured two games against Homewood-Flossmoor, Marist, Lyons, Oak Park-River Forest, and St. Laurence. He caught every game and garnered the typical praise he gets for his abilities behind the dish.

Dwan Westmoreland, OF, Illinois Lutheran, 2020
Westmoreland smashed a three-run homer in Illinois Lutheran’s Regional title game against Iroquois West. According to his head coach, the mammoth home run was the furthest he’d ever seen at this level of play. He finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk and four RBIs. In three innings of relief, he struck out four and allowed just two hits, no runs, and earned the win. In their Regional semifinals game against Grant Park earlier that week, Westmoreland went 2-for-4 with two more RBIs. Lutheran ultimately fell in the 1A Sectional semifinals against Okaw Valley, but the two-way sophomore finished his spring batting .444 with an ERA of 2.66 to go along with it.

Kyle Salley, OF/LHP, Homewood-Flossmoor, 2018
The Duke commit’s prep career is over after the Vikings’ Regional semifinals loss to Providence Catholic last week, but he ended his final regular season on a very high note. Salley, in four games, went 6-for-13 with a double, two homers, and drove in seven runs.