Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 5 Joliet Catholic

By: Pete Hamot
Assistant Director, Illinois & Wisconsin

The Illinois high school baseball season kicks off on March 11, opening day for regular season action under IHSA regulations. Over the next two weeks, leading up to opening day, we’ll be publishing our team previews ahead of the 2024 spring season, touching on programs spanning all state classifications, counting down through the official Prep Baseball Illinois Preseason Power 25 Rankings.

Perennially, we’ve submitted a preseason questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our team-by-team preseason analysis.

Our 2024 preseason coverage continues today.

High School: Joliet Catholic Academy Hilltoppers
Preseason Rank: No. 5
Head Coach: Jared Voss
Classification: 3A
Conference: East Suburban Catholic Conference
2023 Record (Finish): 26-8-1 (Repeated as 2A State Champions)
Key Players Lost: Nate Ciemny (Wisconsin-Parkside), Brett Hulbert (North Central), Tommy Kemp (2B), TJ Schlageter (Louisville), Vinny Spotorfora (College of DuPage), Trey Swiderski (John A. Logan), Michael Tuman (College of DuPage)



No. of Returning Positional Starters: Five
No. of Returning Pitchers: One
Team Strengths: Five Returning starters, pitching depth. 

John Baltz IL 2024 RHP -
Frank Curbis  IL 2024 RHP St. Francis
Jacob Gimbel IL 2024 LHP Heartland 
Jose Granados  IL 2024 INF College of DuPage
Aidan Hayse  IL 2024 RHP Tennessee 
John O'Brien IL 2024 INF -
Jack Ryan  IL 2024 OF -
Owen Wiers IL 2024 RHP -
Drew Wills  IL 2024 OF -
Jake Troyner IL 2024 1B Illinois-Chicago
Graham Roesel IL 2024 OF -
Zach Beitler  IL 2025 C -
Keegan Farnaus IL 2025 INF/OF -
Lucas Grant  IL 2025 LHP -
Zach Pomatto  IL 2025 C -
Lucas Simulick IL 2026 INF -


Currently ranked No. 11 in the state, RHP Aidan Hayse (2024; Tennessee) is undoubtably one of the top pitching prospects in Illinois, and he can play a major role for the defending back to back State Champs. A recent standout from our ProCase and Super 60, Hayse features some of the most electric pure "stuff" in illinois; boasting a fastball up to 94 mph to pair with a wipeout slider (+2700 rpm) and dancing changeup in the mid-80s. Last season, the right-hander fired 18.2 innings to go along with a 4-1 record, 3.38 ERA and 32 strikeouts. If Hayse is able to add on to his workload in '24, we're looking at potentially one of the more dominant arms in the state. 


There's no shortage of talent in the Hill's starting rotation, starting with southpaws Jake Gimbel (2024; Heartland commit) and Lucas Grant (2025).

Currently ranked No. 137 in the state, Gimbel saw quite a bit of work in '23 for the Hill, turning in 31.2 innings with a 3.09 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 12 walks. The left-hander attacks hitters with a running fastball up to 87 mph, setting up a sharp 1/7 breaking ball that he's confident in, as well as a fading changeup in the upper-70s to change the pace. 

Grant will be a massive addition to the rotation this spring, coming off a sophomore campaign where he fired 12 innings on varsity. Initially standing out to our staff at the Illinois State Games this past summer, Grant has made some tremendous strides as of late, now boasting a heavy sinking fastball up to 89 mph (T2500 rpm). His changeup looks to be his out-pitch, playing with heavy arm-side run and feel below the zone - and he'll also go to a short slider at 78-81 mph to round off his arsenal. 

The aforementioned Hayse will help add depth to the rotation, along with RHP Owen Wiers (2024), who returns 10 innings from last year with a 3.28 ERA. 

Senior right-handers John Baltz and Frank Curbis will help take on the late-inning relief duties, along with RHP Cooper Kubinski - who we've seen run his fastball into the low-80s. 

A trio of talented sophomores the Hill have at their disposal are RHP Ian Campbell - who we've seen up to 91 mph, LHP Rocco Szambelan - who we've seen up to 90 mph, and LHP Isaac Harris - who has reportedly been working into the upper-80s. 

Their offense returns a good chunk of production from last year, with four of their returners having batting averages of over .320. 

1B Jake Troyner (2024; Illinois-Chicago) will look to spearhead the offensive production, returning a .433 average and 90 at-bats to go along with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run, 27 RBIs and 29 runs scored. Currently ranked No. 60 in the state, Troyner's hit tool is real, and he'll help provide stability and senior leadership to the group. 

OF Graham Roesel (2024), OF Zach Beitler (2025) and C Zach Pomatto (2025) are three more bats that return production to the lineup - with Roesel bringing back a .333 average in 84 at-bats, Beitler a .321 average in 21 at-bats, and Pomatto a .375 average in 40 at-bats. 

SS Lucas Simulick (2026) will be returning to the group after seeing a significant time on varsity last season as a freshman. Currently ranked No. 15 in the state, Simulick is a premier defender at a premier shortstop position, and his right-handed bat has also been trending in the right direction as of late.

INF Jose Granados (2024), INF John O'Brien (2024) and OF Keegan Farnaus (2025) will help round things out offensively, along with Drew Wills (2024) and Jack Ryan (2024) likely handling the DH responsibilities. 

Bottom Line

The Hilltoppers are coming off back-to-back 2A State Titles, and now bumping back up to 3A, will look to keep their success rolling. They have plenty of depth on the mound with their three-headed monster atop the rotation, and there's some young guns waiting for their opportunity as well. They won't have to just rely on pitching, thanks to their strong core of offensive production coming back, and there's some new faces in the lineup that will be looking to take advantage of their new roles. We can also never fail to mention Head Coach Jared Voss, an IHSBCA Hall of Fame inductee who is now tied for the most State Titles in IHSA history (4), and he boasts an overall record of 617-252-4. Having Voss at the helm is an advantage in it's own right, and he has the tools to play with to make another deep run in '24. 

Find more information on the 2024 JOLIET CATHOLIC ACADEMY program below:

+ Follow them on X: @JCABaseball
+ Visit the Prep Baseball Illinois Preseason Power 25 homepage

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