Prep Baseball Report

Top-10 Stories of 2023: No. 3 Nazareth Academy Captures Second Consecutive State Title

By: Pete Hamot
Area Scout, Staff Writer

The Roadrunners have been one of the more dominant teams in the state over the last couple of years, taking home consecutive 3A state championships in 2022 and 2023.

Their journey to Joliet this past spring started with a 14-0 win over Goode Stem Academy in the regional semi-finals, and they took home the regional championship not long after with an 11-1 win over Richards. From there, they steamrolled through the sectionals with a 9-1 win over Marist before taking down St. Laurence by the score of 11-1 to advance to super sectionals. In the supers, Nazareth squared off with Lindblom, taking them down by the score of 8-0 to advance to state for the second year in a row. 

Once they got to state, they faced off with Sycamore in the semi-finals and took them down by the score of 3-0. With the opportunity to defend their title, the Roadrunners took the field against a strong Grayslake Central club and eventually came away victorious by the score of 7-2, giving them their second consecutive state title. 

The Roadrunners had seemingly no holes in their lineup, as they hit to an astounding .386 clip as a club on the year. 

The highest average on the team belonged to Indiana commit and every day shortstop Cooper Malamazian (2024), as he turned in a .528 average in 72 at-bats to go along with a .593 OBP, 1.538 OPS, .944 SLG, nine doubles, three triples, five home runs, 32 RBI, 27 runs scored and 14 walks to just six strikeouts - earning him PBR Illinois Second-Team All-State, ESCC All-Conference and All-Area honors.  

Louisville commit Jaden Fauske (2025) was another key offensive piece for Nazareth, as he hit his way to a .487 average in 119 at-bats with a .585 OBP, 1.308 OPS, .723 SLG, 15 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 38 RBI, 38 runs scored and 24 walks to 16 strikeouts. His defensive versatility paired with his offensive prowess helped him lock up PBR Illinois First-Team All-State, ESCC MVP and All-Area honors.  

Fellow Louisville commit Nick Drtina (2024) was yet another member of the lineup that hit over .400 - turning in a .412 average in 102 at-bats with a .512 OBP, 1.061 OPS, 12 doubles, 35 RBI and 27 runs scored - earning him ESCC All-Conference.  

Belmont commit Cole Reifsteck (2024) (54 AB, .407 avg, .556 OBP, 1.019 OPS, ESCC All-Conference) and DePauw commit Finn O’Meara (2023) (38 AB, .447 avg, .500 OBP, 1.211 OPS, .711 SLG) were two more members of the lineup that hit over a .400 clip on the year.  

A trio of Illinois-Chicago commits helped power the offense all season long; Lucas Smith (2023) (111 AB, .396 avg, 16 doubles, five triples, one home run, 33 RBI, 35 R), Luca Fiore (2024) (102 AB, .392 avg, 29 RBI, 39 R, 34 BB, ESCC All-Conference) and David Cox (2024) (98 AB, .388 avg, nine doubles, two triples, four home runs, 36 RBI, 23 R, ESCC All-Conference).  

Freshman Landon Thome saw quite a bit of time for the Roadrunners this past spring, hitting to the tune of a .330 average in 109 at-bats with eight doubles, 27 RBI and 26 runs scored - and he looks to be a promising young prospect with MLB bloodlines.  

Another key offensive piece for the Roadrunners was Collin Roche (2025), turning in a .369 batting average in 84 at-bats with 26 RBIs while serving as the primary catcher for the club.  

Although Nazareth was a force to be reckoned with at the plate, they also were fortunate to have an extremely talented pitching staff. The aforementioned Finn O’Meara led the team in innings with 43, pairing with a perfect 8-0 record, only 23 hits allowed, 80 strikeouts, and a 1.47 ERA. LHP John Hughes (2024; North Carolina) was another key arm, pitching to a miniscule 0.41 ERA throughout his 34 innings of work while collecting a perfect 7-0 record with 42 strikeouts, 10 walks and a .971 WHIP. Fauske saw quite a bit of time on the mound when he wasn’t in the field, and he dominated over his 33 innings with a 4-0 record, 49 strikeouts, 11 walks, 0.42 ERA and .848 WHIP. Drtina followed the same trend as Fauske as a dominant two-way force, notching a 0.86 ERA in 24.1 innings of work with a perfect 6-0 record and 39 strikeouts to just 14 walks.  

Cox and Fiore both ate up a good chunk of innings as well, both tallying just under 30 apiece with Cox boasting a 1.48 ERA and Fiore a 2.10 ERA.  

Head Coach Lee Milano has been with Nazareth for over 20 years, accumulating each and every of his 575 wins at the helm of the Roadrunners. The reigning ESCC Coach of the Year, 2023 IHSBCA 3A Coach of the Year and ICA Coach of the Year now has two state titles under his belt, and he certainly doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon with a good chunk of his title team returning for this coming spring. 

Below you'll find the game story from Nazareth's victory in June: 

Nazareth Academy Claims back-to-back 3a state championships 

By: Diego Solares

The 2023 3A IHSA state championship matchup pitted the defending champion Nazareth Academy Roadrunners against the Grayslake Central Rams. 

After a scoreless first, Nazareth threw up a three spot in the bottom of the second to get on the board. Finn O’Meara (2023; DePauw) drew a two-out walk, stealing second a few pitches later. Collin Roche (2025) turned around a two-strike heater for a single to left field, plating O’Meara. The next four Roadrunner bats walked, resulting in two runs. 

The Roadrunners scored three more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jaden Fauske (2025; Louisville) led the inning off with a triple, and Lucas Smith (2023; Illinois-Chicago) followed with a walk. Smith swiped second, putting himself into scoring position, with Louisville commit Nick Drtina (2024) at the plate. Drtina delivered, squeaking a two-run double down the left field line and scoring both runners. He’d come around to score later in the inning on an infield single from O’Meara

Grayslake Central scored runs in the top halves of the fifth and sixth innings. Adam Fitzgerald (2023) sprayed a single to center field for an RBI, and the Rams plated another on a fielder’s choice. 

Nazareth would add onto their lead in the bottom of the sixth when David Cox (2024; Northwestern) launched a no-doubt home run well past the left field wall. With three outs to go, the Roadrunners lead 7-2. 

Cooper Malamazian (2024; Indiana) toed the rubber in the seventh looking to close things out for his squad. The first runner reached on a single, but Malamazian followed that up with a punchout. He’d then go on to induce a 6-3 unassisted double play to end the game. 

With the win, the Roadrunners cemented themselves in the history of Illinois’ high school baseball as back-to-back champions, finishing the season with a 34-6 record. Grayslake Central concludes their memorable year as runner-ups, finishing 33-8. 

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