2019 Midwest Select Preview


Nathan Rode and PBR Staff

ILLINOIS

Edwardsville: There aren’t many teams in the state that can describe themselves as balanced, or as well-rounded, while simultaneously angling for a shot at a 4A state title, but that’s precisely what Edwardsville looks like. The lineup will be led by 1B Drake Westcott (Louisville) and he should get help and protection from SS Josh Ohl (SIU-Edwardsville) and IF Jack Cooper. RHPs Dawson Taylor (John A. Logan JC) and Matthew Boyer (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) will likely shoulder the load for the pitching staff after combining to throw 37 innings last spring. Taylor recently ran his fastball up to 93 and Boyer was the first arm called upon out of the bullpen in the regional title game last year.

Joliet Catholic: Ranked No. 3 in last year’s Preseason Power 25, the Hilltoppers lost three Division I recruits to graduation, but have six remaining on the roster—a nice problem to have. On the mound, they have five arms, all with varsity experience, and each of whom could be the ace of 90 percent of the teams across the state. At the top of the list is LHP Alex Vera (Illinois), who is coming off a stellar junior season. Joining him is RHP Zachary Gould (Illinois-Chicago commit), RHP Michael Gurka(Minnesota), OF/RHP Greg Ziegler (Missouri State) and RHP Zach Hise. The left side of the infield is where you should find SS Christian Knapczyk (Louisville) and 3B Jared Cushing (Texas Tech), both three-year varsity starters. Knapczyk is a high-level athlete and left-handed hitter that impacts the game in a number of ways. Cushing hit .314 and drove in 30 runs last season, and is a smooth defender.

Libertyville: The Wildcats don’t look like they’ll need a year to rebuild, having reloaded and retooled. The No. 12 preseason team in Illinois, Libertyville had a hefty senior class graduate, making way for a group of impact 2019s to step up, including OF/IF Andrew Kim (Illinois), RHP Ryan Klainos(Valparaiso), C Garrison Bennett (Missouri) and SS Tanner Kelly (Illinois State). Also be sure to keep an eye on OF Dylan Drumke, who is currently uncommitted. The X-factor will be Klainos, who has big shoes to fill with the loss of 2018 RHPs Riley Gowens (Illinois) and Colin Fields (Valparaiso).

INDIANA

Columbus North: Columbus North, ranked No. 2 in 4A, is arguably the most talented team in the state and event. In the 2019 class, they have RHP Parker Maddox (Ohio) and Jakob Meyer(Evansville). Madddux was up to 91 in the fall. Meyer is a strike thrower that competes in the zone at 84-87. The 2020 class is led by the No. 3 player in Indiana—RHP Casper Clark (Indiana). Clark stands at 6-foot-6 and was recently up to 92 at the Preseason All-State event. Positionally, Columbus North has Grant Trinkle (Kentucky), who is ranked No. 9 in the state, runs a 6.44 60, is up 93 on the mound, 94 from the outfield, and has a 95 exit velocity. Columbus North also features the No. 2 2021 in C Austin Bode (Louisville). Behind the plate, Bode handles one of the hardest throwing pitching staffs in the state. He is a high-level receiver with an average arm. He is one of the best in-game hitters in Indiana, hitting .425 last season as a freshman.

Edgewood: Edgewood is ranked No. 9 in 3A, coming off a 17-7 record in 2018. Edgewood graduated seven seniors, but bring back seven major contributors including the top three hitters in their order. Leading the squad is OF Ethan Vecrumba (Indiana), the No. 2 prospect in the state. He is a physical specimen with high-end tools, running a 6.33 60 and showing off light tower power. On the mound, the Mustangs are led by RHP Luke Hayden (Indiana). Hayden has been up to 90 and can really spin the baseball. Other contributing players will include all-area IF Joe Kido. Also returning is 2021 IF Coleman Sater, 2019 RHP Cooper Thacker, and C Harrison Pittsford.

Southport: Southport is led by their LHP Avery Short (Louisville), the top prospect in the state. In 2018, Short had a 0.86 ERA and struck out 93 while walking just six and surrendering 23 hits in 48 innings. He gives Southport a chance to win every time he is on the mound. Southport also returns 3B/RHP Jack Vanover (Indiana Tech). The key for Southport will be if new head coach, Phil Webster, can get the Cardinals going offensively to support their pitching staff.

MICHIGAN

Gull Lake: The Blue Devils have a strong core of juniors and seniors, returning seven starters and 10 pitchers from last year’s team that went 30-10. With pitching being a leading strength and the defense being improved, Head Coach Reggie Walters believes they can make a good run if they hit enough. Some of the top returners include 2019 OF Justin Mansager, 2020 SS Dylan Stanton (Michigan) and 2021 LHP/UT Korbin Griffin.

Portage Central: The Mustangs are deep with experience thanks to a senior laden group, led by DH Max Longman, LHP/1B Bronson Wyman, 2B Jack Juday and C/IF Jason Erhardt. They also have the No. 1 2021 in the country in SS/RHP Luke Leto. Portage Central has good team speed at all positions, which they hope to use to wreak havoc on the bases. Defensively, they are solid up the middle, and with a stable full of arms available, the Mustangs look to compete with anybody.

Portage Northern: Six starters and two pitchers return from a Portage Northern squad that went 28-10-2 last season. Head Coach Chris Andrews believes his team has a balanced lineup and will rely heavily on defense and pitching. Some top players coming back include OF/RHP Tyler Helgeson(Eastern Michigan), 1B/RHP Cameron French (Wabash Valley JC) and RHP/UT Zach Quinn (Glen Oaks CC).

OHIO

Centerville: The Elks have the talent and attitude to make a long run in Division I in 2019. With much of the team returning, they have experience gained winning district titles the last two years. RHP Nick Hoffmann (Clemson) figures to lead the pitching staff after going 9-2 with a 0.77 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 63.1 innings last year. OF Morgan Colopy (Cincinnati) returns after hitting .389 with 27 RBIs and five home runs in 2018. RHP/MIF Jared Lieberman (Sinclair CC) is a two-way threat and 1B Thomas Jenkins will also be factor on offense.

Moeller: The Crusaders lost six starters from 2018 to graduation, but are one of the most consistent programs in the Midwest, so don’t sleep on them. They reload with a strong pitching staff and several Division I recruits. The top returning players include LHP/1B Jack Pacetti (Cincinnati), SS Ryan Galanie (Wofford), RHP/CF Seth Logue (Kentucky) and RHP Justin Hornschemeier.

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