The high school baseball season started this week. Here are previews of teams in the Kane County Chronicle coverage area.
Coach: Alex Beckmann
2021 record: 6-19
Top returning players: Charlie Saul, senior, first base/outfield; Anthony Johnson, senior, utility; Kevin Niedzwiedz, senior, infield
Top new players: Ryan Boe, sophomore, pitcher; Jack Bronzy, junior, catcher; Alex Taylor, senior, infield
Worth noting: Ten players are returning, including Saul (.284, 21 hits, six doubles), Johnson (.284, 21 hits) and junior pitcher Jack Watson (25 strikeouts in 16 innings).
“We look to improve on a disappointing 2021 season. We know we are a better team than our record showed last season and our guys have put in the work to prove that,” Beckmann said.
Coach: Kyle Nelson
2021 record: 16-12, 9-9 FVC (tied for fourth)
Top returning players: Aric Beaman, senior, first base/pitcher; Brady Gilroy, sophomore, outfield/shortstop; Luke Pedrigi, senior, outfield; Michael Person, sophomore, pitcher/shortstop; Nick Carpenter, senior, third base/pitcher; Tyler Haines, senior, pitcher; Josh Rodge, senior, pitcher/shortstop; AJ Payton, sophomore, catcher/third base
Top new players: Ishaan Patel, senior, first base/designated hitter; Chase Powrozek, freshman, outfield/pitcher; Jake Johnson, freshman, catcher; Cater Kotwica, senior, outfield
Worth noting: The Rockets’ pitching should be a strength after recording a 2.06 ERA last season and losing only Aaron Wojciechowski (now at McHenry County College). Person was 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA and Carpenter had four saves. Tyler Haines (D-II Grand Valley State) is healthy and will help offset the graduation of Wojciechowski. Burlington will have five players who are freshmen or sophomores in the lineup a lot, but there are seven regulars back from last season.
– Joe Stevenson
Coach: Brad Wendell
2021 record: 15-16
Top returning players: Blake Stempowski, senior, pitcher/third base; Owen Anderson, senior, catcher; Carson Sprague, senior, first base/outfield
Top new players: Nate Stempowski, sophomore, infield; Joey Cosentino, sophomore, pitcher; Bryce Breon, sophomore, first base
Worth noting: The Vikings are returning eight starters from last season, including five position players and three pitchers. Sean Kennedy likely will headline the rotation with 45 innings of varsity action under his belt last year in pitching the Vikings to a regional final win. Daniel Strohm is back after an injury and is a hard-throwing left-hander. Stempowski is an all-conference staple at third base. The outfield is pretty senior-dominated.
“This group experienced the first regional championship at Geneva since 2008. We hope we can build off that experience,” Wendell said. “We feel good about our defense. Bats will be our question mark especially against the strong arms in the DuKane.”
Coach: Brian Aversa
2021 record: 18-9
Top returning players: Dylan Conklin, senior, shortstop/second base/pitcher; Logan Kottneyer, senior, pitcher; Alex Panico, junior, outfield; Johnny Spallasso, junior, infield
Worth noting: Kottneyer, who is headed to Wisconsin-Whitewater for college, is focusing on pitching this season. He and Dylan Conklin will try to make up for the loss of Tyler Conklin, who is playing at Eastern Illinois this season. Aversa said the team is young, but has experience with juniors Panico and Spallasso and thinks they can help replace last season’s graduation losses as the Knights search to repeat as Interstate 8 champions. Kaneland lost to Hampshire, 1-0, in a Class 3A regional final last season.
– Eddie Carifio
Coach: Frank Chapman
2021 record: 8-17
Top returning players: Mac Eccher, senior, catcher; Jack Zebig, senior, shortstop
Top new players: Sam Seykora, sophomore, infield; Ethan Flores, freshman, catcher
Worth noting: Beyond the product on the field, Marmion invested significantly in home field improvements and is looking forward to hosting games. Seven starters from last season are back. Eccher (.282 average, .479 slugging and 22 RBI) and Zebig (.292 average, .446 slugging, 22 RBI) are each three-year starters and will be headliners. Seykora is expected to be an impact starter at either middle infield spot.
“As always, pitching will be key to our success given the strength of our schedule and depth of the Chicago Catholic League this year,” Chapman said.
St. Charles East
Coach: Len Asquini
2021 record: 24-10
Top returning players: Jake Zitella, junior, infield; Nathan Hayes, senior, pitcher; Gavin Sitarz, senior, infield
Top new players: AJ Gaca, senior, infield; Clay Jensen, junior, outfield
Worth noting: The Saints have a solid amount of experience from last year coming back, including Zitella, an Illinois commit. Hayes has been a staple for a few seasons, and Sitarz has plenty to offer wherever he’s put on the field. Keep an eye on junior Seth Winkler, who can pitch and play shortstop.
“[We] have some key returning players who should give [us] an edge over other teams in the area, at least early in the season,” Asquini said. “[We] should be deep and strong on the mound with some offensive explosive capabilities. Defense should be better and needs to be much better in order to compete for titles.”
St. Charles North
Coach: Todd Genke
2021 record: 29-4
Top returning players: Jayden Lobliner, senior, catcher; Ryan Caccia, senior, outfield; Aidan O’Connell, senior, infield
Top new players: Anthony Estrada, junior, infield; Colin Ryder, sophomore, infield; Parker Reinke, sophomore, outfield
Worth noting: It will take some getting used to not seeing former four-year starter and 2021 Kane County Chronicle Baseball Player of the Year Nick DeMarco in the lineup this season. Gone also is outfielder Alex Najera, Zach Kempe on the mound and 12 total seniors from an outstanding team last year. Lobliner at catcher is back for his fourth season and is the clear leader for a team that retooled for what it hopes will be a deep playoff run. Estrada is a transfer from Marmion and will be a starter at third base. How the pitching staff settles without Kempe being the ace will be interesting.
“As always, our team goals are to win the rugged DuKane Conference championship, reach the 20-win threshold and be crowned regional, sectional and supersectional champs on our way to winning our first state championship,” Genke said.
Coach: Tom Ciombor
2021 record: 19-11
Top returning players: Rocco Tenuta, junior, infield; TJ McMillen, junior, first base; Vince Polizzi, senior, infield
Top new players: Adam Criter, senior, infield; Andrew Mueller, sophomore, infield
Worth noting: St. Francis rolled to a supersectional appearance last season and returns major pieces that were piloting it in Tenuta (.451 average, 35 RBI) and McMillen (.485 average, 25 RBI). The Spartans averaged more than nine runs per game, and return a significant number on their pitching staff.
“We need to find one of our young catchers in the program to step up and lead this veteran pitching staff,” Ciombor said.
Source: The Daily Chronicle