The baseball season starts this week. Here are previews of teams from around Kendall County.
Coach: Josh Cooper (2nd year)
Last season: 13-10 (spring 2019)
Top returners: Logan Benesh, sr., OF/P; Ethan Jeffers, sr., UT; Jared Slivka, sr., IF; Dalton Reibel, sr., IF/P; Luke Hauge. Jr., IF/P; Mitchell Kruser, jr., OF/P; Tegan Kruser, jr., UT; ; Nick Moore, jr., IF; Lucas Pasakarnas, jr., C.
Key newcomers: Zach Carlson, so., OF; Jake Kruser, so., UT; Joe Martin, so., IF/P; Ty Steffen, so., IF; Andrew Stoughton, so., OF; Carter Westphal, so., IF; Clay Friestad, fr., UT; Ben Schutter, fr., IF.
Worth noting: Technically, Cooper didn’t have a first year as the Norsemen coach. While he’s grateful there would have been no seniors on that team who missed out, he laments the experience this year’s players would have gained, as this year there are only four seniors, albeit great leaders. “No seniors then, so it would have been a great year for my guys to get some experience in. These kids are definitely excited to have something going on. I’m excited. We have a lot of nice, young talent.” The anchors will be Pasakarnas, a unanimous all-conference pick after posting a .352 batting average and .430 on-base percentage with, 23 runs scored, 14 runs batted in and 11 runners thrown out as a freshman, along with Slivka in his fourth year starting at second base and Reibel is back at third base, but the rest of the positions are fluid, including shortstop between Teegan Kruser and Martin. There is a need for pitchers to “step up and throw strikes,” said Cooper, with Reibel, Martin, Benesh and Mitchell Kruser leading the staff right now.
– Charlie Ellerbrock
Coach: Joe Giarrante (fifth season).
2019 record: 17-15, 10-8 Southwest Prairie Conference.
Top returners: Jeffery Behrends, sr., P; Blake Hamblin, sr., P; Devin Hoffman, sr., P; Brady Peterlin, sr.; Nathan Kennedy, sr.; Gavin Arseneau, sr.
Key newcomers: Tyler Stack, so., C.
Worth noting: Behrends, who will play collegiately at Northeastern Community College in Colorado, leads a senior-heavy group that Giarrante said knows how to pitch. A very strong team defense that looks to limit runs will be key to Oswego’s success. Offensively, Oswego will rely on seniors Arseneau, Peterlin and Kennedy to lead the attack. Stack is a sophomore committed to play at Xavier, who Giarrante said should provide some offensive pop and contribute defensively behind the plate.
“We’re going to rely on a full team effort in every phase of the game to win,” Giarrante said. “Not one player is going to dominate, but solid pieces to compete.”
Coach: Matt Engelhardt (sixth season).
2019 record: 18-13, 9-9 Southwest Prairie Conference.
Top players: Noah Schultz, jr., P; Ashton Izzi, jr., P; Camden Ruby, sr., OF; Donavan Zielke, jr., OF; Jackson Lamboley, sr., OF; Austin Miller, sr., P; CJ Jensik, sr., P; Nick Caruso, sr., IF; Anthony Dudzinski, sr., IF; Jonas Gulbrandsen, sr., IF; Joey Hansen, sr., C; Cole Collander, sr., 1B/P; Ryan Hudson, sr., U; Andrew Kangas, jr.; Zach Selvig, jr.; Noah Dowler, jr.; Carter South
Worth noting: The Wolves’ strength again figures to start on the mound. While 2019 Record Newspapers Player of the Year Adam Dowler graduated early and is now at Louisville, Schultz looks like a more than viable candidate to take over as ace. The 6-foot-9 lefty committed to Vanderbilt, whose older sisters Emily and Ashley starred for the Oswego East softball team, is the No. 17 junior in the country, according to Baseball America. He’s joined by Izzi, a Wichita State commit, at the top of the staff. Lamboley was the 2019 sophomore team MVP, leading the team in most offensive categories. Maryville commit Ruby and Zielke join him in the outfield, with Carthage commit Caruso, Dudzinski and Parkland recruit Gulbrandsen anchoring the infield. Miller, committed to John Carroll, and North Central recruit Jensik are football players who will make good late-April additions to the pitching staff.
“We’ll face the same challenges as the rest of the state as our baseball program awaits over a dozen dual sport athletes to join the rosters at the end of April,” Engelhardt said. “Between the senior leadership and strong arms on the mound we can compete with anyone and hope to have the consistency by June to string a few [wins] together.”
Coach: Dennis O’Malley.
2019 record: 8-11.
Top returners: Bo Beasley, jr., C/P/3B; Elijah Oudyn, jr., 2B/OF/P; Jacob Mersman, jr., P/1B/OF.
Key newcomers: Jeremiah Terrell-Bedell, so., IF/OF.
Worth noting: This is Parkview Christian’s second season in the IHSA, after the 8-11 finish in 2019. The Falcons are carrying 11 players, all but their three returners are very new. Beasley and Oudyn are right-handed bats and arms, Mersman a lefty. O’Malley likes Terrell-Bedell’s speed and quickness and said, “I think I can plug him in anywhere and he can succeed.” Parkview is waiting to get a home field. The school has some land behind Cross Lutheran but needs funds to renovate it. For now, the Falcons use Yorkville Park District and Stuart fields as their home.
Coach: Nate Hill (second season).
2019 record: 12-23, 3-11 Interstate Eight Conference.
Top returners: Mason Accidentale, jr., 3B/CF/P; Emanuel Marin, jr., SS; Ethan Cadena, sr., C/P; Alex Velazquez, sr., P/1B; Sean Earwood, jr., P/C/IF; Nick Baltierrez, sr., P/2B.
Key newcomers: Kevin Serio, sr., OF/P; Eric Perez, jr., P/OF.
Worth noting: The Reapers are champing at the bit to compete against the new-look Interstate Eight on the baseball diamond for the first time, with what Hill believes is one of Plano’s deepest rosters in several years. Accidentale hit .327 with a .426 on-base percentage, 13 RBIs and 18 runs scored as a freshman in 2019. Cadena struck out 21 over 30 innings as a sophomore. Marin hit .261 with 10 runs scored and five RBIs in 2019. Velazquez struck out 14 over 16 1/3 innings and Earwood struck out 19 and posted a 3.38 ERA in an injury-shortened freshman season. Baltierrez has filled in at the varsity level in past seasons, is a solid defender up the middle who will bat leadoff and be one of Plano’s top four pitchers. Serio will bat in the middle of the lineup once football is done and Perez will be one of the top four pitchers.
“We feel confident that our pitching staff can keep us in games, but we will need our offense to find ways to produce runs in order to compete on a daily basis,” Hill said.
Coach: Jason VanPelt.
2019 record: 11-16, 6-8 Interstate Eight Conference.
Top returner: Gabe Prado, sr., C.
Key newcomer: Andrew Golinski, jr., IF/P; Kaiden Gustafson, jr., P/IF; Joey Rizzuto, jr., P/OF; Adam West, jr., P/IF.
Worth noting: The Indians will be a very young team playing in an extremely competitive conference, as several of Sandwich’s juniors from 2020 did not go out for baseball as seniors this spring. Half of Sandwich’s baseball players are playing football for the next two weeks, so it could take some time to jell. VanPelt said that the Indians will have multiple sophomores and maybe a freshman playing varsity. Many kids he has not seen play, except for a couple weeks of practice last year.
Coach: Scott Luken (11th season).
2019 record: 14-19, 4-8 Southwest Prairie Conference.
Top returners: Cole Yearsley, sr., OF; Kyle Mack, sr., P/3B/1B; Lukas Haddox, sr., 3B; Luke Hanson, sr., C; Ryan Buck, jr., P/OF/1B; Owen Ross, jr., P/IF/ Connor Corrigan, jr., P/IF; Ben Hixon, jr., P/IF
Key newcomers: Ryan Harris, jr., OF/P; Gavin Dobbels, jr., P/MIF.
Worth noting: Luken, with 201 career wins coming into this spring, said this is a talented group with depth at most positions. Yorkville had planned to play five sophomores on varsity last season, had the season not been canceled. Anchoring the lineup is Yearsley, a lefty-swinging Southeastern Community College commit who hit .396 with 16 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and 26 runs scored as a sophomore and hit .552 in conference games. Mack posted a 2.85 ERA in 27 innings in 2019. Luken hopes to have Haddox back from a broken wrist suffered during football season by the start of May, but senior Dougie Burson is out for the season with a broken leg from football. The Foxes also will be without speedy UIC recruit Hogan Schmitt, out for the season. It’s a talented senior and junior class, but lack of playing experience and time together is a concern.
Source: The Daily Chronicle