Scouting DuPage County baseball

  • Mason Baer, pictured being cheered on by his Lake Park teammates after hitting a home run in last season's Class 4A state championship game, is one of the top returning players in DuPage County.

    Mason Baer, pictured being cheered on by his Lake Park teammates after hitting a home run in last season's Class 4A state championship game, is one of the top returning players in DuPage County. Geoff Stellfox/Shaw Local

 
By Scott Schmid
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/23/2022 6:59 PM

Top players:

Addison Trail: Anthony Biancalana, sr. P; Chris Bonilla, sr. INF/P; Octavio Estrada, sr. OF/1B; Benet: Ryan Snell, sr. OF; Peter Messina, sr. OF; Sam Zagorac, jr. P; Downers Grove North: George Wolkow, so. OF/INF; Michael Gorman, sr. P; Tony Konopiots, jr. INF; Downers Grove South: Ethan Patera, sr. P; Fenton: Michael Rago, sr. SS; Riley Corbin, sr. C; Glenbard East: Caden Krystofiak, sr. P/INF; Joe Wolsztynaik, sr. P/INF; Colin Murphy, sr. P/OF; Glenbard North: Shea Gaffney, sr. INF, OF, P; Gunnar Briggs, sr. C; Glenbard South: Ricky Cyrus, sr. INF/P; Will Kalvelage, sr. OF/P; Nathan Zambori, sr. OF; Glenbard West: Billy Frantzis, sr. 1B; Andrew Moody, sr. P; Nicky Del Giudice, sr. INF/OF/P; Hinsdale Central: Blake Edmonds, sr. OF; Luke Adams, sr. INF/P; Lucas Montesantos, sr. OF/P; Ben Oosterbaan, jr. INF/P; Hinsdale South: Kyle Jannenga, sr. C; Parker Bozzi, sr. 1B; Drew Duckhorn, sr. P; Lake Park: Mason Baer, sr. CF/P; Danny Rollins, jr. C; Lisle: Nick Jachim, sr. SS/P/OF; Joe Raineri, jr. C/1B; Luke Heidenry, so. SS; Metea Valley: Aiden Wagner, sr. 3B; Jake LaVine, jr. C; Jeremy Wrona, so. P/OF; Montini: Estevan Moreno, sr. SS; Cash Campbell, so. INF/P; Xavier Crowder, fr. INF/P; Naperville Central: Colin Barczi, jr. C; Pambos Nicoloudes, jr. INF; Charlie Diiulio, sr. P; Jack Skidmore, sr. P; Naperville North: Patrick Graham, sr. SS/P; Tanner Mally, jr. 2B; Harrison Cordeiro, sr. P; Neuqua Valley: Colin Lewandowski, sr. SS; Mark Mennecke, jr. P/OF; Palmer Domschke, sr. OF; Tyler Auer, sr. 1B; St. Francis: Rocco Tenuta, jr. SS/P; TJ McMillen, jr. 1B; Vince Polizzi, sr. INF; Timothy Christian: Fletcher Roemmich, sr. SS/P/C; Donald Tober, jr. C/P/INF; Casey Folkerts, so. INF/P; Waubonsie Valley: Logan Gregorio, sr. C/OF; Jarron Thompson, jr. P/OF; Tyler Patton, sr. C/1B; MJ Lieyos, jr. P/OF; West Chicago: Charlie Jury, sr. OF/P; Westmont: James Postawa, sr. INF/P; Jason Czaplewski, jr. C/1B; Lucas Hicks, so. OF/P; Wheaton Academy: Hudson Williams, jr. SS/P; Alex Bagley, jr. OF/P; Andy Roman, jr. C; Alex Valdez, sr. 1B/DH; Wheaton North: Will Fletcher, sr. P; Aaron Holland, sr. C; Tyler O'Connor, jr. P/INF; Wheaton Warrenville South: Tommy Boba, sr. P; Jason Hartman, sr. INF; Eric DeCosta, so. C; Willowbrook: Isaac Sobieszczyk, jr. INF; Jacob Kutella, sr. 1B; Jacob Skinner, sr. P; Max Vaisvilla, sr. P; York: Max Hansmann, sr. P/INF; Ethan Cancel, sr. 1B/DH; Jack Rozmus, jr. C; Ryan Sloan, so. P

 

Season outlook:

While the 2021 season was truly unique due to a later Opening Day and more compact schedule, it also turned out to be quite a successful one for DuPage County teams.

Both Lake Park and Timothy Christian brought home runner-up trophies in Class 4A and 2A respectively while St. Francis fell just short of a berth in the Class 3A semifinals.

Now with the return of a normal full season, area squads are once again primed to make noise this spring.

Leading the way is Lake Park (33-5 record last year), which lost 6-5 to Plainfield East in the state championship. The Lancers graduated 17 seniors from that special group but the cupboard is far from empty. Seven main players return, led by UIC-recruit Mason Baer, who hit .426 with 31 RBIs and 50 runs scored as a junior. Also back from the team who shared the conference title with St. Charles North is fellow all-DuKane selection Danny Rollins and his .357 average. The development of additional pitching arms will be key.

"We are an athletic team with a good mix of experience and youth," coach Dan Colucci said.

Wheaton North (13-15) features four returning starters in the field, including top run-producer Aaron Holland, who had 22 RBIs as a junior while throwing out 18 runners from behind the plate. Tyler O'Connor also batted .341 last spring with 27 runs scored. Topping the pitching staff is Will Fletcher, who went 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA.

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"We are looking forward to playing a full schedule," coach Dan Schoessling said. "We should have a balanced lineup that can score runs. We have a good senior group that will compete."

Led by a talented pitching staff, Wheaton Warrenville South (7-19) is primed for a breakout-type season. Cincinnati-commit Tommy Boba is the ace while Bear Awadzi (Johns Hopkins), Jordan Scholl (Southeast Missouri), Evan Pollina and Cole Peaslee all worked varsity innings in 2021. In the field, the Tigers have five more players who contributed at the varsity level a year ago, including Jason Hartman and Logan Bute on the left-side of the infield. Also back is catcher Eric DeCosta.

With 13 seniors returning to the diamond, Glenbard North (7-19) is hoping that last season's experiences will ultimately pay dividends this spring. Shea Gaffney leads the offense after posting an on-base percentage of .517 as a junior while Gunnar Briggs is back behind the plate after batting .313 last year. Agam Shah and Steve Hobbs both started games on the mound in '21 and lead the pitching staff. Strong contributions are also expected from Tyler Zay, Sam Palmer, Nate Danao and Shivam Patel.

Timothy Christian (21-9) also ended last season on a magical run, winning nine straight before falling to Freeburg in the state championship game. The Trojans, who should be one of the favorites in the Metro Suburban, did so with a lot of youth and thus return a strong core of varsity contributors. Taylor University-recruit Fletcher Reommich hit over .400 as a junior, Donald Tober is expected to be the staff ace and Casey Folkerts will only blossom further after being an everyday starter as a freshman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"This team is a talented bunch," coach Brian Whartnaby said. "We've got guys that support each other and enjoy playing the game."

Denied their third trip downstate in the past eight years after a one-run loss to Prairie Ridge, St. Francis (19-11-1) has the pieces in place to make another run. Averaging over nine runs a game last year, a loaded lineup returns an all-state selection in Rocco Tenuta, who posted a .451 batting average with 35 RBIs. TJ McMillen, who hit .485, and Loras-commit Vince Polizzi, who batted .406, are also back as well as well as the majority of the pitching staff, led by Bennett Wordekemper and Will Ricamato.

"Our depth is very strong," coach Tom Ciombor said. "There is competition at every position."

A significant amount of playing experience returns for Wheaton Academy (11-15), with the six seniors on the roster and three additional juniors all having big roles a season ago. Alex Valdez hit .420, Hudson Williams scored 21 runs as the leadoff hitter while also pitching and Alex Bagley had a 2.65 ERA while also batting .316. The hardworking Warriors expect to be deeper on the mound.

Finishing with a similar record last year to the Warriors, both overall and in the conference was ICCP (13-15).

After gaining valuable time on the diamond last season, Westmont (8-28) returns eight starters. That group is led by James Postawa, who hit .346, and returning all-conference performer Jason Czaplewski, who finished with a .365 average and 25 RBIs. Lucas Hicks also on-base percentage of .484 as a freshman. With solid defense and good hitting expected, the key will be the Sentinels' pitching.

Placing first in the DuPage Valley, Naperville Central (22-5) bounced back in a big way from a couple of down seasons behind Conference Player of the Year Colin Barczi. As a sophomore, in addition to a .435 batting average, the Vanderbilt-recruit knocked out seven homers and eight doubles to go along with 34 RBIs. Pambos Nicoloudes, headed to UIC, hit .465 with 12 doubles and 29 RBIs last year. Leading the rotation will be a pair of seniors in Charlie Diiulio and Jack Skidmore, a duo that combined for an 8-1 record as juniors.

Knocking off Naperville Central to capture a regional title, Neuqua Valley (14-15) was also the runner-up in the conference. This spring, while being young on the mound, the Wildcats could rely more on a strong offense. They return 12 players, with four honorable mention All-DVC picks back, including Mark Mennecke, who hit .390, and Palmer Domschke, who batted .344. Colin Lewandowski also knocked in 24 runs.

"Each team continues to improve in the conference," coach James Thornton said. "Every team will have a bullseye on their back because of the competitiveness of each coach and their players. Conference games will bring out everyone's best."

With two all-conference players at the top of the order, Naperville North (16-12) looks to build off a strong 2021 season. Patrick Graham contributed 12 doubles, 31 RBIs and 24 runs scored while Tanner Mally hit .338 with 32 runs as a sophomore. Harrison Cordeiro is the staff ace after posting a 4-2 record with 39 strikeouts in 30 innings. Fellow seniors Kyle Fuglsang and Ryan Rehm will also be counted on to log innings.

Overcoming injuries to post a solid season last year, Waubonsie Valley (15-13) welcomes back nearly its entire pitching staff, a group highlighted by Missouri-recruit Jarron Thompson and MJ Liyeos. The lineup also has a veteran presence, with five key bats returning including all-DVC pick Logan Gregorio, who hit .347 with 24 RBIs as a junior. Tyler Patton was an honorable mention all-conference selection after batting .386. Jacob Keating also produced a .328 average after taking over the leadoff spot.

An extremely young team a season ago that started six underclassmen, Metea Valley (10-17) went through some expected growing pains but should reap the benefits this year. The Mustangs have seven starters back in the field, led by all-DVC nominee Aidan Wager, who hit .313 with 26 runs scored. They also have experience on the mound, with five pitchers on the roster who threw at least 18 innings last spring and they will once again be throwing to defensive stalwart Jake LaVine.

Making a dominant run through the West Suburban Silver last year for its first conference title in 22 seasons, Hinsdale Central (23-4) reached the sectional final before falling to Brother Rice. Even though the Red Devils graduated some important pieces from that team, they return a host of key players, including six offensive starters. Lucas Montesantos was the Conference Pitcher of the Year, going 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA while hitting .368. Ben Oosterbaan was 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA and will also play shortstop, Blake Edmonds hit .313 with 23 runs scored and Luke Adams knocked out three homers to go along with a .457 on-base percentage. Luke Jarack also hit over .400 as a freshman.

"We have an experienced team with exceptional senior leadership," coach Jason Ziemer said, "that we hope will mix well with talented juniors joining the varsity club. We will hang our hat on our aggressiveness on the basepaths and our ability to put pressure on the defense."

Downers Grove North (13-15) lost 12 seniors to graduation but still possess a lot of talent, evidenced by three major Division-1 recruits. George Wolkow (South Carolina) hit .353 with 23 RBIs as a freshman while Tony Konopiots (West Virginia) batted .313 with 21 RBIs. Ean Czech is also committed to Texas and that trio will make up the middle of the order for the Trojans. Michael Gorman tops the pitching staff after being an all-conference selection as a junior. Defense should be a strength.

A .500-team in 2021, York (13-13) has seven position players and four pitchers on the roster who all started games last season. The pitching staff is deep and strong, led by University of Evansville-commit Max Hansmann, who struck out 44 in 25 innings in 2021 while also posting a .290 average at the plate. Wake Forest-commit Ryan Sloan had 45 strikeouts in 33 innings. Jack Rozmus hit .350 and Ethan Cancel tallied 18 RBIs to go along with a .420 on-base percentage for a Dukes team that has a chance to make a big jump this year.

With a roster featuring 19 seniors on it, Glenbard West (12-17) is excited for the upcoming season. The Hilltoppers are an athletic group that also has a lot of quality arms on the mound including Andrew Moody, who went 4-2 a year ago. Leading the offense will be Billy Frantzis, who batted .325 with 23 RBIs, and Nicky Del Giudice, who had a .484 on-base percentage to go along with 16 runs scored.

As for the West Suburban Gold Conference, Downers Grove South (27-4) will be looking to stay on top of the standings after having a dominant run through the league a year ago. The Mustangs, who lost an outstanding senior class to graduation, are led by senior pitcher and Louisville-bound Ethan Patera.

The runner-up in the league in 2021, Willowbrook (13-10) should continue its recent run of success behind a pitching staff that features a trio of lefties at the top. That includes seniors Jacob Skinner and Max Vaisvilla and they will be throwing to another senior in Bennett Fleming. The offense could also be a strength, led by all-conference performer Isaac Sobieszczyk, who hit over .400 as a sophomore. Jacob Kutella likewise was an all-conference selection after batting .378. The Warriors possess a lot of speed on the bases as well.

"I really feel like our pitching is going to be good," coach Vic Wisner said.

Placing third in the conference last spring, Addison Trail (15-14) hopes to continue that success with three of its top four pitchers back in the fold. That group includes Anthony Biancalana, who went 5-2 on the mound. Chris Bonilla and Octavio Estrada, with averages of .345 and .333 respectively last season, pace the offense for the Blazers, who have a good mix of veterans and talented newcomers.

Losing only two starters to graduation, Hinsdale South (10-12) has a chance to bounce back in a big way this spring. A deep Hornets squad features 10 seniors, six of whom were major contributors a season ago. Kyle Jannenga batted .361 in 2021, Parker Bozzi tallied three homers and 18 RBIs and Eliot Fulscher hit .340 with 10 stolen bases. Drew Duckhorn also enters his fourth year on the varsity and will be the staff ace alongside Lucas Duffy. Justin Hill, Robbie Spang and Nathaniel Fundator will also see innings on the mound.

Coming off a runner-up finish in the Upstate Eight Conference, Glenbard East (13-12) combines a strong group of experienced players with new faces who are expected to step in right away. Pitching is a strength, with the staff led by Caden Krystofiak, Trevor Rehnstrom and Colin Murphy, and the Rams' defense is also expected to be strong. Joe Wolsztynaik, Eddie Vercruysse and Jayden Hamilton should all contribute on offense.

"I am looking forward to seeing this group of young men grow and perform at a level that I know in which they can," coach Clayton George said.

Another year should make a world of difference for Glenbard South (12-15), which returns a talented crop of players to the diamond this spring. A trio of seniors headline the squad, with Will Kalvelage back after hitting .362 with 20 runs scored last spring. Ricky Cyrus batted .304 with a pair of home runs and Nathan Zambori had 18 RBIs to go along with a .310 average. A strong offseason has expectations high for the Raiders, which has nine players with starting varsity experience either in the field or on the mound.

Matt Wheatland takes over the head coaching duties for Fenton (15-6), which is coming off a very successful 2021 campaign. The Bison are led by seniors Michael Rago and Riley Corbin and also feature a strong junior class, headlined by Nick Tinajero and Taylor Siekierski. Nick Hollis is expected to contribute in all facets of the game.

Finishing three games above .500 in league play, West Chicago (10-13) will have a young pitching staff this season. Throwing strikes and playing solid defense will be key. The Wildcats' lineup features senior Charlie Jury, who had a .318 batting average a year ago as well as four homers and 15 RBIs.

The Class 3A champion in 2019, Montini (22-9) had another stellar campaign last spring, finishing second in the Chicago Catholic White before capturing a regional championship. The Broncos, who feature a deep 24-player roster, are led by Estevan Moreno, a Notre Dame-commit and the lone holdover from the title team. The team is certainly on the younger side, with sophomores Cash Campbell, Dominic Catalano and Quinn Boyer all slated to start and freshman Xavier Crowder expected to be a major contributor.

Benet (15-14), which placed fourth in the East Suburban Catholic in 2021 before winning a regional title, has a nice core of players in the fold, led by a pair of all-conference outfielders. Peter Messina posted a .388 batting average as a junior to go along with a team-high 19 RBIs and 18 runs scored while Ryan Snell had two homers and eight stolen bases as well as 14 runs scored. The Redwings also feature a deep pitching staff, headlined by Sam Zagorac, who went 3-2 as a sophomore with a 2.25 ERA.

A more veteran group this spring, Lisle (5-18) hopes to bounce back behind five starters from a year ago and a strong incoming group of juniors and sophomores. Nick Jachim leads the way after batting .353 with nine doubles last season. The pitching staff is deeper and the lineup, which will also include Joe Raineri and Luke Heidenry, should be solid top-to-bottom.

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