2023 Northwest Herald baseball preview capsules

Prairie Ridge's Tyler Vasey fields a ground ball during a non-conference baseball game Tuesday, March 29, 2022, between Prairie Ridge and Fremd at Prairie Ridge High School.


Burlington Central

Coach: Kyle Nelson (18th season)

Last year’s record: 14-17, 9-9 FVC (tied for fourth place)

Top returning players: Brady Gilroy, jr. (SS-OF-P); Mitch Pedrigi, sr. (OF-DH); Michael Person, jr. (P-SS); AJ Payton, jr. (1B-P); Jake Herman, sr., 2B; Jake Johnson, so. (C); Chase Powrozek, so. (P-OF); Braden Lowitzki, sr. (3B)

Top new player: Elliot Alecia, jr. (OF-P)

Worth noting: Central returns two experienced starters (Person and Powrozek) and will have to lean on several new arms this season. Person was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection and is one of the top pitchers in the FVC. Payton, Alecia, Gilroy and sophomores Cam Sarallo and Matt Kowalik will get their shots on the mound. … The Rockets have six players in their lineup who started full- or part-time last season. Gilroy hit .400, and Johnson hit .323 while doing a good bit of the catching. They are a team that is young, yet still has experienced players.


Coach: Ryan Passaglia (5th season)

Last year’s record: 14-16-1, 7-11 FVC (eighth place)

Top returning players: Sam Cohen, sr. (P); Dane Schuster, sr. (IF); Brendon Carter, sr. (IF); Nathan Crick, sr. (C); Vinnie Lutz, sr. (OF); Peter Conneen, sr. (P); Ethan Dorchies, jr. (P); Hayden Dieschbourg, so. (OF)

Top new players: Peyton Seaburg, so. (IF); PJ Weaver, jr. (OF); Matthew Dillow, jr. (P); Keenan Krysh, so. (C), Nolan Pociejewski, sr. (IF)

Worth noting: Cary-Grove returns its top three arms from last season in Sam Cohen, Peter Conneen and Ethan Dorchies. Conneen was an All-Area second-team selection. … Schuster, Crick, Dieschbourg and Carter are starters returning to the lineup. … “C-G is looking to rebound this year around a strong senior group and promising young players looking to make their mark,” Passaglia said.

Crystal Lake Central

Coach: Andy Deain (fifth season)

Last year’s record: 17-14, 9-9 FVC (tied for fourth place)

Top returning players: Mason Lechowicz, sr. (P-IF); Jayden Obaldo, jr. (IF); Sean Kempf, jr. (C-Util.); Tommy Korn, jr. (P-Util.); Drew Welder, jr. (OF-P)

Top new players: James Dreher, so. (IF-P); Connor Gibour, so. (OF); Rhett Ozemt, so. (IF-P)

Worth noting: The Tigers graduated some key players – Braydon Gibour, Nico Acevedo and Ryan Kempf among them – and will need several others to step into bigger roles this season. … “Returning senior and junior leadership will be an essential if we hope to compete in the FVC this season,” Deain said. “Our goal is to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season.”

Crystal Lake South's Dayton Murphy throws to first Friday, June 10, 2022, during their IHSA Class 3A state semifinal game against Nazareth at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet.

Crystal Lake South

Coach: Brian Bogda (16th season)

Last year’s record: 19-15, 8-10 FVC (tied for sixth place)

Top returning players: Ryan Skwarek, sr. (3B-P); Dayton Murphy, jr. (SS); James Allie, sr. (P); Edgar Camacho, sr. (IF); Kyle Kuffel, sr., C; Joey McEnery, sr. (OF); Joey Weldon, sr. (OF); Nate Karbowski, sr. (Util.); Jayden Gumprecht, sr. (OF-P); James Carlson, jr. (OF); Cole Tilley, jr. (1B-P); C.J. Regillio, jr. (1B-P)

Top new players: Colin Schock, jr. (C); Yandel Ramirez, so. (IF-P); Sam Kencharek, sr. (OF-P)

Worth noting: The Gators return most of their lineup from a team that finished fourth in the Class 3A state tournament. … Skwarek was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team pick who hit .414 and led South with 34 RBIs. Murphy (committed to Michigan State) was a speedy leadoff hitter who hit .324 and swiped 37 bases. He is as sure handed of a shortstop as as any player in the area. … Allie posted a 2.26 ERA in 34 innings and will join Skwarek at McHenry County College next season. … McEnery, Weldon and Carlson were the starting outfielders at the end of the season, and Kuffel returns at catcher. … Tilley started the season at first base and was hitting .429 when a leg injury knocked him out for the rest of the season. … The Gators will miss starters Ysen Useni (Illinois-Chicago) and Mark DeCicco, who logged most of the innings in their playoff run, but otherwise they have a lot coming back. … “We will need to stay focused, trust the process, and pay attention to details to be successful in the very tough FVC,” Bogda said. “We know the games we play in the FVC will help prepare us for the postseason tournament.”


Coach: Patrick Conlin (fourth season)

Last year’s record: 5-27, 3-15 FVC (10th place)

Top returning players: Matt Schuring, sr. (C); Jake Russell, sr. (P-IF); Jake Guyon, jr. (P-IF); Nate Benton, sr. (P-OF); Cam King, sr. (IF)

Top new players: Nathan Smith, sr. (C-P); Hayden DeMarsh, so. (3B-P); Leth Pearson, jr. (P-IF)

Worth noting: The Chargers lost their top two pitchers – Edgar Salinas and Isaac Santos Jr. (now both pitching at College of Lake County) – to graduation and will lean on Russell and Guyon to lead their staff. … Conlin also looks at Benton, King and Schuring as players who will take on leadership roles at the top of the lineup. … “We expect the Fox Valley Conference to once again be one of the toughest conferences in the state,” Conlin said. “But our guys’ mentality right now is to compete every pitch, every inning and every game.”


Coach: Frank Simoncelli (sixth season)

Last year’s record: 14-20, 4-14 FVC (ninth place)

Top returning players: Dominic Borecky, jr. (SS); Nathaniel Buehrer, sr. (P); Tyler Doonan, sr. (OF); Austin Ernst, sr. (P); Anthony Karbowski, so. (P, 1B); Dominick Kooistra, sr. (1B-3B-P); Austin Leonard, sr. (C); Colin Miller, sr. (P); Nicholas Randell, jr. (OF); Daniel Rodriguez, sr. (Util.); Jack Schane, jr. (P); Evan Spenk, sr. (OF)

Top new players: Tegan VanWiel, jr.; Jacob Nawrocki, sr.

Worth noting: The Whip-Purs bring back most of their players from last season, led by Leonard, Kooistra and Spenk in the lineup, along with Miller, Ernst, Schane and Buehrer on the mound. … Karbowski came up to the varsity late last season and is committed to Louisville. Simoncelli sees him as the staff’s ace and starting first baseman on nonpitching days. … Miller was 3-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 32 innings. He will pitch at Illinois State next year. … “With the experience and another year of progress and development, we can put ourselves in a good spot,” Simoncelli said. “My philosophy has always been pitching and defense, and that will maintain, but our offense could be very tough this year. If our offense creates pressure on the other team, we can be very competitive.”


Coach: Andy Jakubowski (22nd season)

Last year’s record: 31-5, 16-2 FVC (champion)

Top returning players: Brayden Bakes, sr. (OF); Ryan Bakes, sr. (OF-C); Andrew Ressler, sr. (P); Parker Schuring, sr. (P); Ryan Quinlan, sr. (2B-SS); Malachi Paplanus, jr. (P); Joey Garlin, sr. (OF); C.J. Filipek, sr. (P-1B); Derek Huber, sr. (P); Vinny Costatino, sr. (P); AJ Putty, so. (1B-P)

Top new players: Haiden Janke, jr. (OF); Dillon Putty, sr. (1B); Colby Aschenbach, jr. (P): Aiden Zimmerman, sr. (OF-C); Michael Dabe, sr. (1B-3B); Quinn Drews, jr. (C)

Worth noting: The Red Raiders return many of the top players in their lineup, along with 110 innings from last year’s pitching staff as they shoot for a fifth consecutive FVC championship. … The Bakes twins will provide power and speed at the top of the lineup. Ryan is signed with South Carolina; Brayden will play at Indiana. Ryan played 11 games last season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Brayden led the Red Raiders with 40 RBIs and hit leadoff most of the season. … Ressler (SIU-Edwardsville), Schuring (Northern Illinois) and Paplanus (Wright State commitment) are D-I arms who will start. … Quinlan (.345, Eastern Illinois) and Garlin (.393) also provide some pop in the lineup and AJ Putty drove in 28 runs as a freshman and hit a three-run homer in Huntley’s 4-3 loss to McHenry in the Class 4A Jacobs Sectional championship game. … Huntley is 63-8 over the past two seasons and did not win a sectional, so that should provide motivation when the postseason arrives. … “Our players are focused and excited for the 2023 season,” Jakubowski said. “The goal for this year’s squad hasn’t changed from previous years as we are focusing on getting 1% each day and being quality teammates. We will focus on the little things such as commanding the zone, playing solid defense, quality ABs and being aggressive on the bases.”

Jacobs’s Christian Graves watches as his game winning grand slam home run ball flies during a Fox Valley Conference baseball game Thursday, May 5, 2022, between Jacobs and Cary-Grove at Jacobs High School.


Coach: Jamie Murray (12th season)

Last year’s record: 22-12, 11-7 FVC (third place)

Top returning players: Anthony Edge, sr. (SS-P); Christian Graves, sr. (P-1B); Caden Guenther, sr. (SS); Nick Gottfried, sr. (OF); Jake Simpson, sr. (OF); Gavin Feck, sr. (P); Brandon Helbig, sr. (3B-P); Gage Martin, jr. (2B); Nathan Jonas, sr. (OF); Kyler Kennen, sr. (P)

Top new players: Jake Celler, sr. (1B); Nathan Martinko, sr. (P-OF); Nathan Gerritson, jr. (OF)

Worth noting: Edge and Graves will pitch together next year at Bradley and will make up a formidable one-two combo at the top of the Golden Eagles’ rotation. … Graves was an All-Area first-teamer after hitting six homers and driving in 30 runs, and posting a 2.78 ERA and striking out 44 in 27 2/3 innings. … Eleven of the Eagles are headed to play baseball in college. … Guenther, Gottfried, Simpson and Helbig started last season and return.


Coach: Brian Rockweiler (17th season)

Last year’s record: 30-10, 15-3 FVC (second place)

Top returning players: Lleyton Grubich, sr. (P-OF); Cooper Cohn, sr. (C-P); Ryan Nagel, jr. (SS-P); Owen Micklinghoff, jr. (P-1B)

Top new players: Payton Sensabaugh, jr. (OF-C); Jack Stecker, jr. (OF-P); Kyle Maness, so. (SS); Brandon Shannon, so. (P); Nolan Rotundo, so. (P)

Worth noting: The Warriors graduated seven of their nine starters from a team that finished fourth in the Class 4A state tournament. … Grubich, one of McHenry’s aces, and Cohn, its catcher, are the two returning starters. Grubich will pitch at McHenry County College; Cohn will play at NCAA Division II Illinois-Springfield. … Sensabaugh should help a lot after transferring from Marian Central. He has two years of varsity experience with the Hurricanes. Rockweiler thinks Sensabaugh can make a huge impact for the Warriors. … “We have a lot to replace from last year’s team, but we have some guys that can play,” Rockweiler said. “We might not be great to start the year, but by the end of the season I feel like this team has the talent to turn some heads.” … Rockweiler sees pitching as a strong area for the Warriors, with sophomores Shannon and Rotundo helping out.

Prairie Ridge

Coach: Glen Pecoraro (23rd season)

Last year’s record: 13-19, 8-10 FVC (tied for sixth place)

Top returning players: Tyler Vasey, sr. (SS-P); Trace Vrbancic, sr. (P-3B); Ryan Wiles, sr. (P-2B); Mason McKim, sr. (OF-1B-P); Teddy Burseth, sr. (P-OF); Braedon Hatter, sr. (OF); Matt Smith, jr. (SS-OF-P); Karson Stiefer, so. (P-1B); Riley Golden, so. (P-OF); Brennan Coyle, so. (P-2B-3B)

Top new players: Vic Flores, jr. (C); Joe Stanish, jr. (1B); Danny Savas, so. (P-3B); Conner Pollasky, so. (C); Gabe Porter, so. (OF-SS-P)

Worth noting: Vasey and Vrbancic both started the 2021 Class 3A state tournament championship game for the Wolves, Vasey at second base, Vrbancic as pitcher. … Vasey was an All-Area first-team pick at shortstop last season and hit at the top of the order. He is one of the fastest players in the area and is coming off a football season when he set the IHSA single-season rushing record with 3,887 yards. … Prairie Ridge will the pop that All-Area first-team first baseman Jack Tobin, who graduated, supplied with nine homers and 43 RBIs. … Stiefer and Golden, two sophomore lefties, gave the Wolves a boost last year when they were brought up to varsity. … “We will be a mix of old and young players,” Pecoraro said. “Team speed and defense should be strong. Our tough schedule early should force us to improve quickly.” … Prairie Ridge will start the season with 15 varsity players, Pecoraro’s lowest number ever, so staying healthy is imperative.



Coach: Adam Ulen (fifth season)

Last year’s record: 4-16, 1-14 KRC (sixh place)

Top returning players: Ricky Bennett, sr. (1B-P); Myles Brincks, sr. (C); Johnathan Brummet, sr. (3B); Connor Pedersen, sr. (OF); Jovon Ratcliff, sr. (OF); Keon Wanland, jr. (SS-P)

Top new players: Aiden Fiegel, sr. (OF-P); Elijah Binz, jr. (OF-P); Coen Dacy, jr. (OF-P); Gio Esquivel, jr. (2B-SS-P); Evan Martin, jr. (3B-P); Aaron Saucedo, jr. (SS-2B-P)

Worth noting: Brincks and Bennett are back as senior leaders who also were two of the Hornets’ top players in basketball. … “Having a strong senior core to guide the juniors will be beneficial to a successful season,” Ulen said. “Our junior class has a high IQ and work ethic that will lead to being able to get more wins throughout the season. I have high hopes for this team and they are the right group at the right time.”


Coach: Mark Landvick (second season)

Last year’s record: 10-18, 7-8 KRC (tied for third place)

Top returning players: Ian Boal, sr. (P-OF); Jake Metze, sr. (OF); Landon Banaszynski, sr. (P-OF); Logan Kordik, sr. (P-INF); Jacob LaMotta, sr. (P-OF); Colton Benbenek, sr. (IF); Maddux Malachuk, jr. (P-IF); Ryan Larson, jr. (P-Util.); Jack Nelson, so. (P-Util.)

Top new players: Kaeden Frost, so. (P-IF); Henry Ray, jr. (C-IF); Dominic Vallone, so. (P1B); Evan Pohl, so. (P-OF)

Worth noting: Landvick called the 2022 season a humbling learning curve for his team, but the Skyhawks return nearly all of their pitching staff, led by Boal and Banaszynski. Those two, along with Metze, are third-year varsity players who will provide leadership for Johnsburg. … “We expect their leadership will help fuel an intensity to stay in the fight,” Landvick said. “We expect solid competition from our conference.”

Marengo's Carter Heimsoth bumps his teammates Marengo's Ty Sierpien’s arm after scoring a run during a non-conference baseball game Wednesday, March 30, 2022, between Marengo and Hampshire at Marengo High School.


Coach: Nick Naranjo (fourth season)

Last year’s record: 16-14, 7-8 KRC (tied for third place)

Top returning players: Caden Vogt, sr. (P, CF); Carter Heimsoth, sr. (OF, 1B); Quinn Lechner, so. (IF-P); Andrew Johnson, jr. (1B-P); Cody Stallings, jr. (OF-P)

Top new players: David Lopez, so. (IF-P)

Worth noting: Vogt, Johnson and Heimsoth are third-year varsity starters who will play huge roles for the Indians. Vogt was an All-Area first-team pick after leading the area with 122 strikeouts, and he also hit .402. Johnson set the school record with 41 RBIs. … “Our key to the season will be to stay healthy,” Naranjo said. “We have low numbers, but we will be a very tight-knit group.”


Coach: Mike Giese (17th season)

Last year’s record: 32-6, 15-0 KRC (champion)

Top returning players: Carsten Szumanski, sr. (P-OF); Ethan Schoeps, sr. (C-OF); Nick Falasca, sr. (IF); Johnny Larsen, sr. (P-IF); Colin Kriz, sr. (P-IF)

Top new players: Aiden Wicinski, jr. (P-IF); Dylan Radke, jr. (IF-OF); Ryan Junge, jr. (P-IF); Riley Spears, jr. (C-IF); Zach Smith, sr. (P-OF); Ryan Scholberg, fr. (IF-P)

Worth noting: R-B is coming off its best season in school history. The Rockets fell to Joliet Catholic 12-3 in the Class 2A state championship game. … There will be ample opportunities for players taking on bigger roles this season, as Schoeps and Falasca are the only two players back from the starting lineup from the title game. … C-OF Hayden Christiansen is a huge loss after taking Northwest Herald Player of the Year honors the past two seasons. He is playing at Xavier. Starting pitchers Joseph Mrowiec and Kaden Neuman were terrific all season and in the postseason run and also graduated. … R-B has won three of the past four KRC championships. … “We have a good core group of seniors returning and are excited for their opportunity,” Giese said. “We have a lot of holes to fill from last year’s team. We expect to compete and develop as the season progresses. We need to stay healthy, and our pitching needs to progress.”


Coach: Matt Prill (eighth season)

Last year’s record: 11-18, 7-8 (tied for third place)

Top returning players: Braden Barrette, sr. (C); Hayden Haak, sr. (SS); Bowen Lopez, sr., (IF-P); Kaden Perkins, sr. (OF-P); Sam Chapman, jr. (OF-P)

Top new players: Charlie Gilmore, jr., (OF-P); Daniel Elswick, jr. (C-IF)

Worth noting: The Blue Streaks have several players who have been multiple-year varsity starters on which they can lean. … “We have a hardworking and dedicated group, and we have experience at the top of our rotation and a solid defense behind those pitchers,” Prill said. … Prill also likes the team speed the Streaks will have throughout their lineup.

Woodstock North

Coach: John Oslovich (seventh season)

Last year’s record: 10-17, 8-7 KRC (second place)

Top returning players: Rylen Given, sr. (P-IF); Blake Herrmann, sr. (P-IF); Morgan Klinker, sr. (OF); Tyler Fink, sr. (C); Jay Zinnen, sr. (P-OF)

Top new players: Zach Cynowa, sr. (P-IF); Ryan Pulaski, sr. (OF); Sean Pigliacelli, r. (IF-OF); Trevor Mark, jr. (P-IF); Cade Blaksley, jr. (IF)

Worth noting: North has good reasons for optimism with seven returning starters, including its top three pitchers (Given, Herrmann and Zinnen), along with Fink at catcher. … “That group pitched really well in conference play and has worked hard to be even better this season,” Oslovich said. “We were a young team last year, and this group gained a lot of experience playing against some tough competition. I’m looking forward to an exciting season.”


Marian Central

Coach: Tom Kruse (eighth season)

Last year’s record: 11-8 (independent schedule)

Top returning players: Preston Sarna, sr. (P-IF); Phil Hanlon, sr. (OF-P); Braedon Todd, jr. (IF); Brodee Vermette, so. (IF-P); Adam Wrzos, so. (IF-P); Cameron Zmich, so. P-OF); Mason Graf, so. (IF-P)

Top new players: Michael Bubala, jr. (C-OF); Colin Kowalsky, fr. (P-IF); Owen Neuzil, fr. (OF-P); TJ Cutrona, fr. (OF-IF)

Worth noting: Marian was not hit hard by graduation, as the Hurricanes return eight of their regular starters. They had a tough loss with junior Payton Sensabaugh, a two-year varsity player, transferring to McHenry. … This is Marian’s last season playing an independent schedule. The Hurricanes start in the Chicagoland Christian Conference next year. … Kruse feels Sarna and Hanlon will be strong senior leaders for his team. … “We have some solid young talent coming in as well with four freshmen that will be contributing to the team on a regular basis,” Kruse said. “Looking forward to spending a week in Florida on our spring trip, and excited to see where this team goes this year.”



Coach: Brian Engelbrecht (13th season)

Last year’s record: 9-14

Top returning players: Justin Gritmacker, sr. (P-1B-CF); Parker Elswick, sr. (P-SS-C); Jake Nielsen, sr. (P-OF-3B-SS); Jesse Armbrust, sr. (OF); Ben Vole, jr. (C-P-2B-SS); Wyatt Armbrust, so. (3B-C-P); Nolan Vanderstappen, jr. (P-3B-OF)

Top new players: Spencer Zaccone, fr. (P-1B-OF); Hoyt Miles, so. (2B-P); Jared Cunnigham, jr. (3B-1B-P-OF)

Worth noting: The Giants graduated only two players from last year’s team. Vole was the quarterback in football, while Elswick and Gritmacker were standouts in basketball. … “We expect to be competitive in every game,” Engelbrecht said. “We have high hopes for this groups because most of them are two- or three-year starters and have been playing together since they were in elementary school.