Baseball: Lincoln-Way North earns preseason No. 1 honor
By Pat Disabato email@example.com March 17, 2013 7:12PM
Josh Handzik (from left), Corey Krupske, coach Joe Skarbek, Ryan Pellack and Reed Hero, of Lincoln-Way North. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 19, 2013 6:02AM
Being tabbed as the preseason No. 1 team always is a nice honor.
However, finishing the season No. 1 is the ultimate goal.
Lincoln-Way North, with a potentially spectacular pitching staff, speed and power in the lineup and the ability to flash some serious leather, earns the distinction as the SouthtownStar’s 2013 Preseason No. 1.
“It’s a great honor, with all of the talent in this area,” North coach Joe Skarbek said, “but it puts a target on our back, too. But this is the type of team that won’t be affected, I don’t think, by the added pressure. It’s something they thrive on.”
The usual cast of customers fill out the remaining Top 10, including Catholic League Blue powerhouses Mount Carmel, St. Rita and St. Laurence.
The always tough SouthWest Suburban Conference is well represented. Along with North, there’s Lockport, Sandburg, Andrew and Lincoln-Way Central.
Lemont, hailing form the South Suburban Blue, and defending Class 3A state champion Marian Catholic, round out the Top 10.
Here’s a closer look (2012 records in parentheses):
1. LINCOLN-WAY NORTH (33-6)
The majority of talent returns from last season’s club, which claimed conference and regional championships. Catcher Ryan Pellack (.403, 5 HRs, 42 RBI), shortstop Josh Handzik, center fielder Corey Krupske and infielder Reed Hero lead an experienced offense. Throw in third baseman Kevin Smith (.363, 3 HRs, 25 RBI; 7-1, 1.63 ERA), a transfer from St. Laurence who’s committed to Creighton, and the Phoenix is loaded.
Mike Miller (9-2, 1.26 ERA) leads a deep pitching staff, with the hard-throwing Smith, Josh Reid, lefty Brett King and sophomore lefty phenom Kyle Ostrowski, already committed to Purdue, having ace material.
“We will be strong,” Skarbek said. “We just are going to have to get the big hit when we need it. I think we will contend for the state championship and have a third straight year of winning more than 30 games.”
2. MOUNT CARMEL (33-6)
Hitting, pitching, fielding, the Caravan pretty much has all the bases covered. Five pitchers return with varsity experience: southpaws Jeremy Kravetz (Kansas), Austin Dodson and Marko Boricich, and right-handers Jason Gasser and Joe Kennedy.
Shortstop Jerry Houston (.404, 16 2B, 40 runs, 34 RBI), a four-year varsity starter and Oregon recruit, leads a potent offense. Sweet-swinging lefty catcher/DH Tom Hayes (.429, 4 HRs, 39 RBI), Justin Gonzalez (2B), Beau Filkins (2B, OF), Gasser (OF) and Kennedy (OF) will provide plenty of wallop. Keep an eye on senior Michael Pilas (RHP), junior Rich Fordon (LHP), junior David Dobrinich (OF) and sophomores Ako Thomas (INF) and Joshua Stowers (OF).
“We have a lot of depth,” Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry said. “This group is really focused. We’re expecting a big season.”
3. ST. RITA (24-13)
Most teams would celebrate a 24-13 season. Not St. Rita, which routinely records 30 wins. The Mustangs boast a lethal 1-2 junior pitching punch in righty Jake Shepski and lefty Mike Costanzo (Austin Peay).
The offense shouldn’t have much trouble generating runs with the speedy Anthony Ray (OF), Connor McLain (OF), Andrew Massey (INF), Pete Cozzi (OF) and Shepski, already committed to Notre Dame as a position player.
Newcomers Nate Soria (C) and sophomores Shane Peisker (INF) and Tyler Halas, a Tennessee recruit, should make their presence known.
“I like this team a lot,” St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said. “We have speed and can hit the ball. We have some really good arms and we can pick up the ball. This team is on a mission.”
4. ST. LAURENCE (30-7)
Having two starters transfer certainly didn’t enhance the Vikings’ standing, but in a nod to their depth, they still remain among the elite.
The pitching staff boasts three solid arms in senior Zach Lewis (59 innings, 79 strikeouts) and juniors Mike Kornacker (4 wins; .410, 28 RBI) and Brad Wood (5 wins; .447, 25 stolen bases). All have overpowering stuff, and all will contribute mightily at the plate.
Junior T.J. Marik (C), an Austin Peay recruit, along with senior Kyle Estand (1B), who will also log some innings, are dangerous with the bat.
Juniors Alex Hitney (RHP), Kevin White (OF/C), Roger Wilson (RHP/1B) and Nate Tholl (RHP/INF/OF) will need to contribute.
“We believe if we pitch and play defense and we hit to our capability, we can contend for our conference title and compete with anyone in the state,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said.
5. LOCKPORT (25-12)
With six returning starters and three experienced pitchers, the Porters are in position to win big.
Outfielder Ted Snidanko, a Purdue recruit, catcher Derek Bangert (.473, 53 hits) and infielder Dan Sullivan (.372, 16 SBs) lead an offense that features speed and pop.
Evan Martens (7-4), Eric Duzan (5-2) and Connor Ryan (2-1, 3 saves) give Lockport three outstanding right-handed pitchers.
Keep an eye on junior pitcher Noah Masa, whose mid-80s (mph) fastball fits nicely with his bulldog mentality.
“With our experienced pitching staff and six returning starters, we look to compete for the conference title,” Lockport coach Andy Satunas said.
6. SANDBURG (23-8)
The Eagles are going to heavily rely on their seniors to push runs across the plate. Austin Cangelosi (INF/OF), Dave Cronin (INF), outfielder Justin Joy (27 RBI), first baseman Alec Nelson (21 runs) and Matt Shimonis (C) provide plenty of experience and skill.
Cangelosi and Cronin have committed to Indiana and UIC, respectively.
Junior right-hander Bryan Pall (5-1, 1.79), a Michigan recruit with a fastball that hovers in the upper 80s (mph), will anchor an inexperienced pitching staff that includes Colin Shelhamer, Christian Meeuwes, Sean Leland and Mattias Dietz. Junior Chris Stearns (INF/OF/P), a transfer from St. Laurence, will provide help all over the field. Juniors Cal Smith (INF/P) and Dan Santiago (OF) and sophomore Alec Martinez (INF/OF/P) could make an impact.
“We have the senior leadership needed to compete on a daily basis,” Sandburg coach Jim Morsovillo said. “The kids had a great offseason and should be ready to have a great season.”
7. LEMONT (23-10)
First-year coach Brian Storako inherits a team flush with talent.
The pitching staff will rely on juniors Jake Latz (1.32, 79 Ks in 59 IP), Jake Terrazas and Charlie Wright (36 Ks in 21 IP), along with senior Cody Caballero. Latz, a hard-throwing lefty, has committed to LSU, as has junior catcher Mike Papierski.
Seniors Alex Broskovetz (INF/OF), Connor O’Brien (INF) and Billy Hayes (DH/C) will team with Papierski to form a potent offense. Seniors Marc Tokarski (INF) and James Lulek (OF) and junior Mike Wisz (INF) will be expected to produce.
“We have a good core of players returning,” Storako said. “We will need some pitchers to step up.”
8. ANDREW (26-11)
The offense boasts a nice blend of power and speed, with shortstop Dan Durkin (.523, 43 runs, 30 RBI) and first baseman Zach Klockowski (.360, 5 HR, 23 RBI) providing the power and Ryan Supple (C), Mike Grenda (OF), Dennis Vilimek (OF) and Ryan Forrest (OF/P) wreaking havoc on the basepaths.
The key to the Thunderbolts’ success, though, will be how the pitching staff performs.
Someone from a contingent that includes senior lefty Cameron Simak, senior Kevin Walsh and junior Kyle Fitzgerald, along with Forrest, must develop into the ace.
“I am very excited about this group,” Andrew coach Dave DeHaan said. “We have a bunch of athletes. Most of the players have been successful in baseball and other sports as well.”
9. MARIAN CATHOLIC (25-17)
The defending Class 3A state champion Spartans return eight starters, but will have to compensate for the loss of some key arms. Third baseman Brad Bohlen (31 RBI), a Northern Kentucky recruit, outfielder Pat Swanson (24 runs), Eric Callaghan (SS/RHP), Brent Feldner (C) and Pat Schmidt provide the Spartans with a formidable offense. Reggie Johnson, a Missouri recruit, leads a pitching staff that will include Brad Bohlen and Callaghan.
Juniors Michael Bainbridge (OF/C/RHP) and David Calderone (SS/RHP) should make their presence known in due time.
“This is probably the most solid team in my eight years,” Marian Catholic coach Phil Wail said. “We’ll need to replace some innings, but we have the arms to do it.”
10. LINCOLN-WAY CENTRAL (17-17)
Scott Gardner used to man second base for the Knights. Years later, he steps into the role as coach.
Gardner inherits a team awash in talent, namely on the mound. Seniors Matt Mikolajczak (0.97 ERA), Ryan Kahne and Dan Doherty (1.32 ERA), along with junior Brad Bass (31 Ks in 26 IP), figure to keep the Knights in every game they toe the rubber. Junior Kevin Mampe, capable of playing multiple positions, also will log some innings.
Offensively, Lucas Jones (OF), Sean Barry (1B/DH), A.J. Murdock (C) and Mampe are keys to producing some runs.
“Our team will rely on pitching and defense,” Gardner said. “Offensively, we’ll need to manufacture some runs and use our speed as an asset. Our depth on the mound and in the bullpen will make us strong contenders for a conference championship.”