Updated: April 12, 2014 6:17AM
College Baseball 2014
(2013 record in parentheses)
Coach: Tim McDonough (8th season)
Players to Watch: Jake Murray (Sr., OF), Ben Albano (Sr., OF), Kyle Kapka (Sr., C), Tom Helwich (Sr., P), Eann Cox (Jr., P), Kendall Paluch (Sr., P), Phil Warner (Jr. P).
Outlook: McDonough likes the makeup of his team, which will be trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Helwich (10-2, 1.95 ERA) should anchor the staff while Albano (7 HR, 39 RBI), Murray (10 HR, 29 RBI) and Kapka (26 RBI) will fill out the middle of the batting order.
McDonough: “We have to have consistency in all facets to have a successful regular season in order to even qualify for the conference or NCAA Tournament. We’re expecting another solid season and to make another run in the NCAA Tournament.”
Moraine Valley (13-26)
Coach: Cole Farmer (3rd season)
Players to Watch: Michael Levigne (2nd year, P), Kyle Belluomini (2nd year, P/1B), Jason Hine (1st year, SS), Mike Renken (1st year, 2B).
Outlook: The Cyclones will be freshman-heavy this season, but Farmer’s squad has some talent to build off last season’s disappointing 13 wins. Bouncing back from labrum surgery two years ago, Levigne (Sandburg) is working hard to be Moraine’s ace. Belluomini will be counted on to provide pop on offense.
Farmer: “We’re changing the attitude about not just playing games, but winning some college games. These guys have that attitude, just want to play. We’ve got some smart baseball guys with high baseball IQ who understand the game.”
Prairie State (31-19)
Coach: Bill Storrs (3rd season)
Players to Watch: Bobby Sheppard (Soph., INF), Joe Prete (Soph., P), Carter Bialka (Soph., OF), Dan Ohde (Soph., INF/OF), Dominic Hartman (Soph., C/OF).
Outlook: Blending young pitching with a strong returning cast, Storrs is eager to see what his Pioneers are capable of doing. Sheppard, the reigning Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Player of the Year, has committed to the University of Buffalo. Prete will be Prairie State’s ace.
Storrs: “I’m excited about this group; it’s a great group of kids who are working hard. We’ve got to stay within ourselves, not try to do too much. Home runs can be few and far between, so we need to hit the ball on the ground and on a line, get on base and do the little things.”
St. Francis (31-24)
Coach: Brian Michalak (3rd season)
Players to Watch: David Kuhne (Sr., OF), Joe Ruge (Sr., 1B), Brad Porter (Sr., OF/P), Jake Butler (Sr., P), Adam Panayotovich (Jr., P).
Outlook: The Saints are focusing on good, old-fashioned baseball with a reliance on pitching and defense. St. Francis already has played 21 games (9-12) this season. Butler and Panayotovich provide a solid 1-2 duo on the mound. Kenny bats leadoff and patrols center field while Ruge is an NAIA Gold Glove winner at first base. Both players are four-year starters.
Michalak: “If it sounds cliched, we’re focusing on each game. We want to get ahead and stay ahead, and we need our pitching and defense to keep us in games. Our offense can score, scratch some runs across here and there. We’ll find ways, knowing we’re capable of winning all our games.”
St. Xavier (23-18)
Coach: Mike Dooley (22nd season)
Players to Watch: Scott Vachon (Sr., P), Chris Klein (Sr., P/RF), Brad Myjak (Sr., OF), Tom Keating (Sr., 1B), Jim Augle (Soph., OF).
Outlook: The Cougars will try to send longtime coach Mike Dooley out on top. St. Xavier has dropped seven of its first eight games this season, but Vachon (7-0, 3.19 ERA last season), Keating (28 RBI), Augle (26 runs, 25 RBI), Myjak (27 RBI) and Alec Barnhart (28 runs) will try to get the team back on track.
Dooley: “The expectation level is high. We’ve got a good core of seniors who want to go out on top, and our goal is to win conference. We’ll have a stretch of 12 games in nine days coming up so we’ll have a good feel of where we’re at in terms of strengths and weaknesses.”
South Suburban (30-26)
Coach: Steve Ruzich (28th year)
Players to Watch: Steve Letz (Soph, OF), Dominic Albanese (Soph., OF), Ben Santori (Soph., P), Matt Hoge (Soph., SS), Cody Moskovsky (Soph., C), Stefano Belmonte (Fr., 3B), Ryan Waaso (Fr., P).
Outlook: The Bulldogs return a strong core in the field and in the batting order, but the key may be how the pitching staff develops behind Santori (Marian Catholic). Ruzich likes his team’s strength up the middle. Albanese bats leadoff and patrols center, while Hoge is a reliable shortstop.
Ruzich: “We’re going to be really young on the mound with Santori the only returning pitcher, so we’re going to need some young pitchers to step up. I like our freshmen pitchers, and they’re going to get better, get that consistency.”
Trinity Christian (25-24)
Coach: Justin Huisman (4th season)
Players to Watch: Danny Britt (Sr., P), Pete Krygsheld (Sr., INF), Joe McCaw (Jr., OF), Brad Kopale (Jr., IF/P), Mark Munizzi (Jr., C), Steve Brewer (Sr., IF).
Outlook: Huisman said his team’s bread and butter will be its pitching and defense, Britt is solid at the top of the rotation. The Trolls have eight seniors on the roster.
Huisman: “It’s difficult to simulate being outside, so you do the best you can until you can get out there. We lost some good seniors from last year, but we’ve got some different players who are ready to produce. Our offense will be a work in progress, but our goal is to be playing in the postseason.”
Compiled by Tim O’Brien