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Westminster Christian Warriors Baseball

2008 all-area
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The Fox Valley all-area baseball team
 
Daily Herald Staff Report
 

Eric Aguilera, Cary-Grove

When the Trojans needed a run driven in, they could always count on their senior right fielder. Aguilera overcame a 2-for-20 start to lead the Trojans with 33 RBI and a .425 batting average (45-for-106). "I moved him down in the lineup until he was hitting the ball again and he got in a real hot spell," Cary-Grove coach Don Sutherland said. "Then he moved up to fourth, got comfortable and started looking forward to those challenges." In 32 games, Aguilera hit 9 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs and scored 29 runs. He stole 7 bases in 8 attempts and finished with a slugging percentage of .642 and an on-base percentage of .483. He didn't register an outfield assist only because teams aware of his reputation were afraid to test his strong arm.

Ryan Burke, Hampshire

Hampshire's No. 1 pitcher earned that slot after winning a regional game as a freshman in 2007. Burke capitalized on his opportunity in his sophomore season by posting a 1.87 ERA in 48 1/3 innings. He finished with a 6-2 record, struck out 43, walked 11 and never surrendered a home run. He allowed just 2 hits in 5 innings of a regional title game victory over Stillman Valley. He also fought through flu symptoms to pitch the Whip-Purs to the first sectional title in school history with a win over Milledgeville, a game in which he also hit a home run. "He has tremendous composure for a sophomore," Hampshire coach Steve Ream said. "When he is on, he can dominate. He has excellent control. He is a great athlete and a tough competitor." Burke was also a top hitter at the plate, batting .370 (44-for-119) with 5 doubles, 1 home run, 23 RBI and scored 32 runs. He struck out just 6 times.

Mike Derby, Bartlett

Bartlett's Bradley-bound left hander enjoyed an excellent season on the mound and at the plate. "He was our leading pitcher," Hawks coach Rocco Marinucci said. "When we opened a series, he was the one we sent to the mound." The senior went 6-2 with an ERA of 3.79 in 44 1/3 innings pitched. The senior struck out 65 and walked 31. Ironically, because Derby enjoyed so much success as pitcher in nonconference games, he was selected to the Upstate Eight All-Conference team as a first baseman, the position he played when he wasn't pitching. At the plate, the lefty added pop to the Bartlett offense with a .312 batting average (24-for-77), 4 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs, 21 RBI, 12 runs scored and a slugging percentage of .545.

Kyle Fitzpatrick, South Elgin

Fitzpatrick came alive at midseason with several multi-hit games to lead South Elgin's push for a higher playoff seed. The first baseman delivered on his promise as a senior by hitting .410 (25-for-61) in 21 games. Of his 25 hits, 3 were doubles and 6 home runs, which translated to a team-best .754 slugging percentage. "I was happy with his success," Storm coach Jim Kating said. "He always had the swing. Once he found his rhythm at midseason, he started smacking the ball all over the place." The senior drove in 22 runs, scored 14 times and drew 8 walks to elevate his on-base percentage to .471. He made just 2 errors and finished with a .986 fielding percentage at first base, where he made 136 putouts.

Tanner Funke, Huntley

One of the area's top pitching prospects, Funke made his mark in his junior season by posting a 7-4 record with 1 save and an ERA of 1.98 in 64 innings of work. The left hander struck out 91 hitters and issued 33 walks to finish with a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 2.84. "Tanner has tremendous upside," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "There are a lot of colleges that are looking at him right now and he's only going to get better as he matures. He had a great season and pitched a lot of great games against good competition. We're expecting big things from being our No. 1 next year. The sky's the limit for him."

Michael Heesch, Prairie Ridge

This 6-foot-5 left hander is one of the most intimidating pitchers in the suburbs. He toted a record of 8-1 into sectional play this week, Heesch has benefited this season from extraordinary control. He has struck out 94 hitters while walking just 19. He has a 1.57 ERA to show for it. His only loss of the season came against St. Charles North, when the Wolves were defeated 4-1 by pro pitching prospect, Danny Jimenez. "Mike has given more to the program than I could give him and I mean that in the best way," Wolves coach David Haskins said. "On the mound he does everything you could ask and more. He's always helping everyone else out. He's just a class act." Originally committed to play as a walk-on at Nebraska, Heesch has withdrawn that commitment in the last week to contemplate more substantial offers.

Cory Hodge, Westminster Christian

A shortstop with excellent range and an above-average throwing arm, Hodge gave the Warriors stability both on the field and at the plate. A four-year varsity starter, the ECC-bound senior hit .411 for the season (39-for-122) with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs and 23 walks, lifting his on-base percentage to a team-best .582. He stole 14 bases and scored a team-high 42 runs. "He was like a doubles machine," Westminster coach Jeff Moeller said. "With his speed and ability to run the bases, anything in the gaps was an automatic double for him. He's an exciting player to watch" Hodge finished the year with 32 RBI and a slugging percentage of .684.

Kyle Horn, St. Edward

Without question, Horn is the area's most improved player. As a junior he struggled through a season in which he hit just .139. But after an off-season spent working with a hitting instructor, Horn finished as the area's leading hitter with a batting average of .534 (31-for-58). "He added 400 points to his batting average, which is beyond description, really," St. Edward coach Gene Belmonte said. "I don't know what to make of it. He moved from the No. 9 spot in our batting order to the No. 4 spot. I've been doing this for 29 years and I've never had anything happen anywhere near this. It's the most remarkable thing I've ever seen." A Green Wave catcher, Horn swatted 8 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, drove in 22, scored 15 times, slugged .784 and reached base in 54.7 percent of his at-bats.

Matt Igara, Jacobs

Though he had two successful varsity seasons under his belt already, Igara went back to the drawing board last fall and completely revamped his swing. The results were impressive. The No. 3 hitter in Jacobs lineup finished the season with a .407 batting average (35-for-86), 7 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 home runs - all team highs. Igara played left field last year but willingly switched to right field, where his strong right arm acted as a deterrent to greedy baserunners. "One of the great joys as far as having Matt as a coach is the fact that he's constantly working on his game and making adjustments to improve," Jacobs coach Eric Sanders said. "He didn't think he was getting enough authority out of his swing, so he redid it. He could have rested on his laurels, but he didn't and led by example." Igara will continue his playing career at Heartland Community College in Normal.

Austin Jarvis, Burlington Central

Baserunners needed to be wary at all times once Central's catcher locked his sights on them. Jarvis threw out 17 of 24 base stealers, picked 8 runners off first base and picked another off second. "I think he has a chance to be one of the best catchers in the state by the time he's a senior," Central coach Kyle Nelson said. Jarvis wasn't too shabby at the plate either. The junior led the Rockets with a batting average of .436 (34-for-78) with 5 doubles and 6 home runs for a slugging percentage of .731. Jarvis drove in 23 runs, scored 21 and drew 12 walks to finish with an on-base percentage of .527.

Ryan Kelley, Crystal Lake South

Also a Daily Herald All-Area selection in football last fall, Kelley had a big season for the Gators after he spent the winter rehabbing a dislocated kneecap suffered on the final day of football practice. The three-year starter bounced back lead the Gators with a batting average of .456 (36-for-79), with 3 doubles and 1 home run, 23 RBI. But Kelley was at his best once on base. The senior was second in the area with 27 stolen bases and he scored 31 runs. "I'm proud of the way he came back from that dislocated kneecap," Gators coach Brian Bogda said. "He was a leader for us on the field, just a tremendous kid who works hard and expects his teammates to work hard as well. He's definitely the kind of quality person you want representing your school."

Logan Kissack, Dundee-Crown

This Dundee-Crown junior finished the season as the team leader in home runs (5), RBI (27) slugging percentage (.712) and batting average (.440, 33-for-75). "His numbers really speak for themselves," Dundee-Crown coach Fred Bencriscutto said. "His power numbers really stand out. He was somebody in our lineup we counted on to drive the ball for us and get big hits, and he did that a lot over the course of the season." Primarily a designated hitter, Kissack hit 4 doubles, scored 22 runs and reached base 47.3 percent of the time. One of his best games came under the Trout Park lights against rival Jacobs in the regular-season finale. Kissack homered to tie the game in the seventh and won it with a run-scoring double in the eighth.

Kent Larson, Hampshire

Larson made the jump from Hampshire's freshman team last year to one of the varsity team's leader in ERA (1.76 in 63 1/3 innings). "I thought he threw well (in the summer) and told him he may be able to help the varsity in the spring," Hampshire coach Steve Ream said. "The rest is history." Larson went 6-3 in his debut varsity season with 54 strikeouts and 16 walks. He allowed 52 hits against 269 batters faced and allowed only 11 extra basehits. "He doesn't overpower batters, but he rarely gets hit hard," Ream added. "Despite his success this year he is a work in progress. He works on his pitching year-round. With his dedication, he should be even better next year."

Craig Lipp, Huntley

One of the area's top hitters a year ago, Lipp followed up his debut varsity season with an extremely productive junior campaign. Lipp led the Red Raiders in batting average (.385, 40-for-104), doubles (13), triples (3), home runs (4), RBI (28), hits (40) and was second on the team in runs scored (27). He also stole 6 bases in 6 attempts. "He's a tremendous hitter," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "He can hit the ball to all fields and he has power. He's another guy with a lot of schools knocking on his door. People pitched around him this year and he still almost hit .400."

Nick Martini, Prairie Ridge

A third-year varsity performer committed to Kansas State, this outfielder is widely considered one of the best natural hitters in Illinois. Martini batted . 529 as a sophomore and hit .435 in 69 at-bats before an injury ended his junior season. The sweet swinging senior entered Class 4A sectional play this week hitting .429 with 15 doubles, 7 home runs and an area-high 28 steals. "He's been absolutely great," Prairie Ridge coach David Haskins said. "He swings a very consistent bat." Martini hit leadoff for the first third of the season until Haskins shook up the lineup and put the senior in the No. 3 spot, where he has flourished since. Martini also took the mound this season for the first time since his freshman season.

Matt Nelsen, Cary-Grove

It shouldn't come as a surprise that this versatile, three-sport athlete was a double threat for the Trojans at the plate and on the mound. The junior finished the season as the area's only undefeated pitcher (8-0) with an ERA of 2.43 in 46 innings pitched. A control pitcher who throws to contact with his fastball, curve and changeup, Nelsen only struck out 12 of the 203 batters he faced and walked just 9 in his second varsity season on the mound. When he wasn't pitching, Nelsen played third base, where he made 5 errors in 22 games with 34 assists and 7 putouts. "I told him he had to win himself the starting job because it wouldn't be handed to him," Trojans coach Don Sutherland said. "He did that by playing great defense and hitting ." Nelsen hit .376 (32-for-85) with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 20 RBI, 6 steals in 6 attempts and 23 runs scored.

Ben Palmer, Westminster Christian

Committed to play Division I baseball at Dallas Baptist University, this year's Daily Herald all-area honorary co-captain enjoyed another dominant season on the mound. The four-year starter finished with a 7-3 record and a 1.38 ERA in 65 innings pitched. He led the area with 107 strikeouts, fanning 40.7 percent of the 263 batters he faced. He allowed 19 runs all season, 15 earned, and notched 2 saves. The left-hander came within an out of no-hitting Harrisburg during Westminster's spring trip through southern Illinois. Opposing hitters batted .136 against Palmer with an on-base percentage of .274 and a laughable slugging percentage of .191. "He's just a great competitor," Westminster coach Jeff Moeller said. "He didn't even have his best stuff against Driscoll and he still found a way to win. He could come in and shut any game down."

Nate Prokuski, Huntley

Huntley's senior left-hander was also the team's most intense player. "What a fierce competitor," Red Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski said of Prokuski. "He never backed down from any situation. He hit the weight room this year and added more velocity this year and still maintained great control." Prokuski finished with a 3:1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, whiffing 63 while issuing 21 free passes in 64 innings. He led the Red Raiders in ERA (1.75) and allowed just 16 earned runs all season. The senior was also a threat at the plate, where he batted .284 (21-for-74) with 6 doubles, a triple and 12 RBI.

Tom Roth, Elgin

Elgin High School's three-sport star was an oasis of offensive production for a team that otherwise struggled at the plate. Roth led Elgin with a batting average of .315 (23-for-73), with 2 doubles, 5 home runs, 19 RBI and 7 stolen bases, 6 walks and a slugging percentage of .548. "Tom was our only consistent threat in the lineup all year and the other coaches knew it," Elgin coach David Foerster said. "They didn't give him too many good pitches to swing at and he still hit for a high average. He has loads of talent and a special future." Roth reached base in 38.8 percent of his at-bats and scored 10 runs.

Ryan Schrader, Bartlett

Voted Bartlett's MVP by his teammates, Schrader led with his bat, his glove and his attitude. "He was always hustling down flyballs and he's always the first kid to grab a rake after the game," Bartlett coach Rocco Marinucci said. "He was our all-everything guy this year." Bartlett's shortstop found his power stroke with 4 home runs in the final week of the season, including an area-high 3 home runs in a game on Senior Day vs. Lake Park - to finish with a team-high 7 long balls. Schrader hit .333 (24-for-72) with 4 doubles and 22 RBI and slugged .681. He had an on-base percentage of .473, stole 5 bases in 6 attempts and scored 30 runs.

Tyler Shore, Larkin

This senior was an all-Upstate Eight Conference pick for good reason. Larkin won 8 UEC games this season and Shore was the winning pitcher in 7 of those victories. He saved the eighth. The improvement from his junior season to senior year can be traced to a winter regimen of throwing and preparing. "Probably of all the kids I've ever coached he got the most out of his ability because he worked really hard in the off-season," Larkin coach Doug Ellett said. "He changed speeds, got ahead in the count and had a rubber arm." A pitcher who relied on contact, Shore finished the season with a 7-4 record and 2.28 ERA. He struck out 47 and walked 12. At the plate he hit .284 (21-for-74) with 6 doubles, 1 home run and 19 RBI.

Brandon Siewert, Westminster Christian

This junior made the successful transition from reliever to starting pitcher in 2008, finishing with a record of 8-2 and an ERA of 3.39 in 63 2/3 innings pitched. The right hander struck out 48 hitters and walked 25. He tossed a 5-inning, 1-hit shutout at Timothy Christian on April 16. "Brandon took some big strides from last year to this year on the mound," Westminster coach Jeff Moeller said. "He was the guy who saw the second round of all conference games and almost always pitched against good competition. He was always a big threat when he stepped to the plate." Siewert hit .338 (26-for-77) with 5 doubles and 5 home runs to finish with a slugging percentage of .597. He finished the year with 24 RBI, scored 29 runs, and stole 8 bases.

T.J. Swank, Prairie Ridge

Committed to play at Coastal Carolina, this side-arming senior reverted to the form of his sophomore year after battling injuries as a junior. Swank entered the week with a 9-1 record, his only loss coming in a 2-1 decision against Joliet Catholic. His 9 victories are tops among area pitchers. Swank has an ERA of 1.86 in 64 innings. He has struck out 52 and walked 17 in 11 starts. Despite his success Swank is always eager to learn. "Whenever he has questions he asks and he's great with eye contact and character," PR coach David Haskins said. "He's just a great student athlete." Swank was also a monster at the plate, where he hit .458 with 11 doubles, 2 triples and 5 home runs.

Carter Ward, Westminster Christian

Already a prodigious hitter as a junior, Ward's winter in the weight room paid dividends in the form of area-highs in home runs (8) and RBI (48) for Westminster Christian's catcher. The four-year varsity performer finished with a batting average of .446 (41-for-92). He hit 10 doubles, 4 triples, scored 36 runs, stole 14 bases and slugged .870. He beat Driscoll with a 2-run walk-off home run on April 23. "Every time he came to the plate you knew he would hit the ball hard somewhere," Westminster coach Jeff Moeller said. "I think 48 RBIs tells you exactly what kind of hitter he was. He was also invaluable behind the plate. He was one of our smartest ballplayers and he knew the game inside and out." Despite his talent, Ward has played his last competitive baseball game. He plans to study medicine at Loyola University, which does not have a baseball program.

Kyle Williams, Cary-Grove

Williams enjoyed one of the hottest stretches any area hitter has ever experienced. At one point in April, Cary-Grove's second baseman went 11-for-11, including a grand slam and a 3-run walk-off home run in the same game against Fremd. An off-season spent conditioning and strengthening himself netted huge results. Williams finished the season hitting .395 (47-for-119) with 15 doubles, 4 home runs, 25 RBI, 34 runs, a .622 slugging percentage and 12 steals in 12 attempts. At second base he made just 6 errors in 131 chances with 86 assists for a fielding percentage of .956. "He realized his defense wasn't as solid as it needed to be last year, so he made a commitment to that part of his game," Trojans coach Don Sutherland said. "He was a great leader off the field last winter and he was great once we got on the field. I couldn't be more pleased with his attitude." Williams will continue his playing career at Millikin.